For those of you wondering about this blog entry’s title, “Antenna” is the nick-name my Mom had for her Aunt Anna. Said in the correct way, Aunt Anna sounds like antenna. Get it? Okay, now that we’ve got that covered, I would like to say a few words – or maybe a lot of words – about the larger-than-life woman who was my Great Aunt, Anna Jean.
Some of my first memories of AA (as she abbreviated Aunt Anna often) include her singing “Baby By, Here’s a Fly” and “Rock-a-bye, Hush-a-bye, Little Papoose.” I would sit on her lap next to the fireplace in the living room and she would point to a fly way up near the ceiling, singing “let us watch him you and I; how he crawls up the walls but he never falls.” I imagined a black fly climbing around on the wall with six little shoes made of hairs (that he always wears).
I spent many a weekend at AA and Uncle Paul’s house as a young child, climbing up and down their steep stairs, exploring Uncle Paul’s wood working shop, trying to throw a baby gate down their laundry chute (see full story in AA’s own words further on), and trying to “feed” their dog Bruno his water. Since my mom’s parents lived so far away, AA and Uncle Paul became surrogate grandparents to me. They would call me their “almost granddaughter.”
As I grew older, I never tired of listening to AA tell stories of when was little. She had a knack for storytelling and wit matched only by her own mother. One of her favorite stories involved my Dad trying to feed me in my highchair when I was about 2 years old. I was refusing to eat whatever was proffered (as any good 2-year-old would do) and my Dad said “Well I guess someone isn’t very hungry”, to which I replied “Yes, I am hungry, and that’s a very dangerous thing for you to say!” I can just picture my Aunt Anna laughing with her dimpled smile upon finishing the story.
As an adult, I enjoyed keeping in close touch with AA via email. She was a champion email correspondent, and a talented writer. In addition to keeping me apprised of everyday life stuff, she recalled stories from yester-year in true AA fashion. When she passed away, I dug through archived emails to find stories that really showcased her talent and the personality I knew and loved so dearly.
Here are the excerpts I chose:
Uncle Paul’s first love: This evening an e-mail came, “Activity Update for Paul Allen.” They wanted him to be on Dr. Phil to reunite with his first love! I laughed for about 5 minutes. We don’t know how he happened to get signed up for reunion.com notices. Can you imagine? Someone who has been married over 46 years to the same person!
The really funny thing is, I WAS his first love. He had the odd date here and there (and if he told you about some of them, you would know “odd” is the right adjective) but did not “go” with anyone until we started going together his senior year of college. During his academy and early college years, he worked a lot; had no financial help at all. In academy he worked the first 2 years he was at Collegedale Academy (sophomore and junior years) in the woodshop. Ran a planer, they didn’t know at the time it ruined people’s hearing, that is why he has had hearing loss in his left ear forever. Then he started running a linotype his senior year of academy, did that all through college. In the summers he ran a linotype for the newspaper in Batavia, OH–would you believe he hitchhiked to and from work every day, 30 miles or so (lived in Cincinnati). He says only once did the same person pick him up twice; and he was late once. In college he was intent on his work, his premed studies, AND his music practice. He was very skinny in the olden days, weighed 136 when we got married. And we all thought he had “gotten fat” the summer between his junior and senior years of college; before that he weighed 128! After we got married my Southern cooking started to fatten him right up. I have told him he was the best return I ever had on an investment, who’d-a thunk he’d ever have a weight problem?
Uncle Paul’s visit to the South in 1986: He went to the South when his mother was terminally ill in 1986, she was with his niece in Deer Lodge, TN at the time. As soon as he decided to do that, he told me he was going to rent a car and drive on over to visit Roy–that was in September before Roy died in January. UP was glad he had gone; he took piano music and played for Roy, which Roy loved. And Ted came down to Morgans’; he and Paul told funny stories and Roy laughed so hard the tears rolled down his cheeks. UP elected to stay at Mother’s for the duration, and the two of them had a blast. He called me one night at 9:15, they were still going strong. I said, “Do you know it is 15 minutes after midnight there?” He hollered, “Artie, Annie says its a quarter past midnight.” She hollered back, “Well, I guess she’s right, that’s what the clock in here says.” I did not know Mother was a Night Owl until fairly recent years. She always HAD to get up when I lived at home! In recent years Aunt Lila used to fuss at her when she had seen the light on late down there–so Mother snuck around and fixed it so the light couldn’t be seen from Lila’s house!
From 2006 – when UP was in the hospital: I have felt so alone, and not for lack of love and support, but from being in alien territory and here by myself, it has been frightening. After this, I realized that I am NOT alone, but in the most loving Presence in the Universe. That is not hard to believe intellectually, but is sometimes hard to internalize emotionally.”
Aunt Anna talked to a neighbor’s land-scaper: The owner of the gardening outfit, a man named Ly (pronounced Lee) was telling me that what we saw around the shrubbery in ReNee’s yard was not beauty bark, it was Kapu (sound like Kah-PU). I had never heard of that, thought it was some fancy new formula. So I just nodded my head and tried to look wise. He finally mentioned that the Kapu also had shickamanoo in the mixture. Finally the light dawned–he was saying cow poo and chicken manure. Some fancy formula…
Uncle Paul’s hearing aids (2006): This afternoon we are to be in Woodinville Costco at 2:30 to have Paul’s new hearing aids fitted and programmed. We are both excited! I know it has been hard on him to not hear what is going on around him–and hard on me to shout, repeat, rephrase. Long since I had to stop talking to him unless I am in the same room with him, preferably standing right in front of him. He has had hearing loss since he ran a planer in the woodshop in academy and the first year or two of college. I was afraid for myself, with Granny’s profound lack of hearing, but so far I am second only to your Grandpa Max. UP is going to have to learn how to pay attention, too! When he had on the testing device, the audiologist put a snatch of Bach on for him to hear. I have never seen such a look of rapture, it was total disbelief. I was so moved that I almost started to cry, but thought if I did I would probably wail and might not be able to stop. They are expensive (although at Costco, half what they are other places), but are the latest digital technology and we have high hopes that they are going to open up the world for him. He can hardly hear what they are saying on TV these days.
Wardrobe malfunction! [That] reminds me of a story about me from the long ago. It was when Lisa was in grade school, and I was teaching a junior SS class which included her, must have been sixth grade. When I got to the church and got out of the car, I discovered that I had forgotten to put on a slip, and the dress I had on was clinging around and through my thighs and upon my hips, VERY noticeably. Ruth was the junior leader at the time. I went in and told her I thought I would have to come home to put on a slip, because I had to play the accompaniment for the soloist for the church service and didn’t think I could walk up to the piano that way. She said she was short of teachers, so could she just loan me the slip she had on–it was a whole slip. We repaired to the rest room, got into adjoining booths, and proceeded to make the switch, with her handing me the whole slip over the top of the booth. (She had on a loose wool dress that was completely lined.) When I got back to the junior room, I sat down and discovered that I had a large hole in the leg of my black pantyhose, (just below the knee). It was quite apparent, as dresses were mid or above knee in those days. Showed Ruth–she had a great idea. She had her daughter, Darla, go get a black felt pen and I colored my skin beneath the hole black. Far from perfect, but much less glaring. Got through SS, went to church. We knelt for prayer, and when we got up lo and behold the stocking had moved and the felt pen mark no longer covered the hole, just showed up to the side of it under the stocking. I was on the front row, and was trying to unobtrusively move the stocking back over the hole, with very little success (as you can imagine). In no time they announced the special music, and I walked up to the piano, kind of shuffling as I went so nobody would notice the holey stocking. When I sat down, I was so unnerved by all the preceding distress that my fingers came down on all the wrong keys. It was like I was on the wrong “home keys” on a computer keyboard. The soloist’s eyebrows shot up and she looked around wildly, but I found the right keys and proceeded with the intro. Fortunately, she was the sort who enjoyed singing solos and never got nervous. I believe that may have been the last time I played in public…
Not Beverly: Here is a story that may amuse you. Yesterday afternoon UP and I went to Costco, then back by Albertson’s to buy, as Granny used to say, a “bill of groceries.” Was feeling done in from having felt pretty good and done a load of work the day before, and I am sure I looked pathetic. Had not done anything to my hair but washed it and run the pick through it yesterday morning. Felt too bad to even care. Had on my ancient cotton cardigan sweater which I wear to hide my unsightly, spotted arms. I was in the aisle where the lawn and leaf bags are, and Paul had gone on to the next aisle. As I was eyeing the stacks of boxes trying to find what I needed, a woman ahead of and to the side of me was talking, I decided, to me. Looked her way, and she had a rather quizzical look on her face, and said something as she looked my direction. I didn’t understand what she said, so said, “Pardon me?” She then said, “Bev–Beverly?” Guess I was gazing at her blankly, then she grinned wildly and said, “No, no–never mind, never mind…” I grinned back, and went on my way. Obviously she thought I was Beverly. (I’m not…) Picked up my lawn bag boxes and went around the corner of the aisle to rendezvous with UP, and thought, “Pore ol’ Beverly–she must be looking really bad these days.” Wished I had told the lady that, and thought I would if I ran into her again but I didn’t–maybe she had fled the store after our encounter! I do feel for Beverly, though…
A little “Hilliary” snippit: Last night they were giving a consumer’s report on KIRO on baby gates. UP and I were reminiscing about your putting the Bruno Gate down the laundry chute, and were having ourselves a good chuckle. We could just see you working your little self soooo diligently to get that gate pushed down there. Maybe you wanted to give “Beuno” more freedom!
Silly patient syndrome: One of our former patients (who beats all), an elderly woman, had a throat culture done years ago. When I called her with the report, she said, “Anna, would that report tell me where I got that illness?” Say WHAT?! I wanted to say, “Why, yes, Ella–it says you picked that up on the corner of Fourth and Virginia.” Instead, I just thought, “I will not scream, I will not scream” and I didn’t.
Another silly patient: Did I ever tell you that a patient called one day and told me she just called to ask how her autopsy turned out? Gave me a nasty turn, I’ll tell you. I said, “Wh-wh-whaaaat?” She said, “That autopsy Dr. Allen did on my breast.” “Ah,” said I, become very brisk and businesslike to keep control of myself, “Yes, of course, I’ll check and find out.” She is the same one who later had to have her breast aspirated, and called and told me she wanted to make the appointment to have her breast exasperated. You should have seen our well-endowed medical assistant, Marcia, doing her impression of THAT one. Lisa and I purt’ near injured ourselves.
Uncle Paul the cheerleader: He is my biggest cheerleader, thinks anything I do is wonderful. What a guy! Years ago when we would have guests and, for instance, have spaghetti for dinner, he would sometimes say as we sat down at the table, “Now you are about to taste the best spaghetti sauce you have ever put in your mouth.” I would be humortified. Flattered, but embarrassed. What are they gonna say? “No it isn’t, this is not good at all.” Or, “My Aunt Betsy’s is good, you have not even tasted good.” I would implore him not to do that. He wouldn’t for a while, then he would forget and was up to his old tricks. Back when we both felt better and I cooked a lot, he would often say after dinner, “Now, Annie, we could eat anywhere in the Metropolitan Seattle Area and the food would not be this good.” Can you imagine how I would miss such support? Not that I think he is right, but it is what he thinks and that is what matters.