My Aunt May died this week, and my sister Inkling's blog about it made me want to write one too and write my memories of her. She was my mother's younger sister, and lived next door to my grandparents, and in these past years, my parents.
I always was fascinated by my Aunt and Uncle's life together because they raised sheep. They had a huge pasture right across the street from my grandparents' home. At the end of the pasture was a large barn, and beyond that was his parents' home. I remember sometimes they would move the sheep to another pasture, and we kids would help. They always cautioned us to not scare the sheep because they didn't want them running. First of all, a herd of running sheep is hard to control, but secondly, they didn't want them running off the fat they had built up over the past months. We children basically acted as sheep dogs to keep stray sheep from taking off. I always thought herding sheep was so exciting! My grandfather, who herded sheep often in his youth, would probably disagree. lol
When I was a young adult, I went to live with my grandmother for a year, and spent even more time with my Aunt May. One day we were quilting a quilt over at the old school house (now the D.U.P. museum) and my Aunt May came over and told us she had an old ewe that was getting ready to give birth. She told me she would let me know when it was about time so that I could come watch. After a little while, I decided that I would go ahead and go over to see how things were progressing. When I got there, she told me the ewe had already given birth while she was gone. The ewe had given birth to a set of twins. I thought that was amazing, and they were so cute. Just this last summer, I reminded my Aunt of that experience, and she told me sheep usually have twins. I also remember a time when I was a teenager, when my Uncle David was castrating sheep. (yea...I know...gross...but it's best for the herd.) He found a baby lamb and called me over. He said, "This lamb looks so soft, doesn't he?" I said yes, and he told me to come over and feel it. I did, and was surprised that it felt like scrub brush! I also learned that sheep often have ticks embedded in to them, so I never wanted to pet one after that. But I loved seeing my Aunt and Uncle's sheep.
My Aunt May was a hard worker. She worked hard right along side the men, and could do the same work as them. In later years she had health problems and was feeble. Whenever I saw the nurse come to do rehabilitation, I wished I could show him how strong she used to be. I remember watching her help set the ditch dams to make sure their fields got watered. I have very vivid memories of watching her and my Uncle walking along the ditch with shovels over their shoulders.
My Uncle David was a smoker, and smoked in the house. This caused much of my Aunt's later health problems, and led him to an early death. He died in his 60's. My Aunt sorely grieved during those first years after his death. In the night, she often couldn't sleep, so would get up and whittle. Her husband's family were whittlers, one of them quite famous, so she learned the skill, and would sit and whittle in the middle of the night.
My Aunt taught herself many skills. She taught herself to play many instruments. One of the instruments she learned to play was the piano. She taught herself to play the organ so that she could help out with the music at church. She played the organ for church for many years, and also the piano when needed. She also taught herself to paint, and attended a painting class with my mother for a time.
I remember when I was a teenager my Aunt May would ask me if I wanted to go with her over the mountain to a neighboring city to shop. I always loved the chance to go, especially because the mountain is so beautiful. Whenever I would go with her, she would offer me red licorice to eat on the way there. Then before she left that city to go home, she would stop a the bakery and buy raisin cookies to eat on the way home.
This summer when I went home to visit, I was told that Aunt May had a cow down by the river that was about to give birth. My mother and I, and my son, drove down there to see if the old cow had given birth yet. I knew she would not have her calf out in the open, so we scanned the bushes, and finally could see the mother and new born calf. In fact, the calf was so new that it wasn't even standing yet, and the mother was licking it clean! We reported this to my Aunt. She had trouble walking, so didn't leave her house much. A few days later, I guess she decided she wanted to see that calf for herself. She got herself up and drove her truck down to the river to check it out. As she was coming back home, I was sitting in a lawn chair at my cousin's house. Suddenly, a church member came running up to my cousin's husband (who is an ecclesiastical leader) and said, "What is May doing driving herself down the road?!" My cousin's husband said, "Well, she drives herself occasionally." This other man was aghast that my Aunt May, in her condition, was driving! But she was a determined lady, and we all knew that since she still had her license, no one was going to stop her.
When I was there for my father's funeral in March, I took some silly pictures of my Aunt with my Ipad. One of the apps I have is like a funhouse mirror that changes the shape of your face. Another app can put your face on a dog's head. So I took some funny pictures, and we all laughed about them. The other day on facebook, her granddaughter wrote asking for pictures to use in a video at the funeral. I really wished I could give them those pictures, but I knew they might feel they were inappropriate, and didn't paint her in a respectful light. But I know my Aunt would get a chuckle out of seeing them. I will miss her, but I'm glad I have so many good memories of her.