Aunt Hilda loved flowers.
On Saturday, I got a phone call from my sister in Cleveland that our Aunt Hilda had passed away. Aunt Hilda had been living in Dunedin, Florida for some time; she and my Uncle (my mother’s brother) had chosen to move there in their retirement. My Uncle had passed away in 2009.
The two of them had always been exceedingly close, so close in fact that it seemed to interfere with their relationship with their adopted daughter, Babs. I don’t even know much other than what my aunt told me when I visited her in Florida, about what happened. My cousin still lives in Cleveland but pretty much disappeared from the family, not wanting to have anything to do with us for some reason that is unknown to us. I have reached out to her and one of her daughters more than once, without any success whatsoever.
I managed to visit my aunt twice while in Florida, the first time for business when I traveled for a post-retirement job and then with Mary Kay for a quick trip about two years ago. Both visits were wonderful, although the second one was a bit of a surprise to my aunt. It was hard to be in touch with her phone-wise, I would leave messages and not hear back. We dropped in on her and left a little memory photo book with photos of our family. At first she didn’t seem to remember us, but on our second visit to her the next day, she remembered everything as clear as a bell.
My aunt and uncle had a beautiful piece of property in Chardon, Ohio at one time, and our entire family would usually visit there at least once a year. It was always a memorable experience because it was like a step out of our milieu and since everything was so measured. There was the famous Borie Burger, a burger made that was huge and bloody, and something most of the family did not really like. There was Aunt Hilda’s rhubarb pie that was so sour we could not eat it, so much so that my Grandmother dumped hers into a bag under the picnic table.
As a young kid, I was very fearful about my mom dying. My dad died when I was seven and my mom informed my sister and me that if she passed, that we would go to my Aunt Hilda and Uncle Joe. They were viewed as quite the stern and difficult people at that time.
My aunt and uncle seemed to make a favorite out of me, though, since I was the only one in the family who went to college. My uncle (and godfather), however, was not at all impressed with my choice of the teaching profession and told me once that he didn’t understand how teachers said they worked so hard when they could just prepare their work and save it and reuse it.
My Aunt and Uncle had an experience when one of their successful friends was put in prison for embezzlement. He and his wife were my Aunt and Uncle’s constant companions until the legal difficulties. They really didn’t talk much about that. I think that it was very hard for them to accept this occurrence.
In older age, and Aunt Hilda was 97 when she died, Aunt Hilda was lucid and very with it and understanding of all situations. I was amazed how she really hadn’t mentally aged the way that so many of the elderly, that I knew, had.
When younger, she and my uncle had travelled a great deal, taking the afghan my grandmother had made and putting it in various photos as they travelled. When I mentioned to them, at one time, that they might come and visit in Chicago, my uncle made it very clear to me that there was very little reason to do so since there was really no draw. That stung a bit. My aunt was a good counterpart to that, always making me feel good, although in my youth she was like an austere dowager. She aged well.
Life had not been all that kind to her, I know that she and my uncle were victims of the RH factor in childbearing and had lost more than one child to it.
Even though neither my aunt nor uncle had gone to college, they were pretty well to do and very self-educated, so much that my erudite father-in-law, was amazed when I told him that they had not gone to college.
Within the family, Aunt Hilda and Uncle Joe were not always understood. They were very much together, so much so that in the end, they pretty much alienated their daughter and much of the rest of the family. In older age, my aunt, more than my uncle, had mellowed.
All in all, I would say that I really liked my Aunt Hilda, faults and all. In the end, she had always been supportive of me and made me feel very good about my family, my life, and my accomplishments, much more so than many of my other family members. I am sorry that she had moved so far away and had become so removed from the rest of the family here in the Midwest. I think we could have really been more of a comfort for her in her declining days. Rest in peace, Aunt Hilda.