Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Sturdy Girls..."give me those elbows!"

My Aunt Kat died last night at 84. One of the seven Strong Cole Sisters. My mom and aunt Selma are the last surviving sibs of the original ten.  I think many of us are prone to embellish or exaggerate many things family...both the good and bad. And we are more prone to do so amidst bereavement. But I must say that these Strong Cole Sisters have been an over the top amazing lot and my Aunt Kat was my favorite. 

All of the Cole Sisters loved and tended to each others kids but my Aunt Kat was extra special in that way. She lived such a life-in-full and was funny and pugnacious to the very end. I'm dreading having to tell LFG but then again, it's another opportunity to teach lessons about love, kindness, service to others, importance of family and finally; the inevitability of loss. I am a better man because of the Strong Cole Sisters. And I'm proud that my Aunt Kat knew just how much LFG and I loved her. I wrote the following a few months ago...

"And then there was the issue of my Aunt Kat. She’s the next oldest and till recently, the healthiest. I’ve loved all of my aunts but she’s always been my favorite. She’s a damn titanium magnolia if there ever was one. But in early April she ended up with hospital acquired pneumonia and on a respirator. This is a slippery slope for old folks. Hip fractures and pneumonia are the grim reapers geriatric dispatch tactics. That’s my Aunt Kat on the left, then my mom and aunt Selma. Yes, my Aunt Kat gets her “A” capitalized. Shut up.

Folks, there’s no mawkish or maudlin intent here. This is a script…one that each of us with aging family members inevitably has to read and then usually…perform a part in the immutable production. And to that end, when they took my Aunt Kat off the vent and sent her to hospice, my brother and I were looking at our schedules and speculating about getting back home in time to be pallbearers. No tears…just gratitude for having loved ones who've lived this long. The hospice folks had already started humane doses of morphine to comfort my Aunt Kat in her exit. And like my buddy R.E.B. who I said goodbye to a little over a year ago, I’d have gone to say goodbye to Kat in person but she was no longer coherent.
And then...she gradually became lucid. And then…she started asking for people and food and other comfort oriented things. Three days later she’s as lucid as ever and Hospice, of course, kicked her out and she ended up in a long term care facility. So you know now why I had to get home. I’d have never forgiven myself if I hadn't made it home to visit with my Aunt Kat. She’s recovering splendidly and will be out of long term care in another week.

I stayed with my Aunt Kat most of the first day I was home…with my mom’s blessing. I knew she was going to be ok because she was gossiping her ass off. Filling me in on who else was in the long term care center and regaling me with stories about what these people had done over the years…scandalous and sublime. Stuff like… “You know that Tootie Mae Johnson is over in room 36…your daddy used to date her before he married your mama. Go peek in there and see what you’d a looked like if he’d married that old hussy”. Yep, my Aunt Kat was gonna be ok.
On a respirator and Hospice bound one week and tending to me two weeks later. Kat was moisturizing her lips with a little tube of petroleum jelly when she spotted my dry elbows. “Give me those elbows”…and she proceeds to tune me up with a dab of her lip balm. The same maternal, service to others predisposition that all my mother’s sisters demonstrated to everyone.

LFG and I will see my mom and Aunt Kat next month and Kat will probably, after giving LFG a few jars of homemade jam, find one of us to daub some moisturizer on or reach over and straighten a collar or wipe a mouth. So I dedicate most of today’s Mother’s Day gratitude to my Aunt Kat. “Give me those elbows”…"

12 comments:

Golf Tango Hotel said...

My condolences to you, LFG and your family. I have been blessed to have had several strong Southern women in my life, including my own favorite aunt who also recently passed. They are amazing and my life has been richer and blessed for having had their love and support. Thanks for your tribute to your Aunt Kat, she sounds to have been a wonderful woman.

M.Lane said...

What a nice tribute for Aunt Kat. I'm very sorry for your loss.

ML
mlanesepic.blogspot.com

Yankee-Whisky-Papa said...

Rest well, Ms. Cole.

Elizabeth said...

Max, I am so sorry for your loss. This was such a nice tribute and hit home for me. My grandmother also passed away last night at age 84. She was also a "titanium magnolia". She was one of 10 kids, like your Aunt Kat. She was diagnosed with MS at age 51 and still lived till 84 (not to mention she also had 9 children). She outlived my grandfather by 6 years who was a general physician and was healthy every day of his life until he got pneumonia at age 80. LFG is lucky to have such a strong woman to look up to. Sending prayers your way...

LPC said...

Give me your tired, your hungry, your elbows. I am honored to infer my place in her company. Or at least to see her as one of the original Sturdies. I am sorry for your loss, and happy for her life.

Patsy said...

A life well lived and a lady well loved. I'm sorry for your loss.

She has my mother's hands - perhaps all ladies of a certain age have those hands.

TWJ said...

God loves those who love others, (the most). God bless Aunt Kat. I am glad you and LFG have had the fortune of having lovely strong women in your lives.

Please send a prayer to Aunt Kat to look for my grandmother, (Ruth Anne Johnson). I will send a prayer to my grandmother to look out for Aunt Kat. (Now, I hope I did not have a Great Aunt Tootie Mae that they did not tell me about. If so, well, I hope she was nice to your daddy).

Mrs. Blandings said...

You are lucky to have known her and we are lucky that you shared her with us. Best.

Gail, northern California said...

How lucky for Aunt Kat and your little golden-hair that you recognize and appreciate the importance your mother and her sisters played in your life. They made you a better man.

Preppy 101 {Preppy Grammy} said...

Thank you for sharing this. I, too, have a favorite aunt. We are certainly blessed. Thinking of you and LFG. xo

Main Line Sportsman said...

God speed and safe rest for Aunt Kat....sorry for your loss my friend

ADG said...

Thanks everyone, for your kind words.

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