Aunt Maryclaire died on Saturday night. Cancer had apparently rocked her body. This will happen when you don’t seek treatment. There was no chance for any emotional cushioning for any of us. We received word on Friday night that she was headed into the hospital, wasn’t expected to make it through the evening. No one had any idea she was even sick.
This will happen when you don’t tell anyone you have cancer.
I don’t blame her.
My father went to see his sister on Friday night. Here the five siblings would meet one last time together in this world. Dad hadn’t seen Aunt Chris, Mare’s twin sister, in 12 years. She showed up with a case of Old English “slammers.” Together the siblings sat in a hospital room, slamming malt liquor next to the sleeping form of Aunt Mare. Together they laughed and they reminisced and they drank, all while Mare tossed and turned and groaned until the morphine kicked in and she was finally at peace. I’m guessing she was pissed not to be able to have one more beer with the gang. With the family.
I spoke to my brother about this. He said the same thing I felt as soon as I heard this scene: this is what we ever were. This is our family. This is exactly what we do. Growing up, it was the back room at my grandmother’s place. The kids would run around, crazy, breaking things and screaming and fighting and being generally misbehaved kids. The siblings would gather in the back room, eating tomato pie, drinking and drinking and drinking. Cigarette smoke would block out the lighting. The sounds form the adult room were always the sounds of laughter. Storytelling and practical jokes. The sound of fresh cans of cheap beer being opened.
I hope someone brought tomato pie to the hospital.
I didn’t get to see Aunt Mare much as an adult. She and my father had feuded for much of my adult life, but a few years back they got the fuck over it. I remember the first time I saw her, after all those years. The last she had seen of me, I was some snotty, nerdy young kid, nose stuck deep in some Dragonlance novel or other. Now I was there, an adult at the table. She couldn’t get over how funny I was. She couldn’t get over the fact that I was an adult, hanging with the other adults, giving shit with the best of them. Somewhere in the absence, I had become one of the clan. I remember her making an extra effort to grab me a beer every time she went for another one herself.
For Christmas one year, just a few back, she gave each of her brothers a black coffee mug. Only, when you added hot liquid to the mug, a picture showed up on the outside: Aunt Mare, making a goofy face and waving from the side of the cup. Each of the brother thought this very funny, and very dumb. I told her I thought it was just about the funniest gift I had ever seen. And truly, I did. It was this weird realization of how hereditary sense of humor truly is.
A few weeks after that, I got a package in the mail. Aunt Mare sent me one of the mugs.
I don’t know where else to go with this.
I’m really going to miss my aunt, who was one of my favorite adults to be a child with.