Go Tell Aunt Dody

Laughter is more healing for me than any anti-depressant, alcoholic drink, or spa retreat could ever be. When I’m most angry, sad or frustrated, a call from my brother can usually do the trick. There probably isn’t anyone in the world (my treasured friend Julie runs an extremely close second) who can make me laugh more than he does. Most of the time it’s highly inappropriate, which is the best kind.

Sunday night I was very thankful for Julie. I had received some very bad news earlier in the evening. My mom’s youngest sister, my Aunt Pat, passed away suddenly. My husband was there when I found out. He’s a very emotional and sensitive soul, so I was able to just break down and sob in his arms. But you can only cry for so long, especially when your children are looking on, being very sweet and consoling, but at the same time wanting their mom to be back to “normal.” So I composed myself and went about the business of being a parent, getting bedtime snacks, and putting them to bed. But I felt completely numb.

Back in happier days.

Julie called me later when everyone else was in bed. I don’t think it’s appropriate to share details and I’m not intentionally trying to be vague, but there were so many ways Pat’s death could have been avoided. It just feels so tragic and senseless. She left behind a son, a young granddaughter, three sisters, and my grieving 89 year-old grandma, who has lately been in poor health. We talked a lot about that, and eventually the conversation turned toward my dad.

I’ve written about my dad before. Read I Just Got Myself A Nice Miter Saw if you need a refresher or are new. He’s very dry, not overly emotional. His hearing is shot because he played sax and clarinet in a big band for years. He has a low, gruff and sort of mumbling cadence when he speaks. So phone conversations with him can be painful. He can’t hear me. I can’t understand him. We talk mostly on Skype or Facebook chat, which works much better. And he rarely calls me.

So when the phone rang at 8:30, and Barry said, “I think it’s your dad,” I knew it wasn’t going to be good news. But in retrospect, once I started telling Julie about his delivery, we couldn’t stop laughing about it. It was darkly comical. There’s always a long pause before he speaks, so I had to say “Hello” a couple of times, before he kicked off the conversation with, “Jennifer. Mom’s on her way to Hays to be with Grandma.” (At that point I steeled myself for him to tell me that my grandma had passed away.) But he went on to tell me, very bluntly, what had happened.

So Julie and I pondered the absurdity of it, and she said it made her feel a little better about some things that happened with her dad, particularly the story about her Aunt Dody. I know I’d heard that one before, but made her refresh my memory. Apparently one day her dad (Coincidentally the anniversary of his passing was last weekend, and I had just checked in with her the day before to see if she was doing all right.) called her, and this was the extent of their exchange.

Julie’s dad: “Have you talked to your Aunt Dody lately?”

Julie: “Why?”

Julie’s dad: “She’s dead.”

So we don’t know if this bare bones approach is a byproduct of being a stoic Germanic type, or just being male, but we decided that our dads likely would have gotten along famously. At any rate, picking on someone else’s flaws always makes me feel better, as did this, so thank you Julie for having an emotionally stunted father for me to laugh about while I’m hurting. I know you miss him. I hope he’s chatting up my Uncle Hal and Aunt Pat right now. And that they are all laughing. And at peace.

© Jennifer Alys Windholz, 2012


6 thoughts on “Go Tell Aunt Dody

  1. Yes, I felt guilt at first because that’s what happens when you quit being an enabler and then something tragic happens to that person. But after some reflection, I knew that it was not helping her to continue ignoring the “elephant” in the room. I did talk to her just a week ago and it was a good conversation. We had some really silly times when we were young and I will continue to think about those days instead of the past three years. If nothing else came of this, aunt Florine came to mom’s apartment and they talked. Let’s hope there will be some healing there.

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