|Aunt Kathy helping me reach a parrot, |
with her daughter Jennifer, and my sister Wendy.
Parrot Jungle 1976
During my teenaged years, Aunt Kathy, Uncle Lynn, and my cousins Jennifer and Chris would often visit my dad's house on the water in Ft. Walton Beach, where we would swim, tube and ski all day, and barbecue and play cards all night.
|The Billy Bowlegs boat parade heads through Santa Rosa Sound.|
During that time of my life, as a wild teen who never quite lived up to expectations, I felt judged by most adults. But not by Aunt Kathy. She made me feel like I would be ok. That I was ok.
By observing my Aunt Kathy and Uncle Lynn, I learned that marriage could be happy. They spoke to one another with love and kindness. They never screamed, and were never condescending. If hurt or angry, they forgave, because no one is perfect. This was a lesson I couldn't find in my own home, and one I needed desperately.
When I did marry, Vann grew to love Aunt Kathy too, seeing her magic as I did. When Aunt Kathy and Uncle Lynn would visit, they'd bring us plants from their garden. We'd eat crabs, grill steaks, and play cards all night.
In the midst of my young marriage, Aunt Kathy was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. At the time, I didn't think much about it. In our late 20s, busy having babies, we had other things to think about.
Life continued much as usual. Aunt Kathy and Uncle Lynn had their own grandchildren, and began new traditions, each year taking them to the mountains in the fall, and the beach in the summer. Aunt Kathy would occasionally fall ill, but always carried on. She enjoyed her job and her zumba class, doing everything in her power to keep going and stay healthy. She didn't want to miss a thing.
|Aunt Kathy on the trampoline with her grandsons and grand nephews|
|Aunt Kathy and me, Louisville 2009|
|Cape San Blas, 2012|
|Aunt Kathy and Wyatt|
Cape San Blas, 2012
Even as her body began to fail, she never wanted to give up her fight. Last week, however, it all became too much. She told her family and friends goodbye, and made my uncle promise to continue the traditions they began. Last night, her pain ended, and she is at peace. When I spoke with Uncle Lynn he said, "don't forget me, I'm still here." How could I ever?
No one ever has shown me such strength and love. As her spirit flies away, her magic remains in my heart.