Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Holy Cow, It's Easter! A Tribute to My Late Aunt Susie



Easter is always a time of year I think of my late aunt Susie. I remember one Easter in particular as a youngster in Arlington, TX, in particular, and my mom and I were spending time with my dad's youngest sister. I recall doing the age-old holiday egg dying at her small kitchen table as dogs scattered past, a feature of my life in my 20s. Minus the egg dunking. My small kitchen with green cabinets much like the ones you see on the Parenthood set & my dogs running about or napping one on top of the other keeping warm in the Idaho spring weather, the snow doing its best to melt before May. I kept a pot belly stove warm nearby but that wasn't enough for a pair of labs, one chocolate and one "vanilla," as I liked to say. Sierra seemed to enjoy the snuggle a tad more than my man, Bridger. 

Back to Texas and my aunt Susie who was beloved by the family for her personality, quirkiness, charm, and downright sweet nature. When I was little, I remember Susie at every holiday occasion in Arlington, especially Christmas holidays. She would be the first with a margarita drink in her hand
and all the other adults quickly behind. A lot of her high school friends stopped by to see her on Christmas Eves at her childhood home, a modest three-bedroom that - during the growing up years - housed seven children and two parents. When I was old enough to grasp the idea, I still could not possibly believe that the girls were in the front room, the boys in the middle, and the parents in the back in that small of a space! Every time I stayed there after my years waiting for Santa Claus I shook my head in wonder, How on earth did Daddy, Susie, and the rest of his siblings do THAT? Not to mention there was only one bathroom for five girls and two boys! That's a lot of patience. 

Susie's friends were everyone's friends. They hugged me every time they came by, exchanged hellos with my parents, and my other aunts and uncles. Susie always seemed to have a smile. Grinning ear to ear, she sang her kind of carols for the December holiday. These didn't involve Rudolph, Santa, or a sleigh of packages. It was more like a great big sleigh of songs from Texas troubadours Guy Clark & Jerry Jeff Walker.



The family sang Texas Cookin', Up Against The Wall Redneck Mother, and Pissin' in the Wind... YEAH, there was no Silent Night, for sure. And it was all off key. {Wink!} Poor neighbors. But everyone had fun. I was probably put to sleep before the real fun started. I so desperately wanted to be an adult back then and experience the shrill laughter, the stories, and more. I will never forget my two aunts, Susie and Nancy, kicking up their heels with drinks in their hands; I don't know if their eyes or grins were wider. 

An even quirkier side of Susie was that she loved to collect: cows. Not out in the field exactly... Memorabilia.  Cow ANYTHING! MOO-OVER, it's for Susie. This gal, my aunt, had cow kitchen towels, cow coffee mugs, a cow nightshirt,funny cow slippers,a cow refrigerator magnet collection, and the list goes on..
.

For Christmas one year, I found the perfect gift: a 12 oz. cream-colored mug with large black splotches all over it.  Of course, she loved it. I don't think I ever asked her why she loved cows so much. I wished I did. 

You know, it's funny looking back I don't remember actually talking a lot to Susie come to think of it. It was probably small chats here and there. I spent time watching Susie interact with family and friends. As an impressionable elementary school student, I wanted to soak up who she was as a person as best I could. Her traits were so likable. I wanted to be just like her. Little did I know then, we shared a trait already, a genetic one. 

On a Good Friday, one I will never forget, Mom, Susie and I went to The Stations of the Cross at a Catholic Church in North Texas.
Easter memories
For those of you not familiar, Stations of the Cross follow the story of Jesus carrying the cross to his moment of crucifixion. There are places around the church, plaques or artistic reliefs, that document each moment of Jesus' journey.*

Susie had to endure her own fateful journey, a battle of disease, of surgery, of personal struggle, of saying good-bye. I wasn't there but I am told she was a fighter until the very end. It doesn't surprise me at all.

When things get bad in my own chronic pain realm, I try to think of her bright smile, laughter, and great view of life. The genetic trait I mentioned earlier was Neurofibromatosis or NF1. It was a complicated road of surgeries, hope, the latests drugs, more hope, but in the end it was not to be. It more than cringes me to think she couldn't be with me today.

I have Neurofibromatosis or NF3, Schwannomatosis.* She was in her late 20s when cancer claimed her life. Yet, it didn't claim her spirit, memory, or sparkling attitude. I am still *always* recalling that trio of magnificent emblems, if you will. These will cradle me to my lasting day on this earth. 

What are your emblems? Is there someone in your life you hold dear? What are their sparkling qualities that you see? Write 'em down and let them know. What are lessons you have learned by way of them regarding  LIFE? 

Even though I didn't know her a long time, the time I did have with her was rich, full of lessons. Here's just a few I learned:
1) Always have another margarita! 
2) Party with friends and family! She loved being with both!
3) Go for the romance! She went to Kalamazoo to be with her boyfriend, Jerry. They later married and I was the flower girl! 
4) Animals are a great gift! Treat them with kindness, care, and cuddles. She always had 'em around -- all sizes! 
5) Music can lift up your mood! For Susie, Texas folk music could cure about anything! Here's Guy Clark's Texas Cookin'  for you to try!
6) Start a collection. Anything. Ladybugs.Antiques. I collected frogs at one point. Not real ones. Well, there were the handful of aquatic ones in the fish tank. Another time. Next. It tells something about your personality, maybe too much! Giggle. 
7) Sweet w/ a tad of spice - I think having a sweeter disposition can get you farther in this world than the harsh, hard-as-nails approach. Although, sometimes you do have to speak your mind. Susie did on occasion. A gal has to do what a gal has to do. 
8) Keep up with friends! Get an address book at the dollar store to keep tabs on all your favorite people. Your precious electronic phone needs a backup anyway. Put phone numbers, birthdays, addresses, and names of friends' and family's little ones. Your set. Then, have a margarita! Celebrate! Job well done.
9) Simple: Enjoy life. We are not here forever. Hug that husband. Remember why you went on the first date with him. Cuddle those kids. Call your parents. Sit back and take a deep breath. Take the dog for a walk. Play with the kitten. Exercise. Hear yourself breath. Too much? Meditation. Read a good book.Sit on the back porch and listen to spring... if it's arrived yet! Just ENJOY!

 Ahhh... Something smells good. It's LIFE! 
Or a slice of homemade pie w/ a fresh cup* of coffee

 ©The Healing Redhead






*The photo is provided by Facebook pal/high school friend Nathan Wolf. 
*The tradition as chapel devotion began with St. Francis of Assisi and extended throughout the Roman Catholic Church in the medieval period. It is observed in Lutheranism and within the Anglo-Catholic wing of Anglicanism. The Stations of the Cross may be done at any time, but is most commonly done during the Season of Lent, especially on Good Friday and on Friday evenings during Lent.
*Learn more about Schwannomatosis here
*The cup may or may not be cream and have black spots on it! {wink} 





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