Aunt Gin Gin
Leta Virginia Robertson
All of the above names are names that I knew my Aunt Ginny by. They were all her nicknames at some point, given to her by someone who loved her. However, I NEVER knew her real, given name was Leta! Leta Virginia Robertson (Rail-maiden name) is the name she was given as an infant. It is on her birth certificate, she was baptized in the Catholic church under that name, and it is now on her death certificate. How could I go 32 years and not know her real name?
In fact, as I sat with all my extended family. My mom and all her sisters, all of their cousins, and their children (who are all my age) and now THEIR children…I learned some things.
1. Aunt Ginny had 12 siblings…none of whom EVER went by their given names. Great Aunt Fee Fee was really Vivian, My Grandma who went by Lucille was actually named Margaret. Uncle Ronnie was actually a Robert, Uncle Mike (who I never met) was actually Gerald. Aunt Betty was really Veronica. 2 of these Great Uncles never lived past the age of 1, so who knows what their names might have become. There are 4 more that I am not recalling in this moment, but trust me…the names I once knew them by are not their names! TO top it off, their nicknames are not even close to their real names! It isn’t like Kimberly to Kim or Kimmie! They are completely different. OK, in reality, all the names they went by were some form of their middle name, but still. If I were to ever want to go to the cemetery to visit their graves (I would never do this, cemeteries are weird as is our culture’s way of grieving), I would NEVER be able to find them. And if I were to give the cemetery the name I know them by so they could direct me, they would never find them either! Craziness!
2. My Great relatives were glue to this family. It is they that have been the tie that has bound us together all these years. They took care of each others kids whenever needed and as they grew older their grandchildren and great grandchildren, nieces and nephews.
3. Aunt Gin lost her husband 31 years ago. At a fairly young age, 56. She never dated anyone else. She never considered dating anyone else or re-marrying. Uncle Stu was the man for her…and as far as I know, she was never lonely or wanting for another man after he passed. What a great kind of love to have been able to have. How awesome to be so at peace with life that being a widow did not overshadow the joy of being mom, aunt, friend, and grandma!
I know I have my own memories of Aunt Gin. She was funny and feisty. She loved all the neighborhood and family gossip. I remember listening to her and her sisters along with my mom among others…sitting for hours playing Hand and Foot, smoking cigarettes and sipping her beer or pop. Man did it ever get loud as they all talked over each other in an attempt to share the latest. Aunt Gin would always start it out with, “Did you know….” then away they would go spouting their various opinions and things they each heard.
However, there was NEVER any malice in the gossip. In reality it was jsut the way they shared what was going on in their lives. And no matter WHAT anyone did that might have been wrong or not, no one was ever turned away at Aunt Gin’s house. Aunt Gin talked big and loved big! She was a pretty cool lady!
This is what I imagine. Aunt Gin is in heaven and seeing all her siblings again. Lucille (Margaret), Ronnie (Robert), etc… I can imagine them sitting around a table playing cards and here she goes updating them all on their families.
“Lucille, did you know….your granddaughter Kimberly (she always called me Kimberly) has lost 57 lbs! Boy she is looking good! Lucille you would be proud of her, she is running and working hard on her health. She is gonna live longer than all of us ever did! Oh and Your grandson Billy, He has 6 kids…oh man, if you could only see them all…you would love them all…Oh and did you know….Little Jonny has 2 kids of his own…and Kenny is a chef, he makes the most delightful things…Oh Lucille…my how you would be proud!”
She would then move on to each of her 12, giving updates to them all…and man would it be loud in heaven as they all spouted their own thoughts and opinions…and perhaps Jesus would chime in from time to time…laughing as they all reunite!
I don’t really know what Heaven will be like…but if Aunt Gin had her way…this is what she would be doing…being with her family and sharing all the stories and laughing at all the silly things that happen here on earth that we get so worked up about. (like the funeral procession getting separated or her daughter getting blocked in at the cemetery for over an hour by another funeral coming in as we were leaving…Oh how she would laugh at these things!)
Other noticings. It is no wonder when I think of funerals and the possibility of going to one I think of them as family affairs. Going to my friends Dad’s funeral last December I remember thinking, “wow, there sure are a ton of people here…and most of them were not family. They were former students, fellow teachers and band mates. There were people represented from all aspects of the life this man lived in his church and in his community.
In my family, as these precious matriarchs and patriarchs have died, one by one, going to these things, 95% of the people were family. I could seriously walk up to just about anyone there and know that they were family. I might not know exactly how we are connected but they are family just the same. Among the older generation…”ohhh you are Lucille’s grand daughter! and amongst the younger…”oh Betty is your grandmother!” There are literally 100’s represented with all sorts of last names. All family. No wonder going to a funeral to be with a friend or perhaps a co-worker seems awkward to me. I always thought I just wasn’t comfortable with the death thing. While that is present…another part is…I am not family and funerals are family affairs, no matter how distant of family you are! The other reality to this phenomenon is this. In my family, at least among this generation, the family are your friends. Aunt Gin didn’t go out with girlfriends on the weekends. Her kids, and I and others came over any night of the week and just hung out or went yard-saling, or out to lunch.
The thing I noticed was that my family celebrates and mourns with food. At the funeral home last night, you would have thought a party was going on. Massive amounts of chicken and macaroni salad and desserts of all kinds were brought in. Typically, food is brought in for the immediate family and this kind of meal would perhaps be a luncheon after the actual funeral. Not in my family. The food was there for EVERYONE who came to the funeral home to pay their respects. It is no wonder I eat if I am happy or sad! This pattern goes back much farther than my nuclear family habits. This goes back generations!!! No wonder this is hard at times. I am breaking generational habits of eating for comfort or for celebration!