Wednesday, November 12, 2008

We'll Miss You, Aunt Jell-o

As we stood in the cold wind beneath the grey scudding clouds galloping in the sky above the Ammon Cemetery, I thought a lot about Jell-o.

Aunt Yvonne brought Jell-o to practically every family dinner, so we called her Aunt Jell-o. She took the teasing well. She took a lot of teasing well. From being reminded of saying things like "Boy, there sure are a lot of dead people in the world," as we drove past the cemetery in Laketown, Utah, where Grandma and Grandpa Speirs are buried. She endured the telling and re-telling of the time she wore a pair of underwear stuck by static cling to the back of her coat on a day of shopping in Idaho Falls, ignorant of the fact until an embarrassed shopper showed it to her. She never seemed to tire of being the butt of family jokes, and even told a few on herself. Every day, a new story. Today, I heard how she complained, in her trademark mangled English, about a driver who had been driving "erotically" down 17th Street.

Parties at her house, the best Christmas parties. In the basement, all of us fighting for turns at the pool table, then exchanging gag gifts, laughing, laughing, laughing. Telling stories on each other, with the dog, Teko, sitting in the window well, banished from the house for the evening, but not wanting to miss out on the fun. Nobody wanted to miss out on the fun at Aunt Jell-o's house.

I rarely at the Jell-o. Being half-Dutch, I suppose, made me wonder why it was such an interesting dish. But Aunt Jell-o's dishes at family parties were as expected as my own mother forgetting the yams until the feast was over.

On the hillside today, under the clouds, with cattle bellowing in the distance, the cities of Idaho Falls and Ammon spread out at the base of the hills, we told Aunt Jell-o goodbye. She battled cancer for nearly three years, asking that her "go-go juice" at the chemotherapy sessions be good. I knew she was ill. I did not know the cancer, diagnosed so long ago, was terminal.

Families drift apart. The fuzzy childhood memories are about all I have. And that's a shame. We drift apart, because it's easy, I suppose. But not recommended.

Uncle Doug said he spoke with her a few days before she died, about the family gatherings. He urged me, standing on that hill, holding back the tears, to stay close. "Those were the fun times," he said. "And that's what we remember. Make sure you do that with your siblings."


Thanks, Aunt Jell-o. We'll miss you.

1 comment:

Maaike said...

Nice memories, Bri. Yes. Let's do our best to stay close. I need my family.