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Monday, March 25, 2013

Great Aunt Millie ~ 1915 - 2013

In 2009 my Great Aunt Millie asked my mom to take her to the family reunion.  She is of my father's side, so even though he had passed away in 2004, and my mom hadn't been to a Bowers reunion in quite some time, she kindly said yes.  Upon learning of this I immediately booked a flight home with my nine month old Charlotte so I could help mom escort Aunt Millie from the nursing home to the reunion.  At this point she was 94, quite frail and we were sure this would be her last reunion.

Prior to leaving the nursing home Aunt Millie asked me to fix her hair.  I'm so glad I took this photo because I would have forgotten this request.  Sometimes it does not occur to me that all women want to look pretty, no matter their age or lifestyle.  I remember my mom fussing about her weight before she got remarried in 2010 and it made me pause and smile because she wanted to look nice for her new husband.  I think of my mom as "mom", if her weight goes up or down 10 or 15lbs I probably would not notice because a mom is so much more then her figure.  Likewise my Great Aunt has always been like a grandmother to me, it would never have occurred to me that she wanted to look pretty in front of her family.

I brushed her soft gray hair and asked her what clip she would like and she picked a pretty yellow butterfly and let me take her picture again.

She won the award for oldest person at the reunion and was given a crown, but honestly I don't think she was that impressed.  She said the crown hurt her head.

There is much I took for granted over the past 37 years and I wish I had asked her more questions about her life but from what I know it was a sad one so I never wanted to bring up bad memories by asking questions.  Having been born in 1915 she was 14 when the Great Depression started and if memory serves me correct she was married the same year.  Her father had died in 1922 and her mother struggled to put food on the table for four children.  It was easier to marry off the only girl and put the boys to work.  My grandfather only had a 3rd grade education so I'm guessing the timing of his father's death and great depression had something to do with that.

My grandfather always looked out for his sister and they were very close.  I'm not sure if it was he and the brothers who put in the effort or if it was the iron will of Aunt Millie to keep the family together because she could be fiercely protective.  My grandfather's 2nd wife passed away shortly after I was born so for as long as I can remember my grandfather dated many women, or at least it seemed that way.  Aunt Millie hated all of them, she was relentless in her distrust.  My grandfather didn't care, he made sure Aunt Millie was well provided for and looked after her but when it came to dating he just ignored her disapproval and tried to bring everyone together.  He was such a jolly guy.  Aunt Millie could be bitter at times but she'd had a hard life.  Her husband was not a good man.

When I think back on my life, she was there for every major event.  Always in the background, always present and quiet.  She attended all my childhood school events and my high school graduation.  Children and teenagers take these moments for granted and just assume the person is there because they are supposed to be, that's their job, right?  Oh my, I look back with so much gratitude that she was always present for holidays and personal events.  I wish I could read into the details of her life, learn more of what it was like to go through a century of wars and technology changes - 98 years!  What a long lifetime!  This reflection has largely fueled a renewed urgency to record more of my personal history in this blog because who knows what future generations might start wondering about their heritage and looking about for a written record. 

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