My Mom had a brother who died young before marrying and my Dad was an only child and his nearest relatives lived up North ( we lived down South). Hence zero aunts/ uncles – thus no first cousins…
Before I graduated college I went from not having any relatives to inheriting about 80 extended family members as the guy I was dating seriously (and would eventually marry) took me to a family reunion as the eldest of his 5 aunts was celebrating her 70th birthday. Voila Family!
Yesterday I attended the last funeral of that generation… 6 sisters and spouses gone, all gone. The last aunt, Aunt Bert lived to almost her 104th birthday… Aunt Bert was as sharp as a tack until the end.
Her family members and some congregants remembered her with stories at her funeral service. Their words brought both tears and laughs. There were stories to which we could all relate.
As I stood in the cemetery viewing the headstones, the memories flowed. It wasn’t my Mother-in-law who was the first to make me cry but it was Aunt Bert. Aunt Bert had a severe bark of a sergeant. (I was the kind of kid who could be reprimanded by a stern look.) I was to learn Aunt Bert’s bark was more severe than her bite. It would become evident she had a very big heart.
Aunt Bert lived in the same bungalow home for 71 years where she raised 3 children, outlived a husband, daughter, 2 grandchildren, all her sisters and brother-in-laws. Her lap held all our newborns and even bigger kids including 10 grandchildren, 18 great grandchildren and 4 great great grandchildren.
Space had nothing to do whether you spent the night at Aunt Bert’s. Of course, you spent the night. Over the years we have eaten a lot of meals around her dining room table / wherever there was a place to sit down. Of course, her condolence meal was held in the very same home.
Our last cooking endeavor together was during a spontaneous visit when I threw baking ingredients in the car to make up a batch of her sisters’s strudel recipe which I learned from my mother-in-law. Aunt Bert informed me there was too much patschkying and she ‘d let me finish it up. So when it was her 100th birthday, I knew her freezer needed restocking with strudel. A niece of hers was kind enough to meet me en route to have a hand off and bring it down to Aunt Bert. 101 pieces with that extra one to grow on… That strudel tradition continued for the following years.
Aunt Bert and my mother-in-law Esther were really close and shared a lot in weekly letters to each other. They even shared the the same birth day, October 26. Below is a song I wrote for Esther’s 80th, An Ode to the Siegel Sisters sung to the tune of Oh Susanna.
I had Aunt Bert’s October strudel batch ready for her 104th birthday, 105 pieces. The batch was present at her condolence meal. I think I heard a bark that “it was her strudel” followed by the words, “clean your plates.” And they did…
May your memory always be a blessing Aunt Bert.
No one will ever forget your laugh…