Aunt Rene dances with The Engineer
My granddaddy had one brother – Uncle William – and three sisters – Aunt Rene, Aunt Lucy, and Aunt Mary. Aunt Rene was the fun one. When ever we were with Aunt Rene, life was a party. Aunt Mary was the school marm. She knew she was put on earth to make rules that children were to obey implicitly. Aunt Lucy was the veritable encyclopedia of knowledge on everything – including raising children, which was surprising, given that she had none of her own.
The three sisters were very close. When they weren’t in the same room, they were writing letters to each other. When Aunt Lucy’s husband died, she moved in with Aunt Rene, and the two of them spent all day every day sitting by the same heater, eating at the same table, sleeping in the same bed.
When The Girls hit their mid-nineties, they began to take more naps, and every time they woke up from a nap and found it light outside, they were sure it was morning, so they took their morning tablets. Which meant 2 things: overdose and time to find another place for them to live where others could be responsible for disbursing their medications.
We found a lovely assisted living home close by so we could visit often. As the annual Christmas party approached, Aunt Rene got more and more excited. We made an appointment for her to have her hair fixed, her nails done, and went shopping for a new gold lame outfit.
The night of the Christmas party, Mother and I went to join in the festivities. We wiped The Girls sitting in the back corner of the room in front of the drink table. On our way to them, Mother made a wide right turn and stopped by to get herself a cup of wine, then we took our places standing behind them. Aunt Rene turned around to greet us, and did a quick double take. “Darlin’, is that alcohol?” she asked Mother.
Mother held the cup out in front of her, looking at it as though wondering what it was and how in the world it got into her hand. Thinking of nothing to say, she went with the truth: “Why yes, Irene, I guess it is.”
”I’ll be right back,” Aunt Rene told us, then took the cup of lemonade she and Lucy were sharing, and headed back to the drinks table where Mr. Joe, the facility’s maintenance man, was ladling out punch. “Mr. Joe,” Aunt Rene said, putting her cup down on the table and pushing it over towards him. “Put some Southern Comfort in my cup, if you please.”
”We don’t have any Southern Comfort,” Mr. Joe told her.
”I think if you’ll go look under that end of the table,” Aunt Renesaid, pointing to her left, “I think you might find some. I’ll wait.”
Mr. Joe obligingly went to the far end of the table, lifted the tablecloth, and looked around to see what was under the table. He came back shaking his head. “I’m sorry, Miss Irene, we just don’t have any Southern Comfort.”
”Well, in that case, I guess you better give me some more lemonade,” Aunt Rene sighed.
The music started, and we all knew that meant time for dancing. Aunt Rene sat up a little straighter, dialed her smile up a notch or two, and handed the lemonade off to Aunt Lucy,. She was ready for the line of men to form in front of her. That woman did love to dance. I knew that, and that’s precisely why when we first got to the party, I asked every able-bodied man to ask Aunt Rene to dance. To a person, they said the same thing: “I sure will take Miss Irene out on the dance floor, just as soon as a slow dance comes on.”
While Aunt Rene was out for her first slow dance, smiling to beat the band, Aunt Lucy decided she wanted to go to bed. “Where’s Irene?” she asked. “I’m ready to go to bed.”
”Aunt REne is at a party, Aunt Lucy. Y’all can go to bed when the party is over,” I told her.
Aunt Lucy got increasingly cranky and louder. I spied a post on the other side of the room, drug an empty chair in front of it, and told Mother to take Aunt Rene over to sit in the chair behind the post so Lucy couldn’t see her, then I took my place in Aunt Rene’s vacated chair next to Lucy. Being the self-appoint4ed family historian, I thought this a fine time to get some stories from Aunt Lucy.
”Aunt Lucy,” I started, “when you and Aunt Rene were teenagers, did y’all go on a lot of dates?”
”NO,” Aunt Lucy barked. “Now where’s Irene? I’m ready to go to bed.”
”Aunt Rene is at a party. When the party is over, she’ll come get you and y’all can go to bed. Now Aunt Lucy, when you and Aunt Rene were teenagers, did y’all like to go to parties?”
”NO. WHERE IS IRENE? I’m ready to go to bed.”
”Aunt Rene is at a party,” I reminded her. “When the party is over, she’ll come get you and y’all can go to bed. Aunt Lucy, when y’all were teenagers, did you like to dance?”
’NO. WHERE IS IRENE? I’M READY TO GO TO BED,” Aunt Lucy screamed at me.
That was the third strike as far as I was concerned. I whipped around in my chair and said in what my children call my meanest teacher voice: “Aunt Lucy, I’ve told you that Aunt Rene is at a party. I’m sitting here being very nice to you, and if you talk that way to me one more time, you’re going to bed all right, and I am going to be the one to take you. I’ll take you upstairs, get your ready for bed, and tuck you in. Then I’ll sit with you while you go to sleep, and when the party is over, Aunt Rene will come in and join you. You’ll already be asleep, so you can see her in the morning. How does that sound?”
In the sweetest voice I’d never heard come from Aunt Lucy’s mouth, she said, “Well, we didn’t party all that much, but when we did, we did enjoy dancing.”