Dad and his brothers taught me a lot about how siblings love each other. They had one sister, Barbara, who was just like Grandma only she smiled all the time and said funny things. Besides Aunt Barbara, each of Dad’s brother brought an aunt along. Aunt Barbara was the only aunt that was a “real” Crandell, only she had a different last name. Every other aunt put away their first last name, which came from their father, and took up the last name of the man she loved more than anything. All of my aunts taught me a whole lot about family.
My aunts never meant to teach me anything. They were busy talking to each other and telling their kids what to do. And talking about their husbands, and recipes, and how to keep their hair from frizzing up. Of course Aunt Barbara taught us stuff accidentally on-purpose, like not to fight with each other. She was a teacher during the day, so even when she wasn’t with students, she just taught stuff without even trying. Plus, she wrote down crazy things her kids fought about like whether the spot where the bed got wet was round or square. Aunt Barbara was funny as all get out, but still, that silly-fighting stuck with me. Every time I got in a fight with one of my sisters, I thought about whether it was one of those bed-wetting fights.
Aunt Arlene was the quietest of all the Aunts. She was super-pretty. Not in a glamorous sort of way, like Marilyn Monroe. She was more like a Kathryn Hepburn sort: a quiet person, who stood up straight, and knew which way she was going. I could tell Aunt Arlene had a mind of her own. Still, she never bothered to spout off unless she thought it was super-important and was something new. You know, how sometimes, a person speaks up, just because she wants to be heard, even if she has nothing really new to add, and instead just repeats stuff other people already said? Aunt Arlene was never that person.
Aunt Arlene had dark curly hair that curled under on the ends. Somehow, her hair never mussed up. Neither did her clothes. She had lots of kids and at least two of her sons were always on the move. Aunt Arlene had two boys first, before any girls came along. Parents should always have girls first. Girls first makes families more peaceful. I never figured out why that happens, but I know it does. Plus, I read it in the newspaper once.
I never saw Aunt Arlene throw a ball or run bases, but I bet she could if she wanted too. That’s another way she was like Kathryn Hepburn. She looked like she could spring into action quick as a cat, but she kept all that behind the stage, and just moved around all graceful and elegant instead.
Uncle Glenn loved Aunt Arlene to pieces. I never heard him say one mean word about her, or roll his eyes at her, or give her that nasty look behind her back like some husbands do. Uncle Glenn looked at Aunt Arlene the same way Dad looked at Mom: like she was the best thing that ever happened to him. I bet he did that because it was true. Aunt Arlene was the same way.
Aunt Arlene loved history and she found out all about Uncle Glenn’s family, way back to the olden days. She knew who died from eating green apples, and who lived until a ripe old age, and who died having a baby, and who had three wives. She studied up on the family like she was born a Crandell.
Uncle Glenn loved Aunt Arlene until the day she died, which was just last week. Right on the 4th of July. He never stopped giving her that honeymoon look. Those two taught me a lot about love, just by loving each other. Their love spread all over the place: to their kids, to their grand-kids, to their brothers and sisters, and to their nieces and nephews. I have a feeling Aunt Arlene’s love will keep spreading all over the place. That’s the very best thing to leave behind. I hope I am so lucky.