ode to aunt dot

Everyone needs an eccentric aunt and Dot is mine.  At 19 Dot married a gorgeous, older, somewhat narcissistic air force pilot named Hank and was widowed just 7 years later.  He left her boxes of love letters, receipts for gifts to other women, and a very nice pension.  Once on her feet, Dot found single life suited her and turned to living her life just as she pleased.

My single, sassy Aunt treated me like a beloved small dog who accompanies its person in a purse.  I would leave suburbia’s toiles and stripes to stay the night in her downtown velvets and geometric prints.  She smoked Satin brand cigarettes and let me hold one unlit until I was 10 when she let me have a puff or two.  We discussed politics and fashion.  We were happy as clams together.

On her seventy-fifth birthday Aunt Dot treated herself to a fully loaded Grand Prix. “Pricks” according to Dot.  (“Well, Honey, there’s an “x” on the end, isn’t there?”) In three months dents and dings covered it.  She multitasked while driving and so “ran into some things.”  She added the car still looked super in the right light.

Like her Pricks, my now 93-year-old Aunt Dot has a fair number of dents and dings.  Her essential “Dot-ness” remains, but what seemed feisty and festive in her younger years now looks ornery and difficult.  She still chain smokes and won’t even pretend to use the smokeless ashtray we gave her.  Last time my kids visited her they asked for some M&Ms.  She barked, “Lord no!  I eat those when Jeopardy’s on!”  This and their school’s successful anti-smoking indoctrination put the kibosh on future visits in their book.

Recently Dot dug out her letters to and from Hank.  She reads and rereads them, reconstructing their face-to-face marriage to match the written one.  She owns this reconstruction, noting it makes her happier than what actually was.  Dot doesn’t negate her past.  She rearranges it to show off its best side, then stands back and admires her handiwork.  I don’t think we should take all of Dot’s lessons, but we might take a few.

Whitney Cain