My great aunt, Mary Grace Bryan, was born on March 4, 1900. She never married but was a mother figure to many a child. My father's father died when he was about 10. Aunt Mary moved in with her sister Bessie to help her manage the father-less family. As far as I can remember they lived together from that moment on- until my grandmother was moved to a nursing home to live out the final days of her life.
My first memories of Aunt Mary
involve an apartment that she shared with her sister. I remember spending
the night there as a young child of six or seven but don't recall much else.
The only other memory I have of that apartment is hearing that my
grandmother had suffered a stroke one night. My young mind, unable to
process what all that meant, was afraid. I feared that a toy I left out
caused my grandmother to fall and suffer the stroke.
After the stroke Mary and Bessie
moved in with my family. The role of caregiver had switched to the younger
generation. They had their own place on the lower level of our split-level
house. Aunt Mary had a bedroom of her own down the hall from me but she
never slept there. She preferred to sleep on a pullout sofa a few feet
from her sister's in-house hospital bed.
Aunt Mary took care of us when my
parents went out. She used phrases like "stop that rough
housing." She made the best tuna salad I've ever had and ate Special
K for breakfast every day. Aunt Mary taught me how to make hot tea with
milk and sugar. She also made us Cream of Wheat on chilly winter mornings.
To this day I can't make that grainy little breakfast food without
picturing her standing over a stove on a cold winter morning slowly stirring as
the food came to a boil.
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