Friday, December 11, 2009
Angie was my aunt. She was more than that, really. She was my Other Mother. Always there. Always patient. Always happy.
The love of her life never came home from WWII. She never married. Never had children. She became Mother to me and many of my cousins and all of us thought of her with the same love you have for your mother.
She fought to get her job at the telephone company during the war. They didn’t want to hire her because she had polio. She wore a heavy leg brace, ugly built up shoes and walked with a limp. No, it was much more than a limp. Her uneven legs and her weak side threw her into such a meandering gait that every eye turned her way whenever she moved. She convinced the phone company that as a telephone operator she’d be sitting down all day so it wouldn’t matter. They were worried about all the work she’d miss.
I’d love to have been in the room during her interview when she convinced them to hire her. She eventually received an award for 30 years PERFECT ATTENDANCE.
She worked a late shift at the phone company, most of the time, getting home after midnight. Still, she was there every morning, carving my pancakes into faces with grins and big square eyes. She was there when I got home from school, with my snack, and with dinner ready in the oven before she left for work, so my mother and my youngest aunt would have food when they got home at 6 PM.
She walked her walk beside me through countless school halls and stores and trips. Never bothered that my little girl legs ran circles around her wherever we went. And what a nurse! It was almost a delight to be a sickly little girl with asthma, bronchitis and bouts of pneumonia. I spent days in a sunny bedroom, with a kitten, a book, a doll, and Aunt Angie. She made me soup. She buttered my toast. She handed me anything I wanted. And me too little to ever think of her and her painful steps, or what it meant to watch her cut callouses off her uneven feet.
No one ever thought of her crippled state. And that was her glory.
For the most remarkable thing about Angie was that she was crippled, and no one ever remembered it.
What did she feel inside about never marrying or having children? About loving to dance and having a body that fought her? About not being able to run, to take long walks, to ride a bike? I was too young to ever wonder.
Her smile, her eyes, her deep, true kindness radiated from her and met you right up front; filled your senses with delight and joy, so that you were blind to any defect, any pain she had. A spinster who lived her life with other people’s kids, in someone else’s house. Dear Lord, if I can only live in such a way to be remembered with the sweetness and fondness and love that we all remember Aunt Angie, I will die happy.
This is a poem to Angie,
Not as my Aunt, but as a woman.
A woman who never knew
that she was beautiful,
Nor remembered she was crippled.
Who, though thoughtless, ignorant people
laughed at her,
Found a reason to laugh with all.
Who loved all God's creation so intensely,
That speaking of children and animals
and ordinary people,
Brought tears of joy to her eyes.
Who loved everyone so much,
It was difficult for her
to love one person exclusively.
Who was not religious,
But was God-like in her truly Universal love.
Who could laugh until her sides ached,
And defy the strongest of the unjust.
Who never, never quit,
Until the end,
When she could not place her burden
of old age upon those she loved.
This is a poem to Angie's beauty,
Which, after her crippled body faded to dust,