I found out last night that my Great Aunt Jane passed away. She was 93 years old. I only wish I had a few digital pictures to post with this so you could relive one of the craziest memories I have of Aunt Jane.
Jane was not her real name. Her actual name was Ruth, but because there were several “Ruths” on my dad’s side, they decided to call her by her middle name….Genevieve. Now apparently, she didn’t like this name and she would often say, “I’m just a plain Jane”, so the name Jane stuck.
She was a little woman, not even 5 foot tall. I always remember her just being generally silly! When I was little, we would go to Aunt Jane and Uncle Elmer’s house and visit each time we went to see my Grandma Beideman. I’m an only child and so, there really wasn’t anyone my age there to play with, so she would do her best to act my age and play whatever I wanted to play.
The first few times we visited, I remember her youngest son, Andy, was still at home…a teenager then at the time (I believe he’s in his early 50’s now). His room was in the basement and I was fascinated by him. He had a psychedelic looking room with black lights, disco balls and a bead curtain for a door. I loved it! He’d spend his time in there strumming a guitar and I would sit and watch him in fascination.
When I was a little older, Andy had left home and then there were just boring adults to visit with. But Aunt Jane would pull out whatever toys she had or run down the steps to the basement dragging me along so we could play pool. We’d play pool for hours. Neither one of us knew what we were doing, so often we would just roll the balls across the table aiming them at the holes. We’d cheer loudly if one of them actually made it in!
Time goes by and kids grow up, and we didn’t visit as much as we did. Uncle Elmer passed away, but Aunt Jane continued to enjoy life to the fullest. She was constantly busy doing something or going somewhere.
The year I graduated from high school, she called and said she’d like to take my mom & dad and I to Ocean Grove, NJ for a weekend. She got us rooms at a bed and breakfast. We were really close to the “Great Auditorium” that is part of the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association. Many concerts are held there, and there is Sunday morning worship each week. We had a blast with Aunt Jane! We swam in the ocean together, played on playground equipment like we were little kids and had overall fun-filled weekend together. We attended church together at the Great Auditorium that Sunday and she I heard Norman Vincent Peale speak in person. That was a first and last for both of us, as he died not long after that time.
In recent years, she developed Alzheimer’s disease. But, that did not dampen her spirit one bit. At one of our last family reunions, she came up to me and said, “I know you! You’re Richie’s (my dad) wife!”
“No, Aunt Jane, I’m his daughter, Miriam.”
“Oh silly me! Are you out of school yet?”
“Yeah, for about 20 years now!! I’m married now, Aunt Jane. That’s my daughter over there (pointing toward Katie’s direction). She’s 3 years old.”
“Well, I will just have to check her out!” and off she trotted. Now this woman was 85, mind you. And she went sprinting up to Katie, told her who she was and said, “Let’s go play!”
Katie took her by the hand and they went running to the playground next to the pavilion. Next thing I know, I hear excited giggling from Katie and a loud “Weeeeeeee!” coming from Aunt Jane. We all turned to look and there she was, all 90 or so pounds of her, sliding down the kiddie slide, hands waving in the air! Katie hollars, “Again!!” They both climbed the ladder and went down together. They did this so many times that everyone was grabbing their cameras and snapping photos left and right. What a sight to behold!
Finally, Aunt Jane started to tire out and came back to the pavilion. “I must be getting old,” she said. “I can’t keep up with these little ones any more!” Then she came over to me and sat down.
“Did you have fun, Aunt Jane?”
“Sure did! Now, tell me, how long have you and Richie been married? ”
I began to explain once again, that I wasn’t “Richie’s” wife. But I stopped. “Look at Miriam over there sliding away! She sure is cute. I always loved to play with her!” she said.
“And she always loved to play with you too, Aunt Jane,” I replied. She took my hand and looked at me so lovingly. “So, how long have you been married?”
“Richie’s been married 37 years, Aunt Jane.” I couldn’t bear to correct her again. My heart was just over-flowing with love for this little woman that I could always be crazy with growing up.
Rest in peace, Aunt Jane. We’ll go sliding again in heaven!