Aunt Mary

I’ve met a number of tough people over the years – ones who carry weapons, fight wars, or stare down thugs merely with the baleful expression of their eyes. But for sheer tenacity, none of these characters holds a candle to my Great Aunt Mary.

Aunt Mary grew up during the Depression, and during this time she developed the frugality that has characterized her life. She stocks up on sale foods and keeps them in her deep freeze for what seems like years.

When she was young, Aunt Mary moved with her parents and two brothers from Perry, Oklahoma, to Chanute Kansas. She has lived in her parents’ house ever since, and this has made her de facto keeper of questionable family heirlooms.

Cows are big, scary creatures. When I was a child and my family visited Kansas, we would sometimes be roped into helping move the lumbering beasts to a different pasture.

Unlike the soft suburbanite family of her nephew, Aunt Mary is more than capable of corralling a bunch of blundering bovines. She kept a herd until well into her eighties, and when she finally sold them off she kept her favorite troublemaker around.

That’s another habit of hers – naming animals after politicians.

Aunt Mary’s thoughts on politics and other current events come from television and radio programs. Although she’s very sharp in other ways, she does make a credulous audience.

Aunt Mary is also hospitable to a fault, always eager to invite the relatives to her house and to share her cooking, even if her concoctions defy the culinary logic.

Never marrying, she has lived alone on the farm for as long as I can remember, and there’s no sign of a retirement home in her future. Aunt Mary knows that she can take care of herself.

And she's right.

Today my Great Aunt Mary turns ninety. She has survived a depression, several recessions, a world war, and the passing of many friends and family members. She has witnessed changes in technology, from progress in phones (she was the last in her neighborhood on a party line) to the development of satellite navigation systems (on which her long driveway typically appears). She is an avid genealogist, a loyal contributor to charities, and a devout Catholic. She constantly thinks of others, clipping news articles she thinks will be of interest and writing lengthy letters full of local news.

Here’s to my Great Aunt Mary, the toughest human being I’ve ever met.

1 comment:

  1. Hooray for her! Reminds me of my grandpa, who practiced dentistry in the same small town in northwest Missouri for 60 years straight -- not counting a few years off for a little trip to Europe, from 1942 to 1945.

    I love tough old folks! Your Great Aunt Mary sounds like a true treasure.