When I was a little girl, my Aunt Ethel was one of my most favorite people in the world. Even though we lived on opposite sides of the county, I knew that she really cared about me. She was always interested in me and my thoughts. She asked all sorts of questions about school and my friends, and then she really listened to what I had to say. Together we would giggle with on the phone, we would write letters back and forth, each of us writing one page longer than the next. She related to me at my level. She was completely unlike any other adult that I knew. I adored her.
As I grew into my teen years, I came to regard that doting affection more like a cloying nuisance. I realized that I no longer had the time or the inclination to write a twenty six page letter. And I certainly didn’t want to discuss my school life nor my friends with her. The interest she had always shown in me somehow seemed to become more like snooping. I always meant to send her a quick note, but there were too many more important things for me to do then to write to a fussy aunt.
I grew up even more and remembered Aunt Ethel and my childlike fondness of her. She was still at the level I was at so many years ago. This was blamed on the fact that she had fallen out of a second story window when she was a baby. Even knowing this, her simple, over-caring ways were just a little too much to take. No matter how much attention you gave her, she always wanted more. Still, I always meant to write to her more often.
As I married and started a family of my own, Aunt Ethel was moved into an assisted living home. She was having some severe health problems and needed more help than any of her siblings could give her. She was still a fairly young woman but living with a community of senior citizens. I knew that she was lonely…desperately lonely. I meant to write her a long chatty letter. But life got in the way. There were always clothes to wash, homework to get done, carpools to drive, dinners to make, volunteer projects…all sorts of little things that needed to be done.
Yesterday my dad called to tell me that Aunt Ethel had died. I was in shock. She was only in her fifties, how could she be dead? All I could think of was that I meant to write…