RIP, Aunt Dolores

My Aunt Dolores passed away this week. While she had been in declining health for a few months, the end came rather abruptly. She leaves behind 6 children, 11 grandchildren, and 6 great-grands and counting. Also, she leaves behind my mother, her last remaining sibling.

My aunt was something of a grandmother figure to me. My Nana—her and my mother’s mom—died when I was only 4 years old. So I really have no memories of her. My aunt was 19 years older than my mother, almost a full generation, so the parallel worked out.

I remember spending time at her house in Norristown when I was young. I stayed there when my brother was born. It was there that I learned to love Skippy peanut butter, causing many a spat with my Jif-brand loving mother. My aunt’s house was large, given that she had 6 kids, and I loved exploring what to me seemed a huge, rambling building. It was full of interesting knick-knacks and objects, a few of which made their way back to my house (with her permission) and I still have today.

We did Thanksgiving there as well, so I have the memories of boisterous family feasts (which have only gotten larger and more boisterous as the years passed). As an introverted child with only one sibling, the energy of a large family was somewhat overwhelming, but the love and welcome and warmth could not be missed. My cousins inherited my aunt’s generous spirit, and they go out of their way to help and support each other and to contribute to the wider community. I want to be like them when I grow up.

I’ll be honest, my aunt kinda scared me when I was little. She seemed so stern and strict, but I guess when you’re raising 6 kids and your husband travels a great deal for work, you have to lay down the law or go crazy. As I got older and got to know her better, I learned of her wit, wisdom, and humor, and met the real woman behind the stern aunt.

My aunt could talk. And talk. And talk. You could be on the phone with her for 2 hours and only manage to say 5 words. For an introvert like me, she was a godsend. If you stood near her at a family gathering, you never had to say a word. I believe she inherited this superpower from my Nana, although I obviously do not know from personal experience.

All that talking, though, brought to the forefront another amazing ability: her memory. I have never known anyone who had such tremendous recall of people and events from decades ago. Granted, this often meant she talked to me about people I had no idea who they were, but I still found the stories of her life fascinating. And as I grew more interested in family history, her memory was often the key to figuring out people and events in the past. My mother was so much younger than my aunt that Aunt Dolores knew ancestors better and more personally, so she was often a valuable source of information.

My Aunt Dolores was a loquacious, vivacious, generous woman to whom family was everything. She faced her not always easy life with grace and strength, and nurtured a family I am proud to be a part of and who I see as an example of what a family should be. She was a woman of strong opinion, of courage, and of faith, and she will be missed by many.

My mother is now the last of her generation, and I cannot imagine how lonely that must feel. My aunt was a fixture in my life, my godmother as well, and I still have not processed that she is no longer sitting in her living room on Long Island, watching her late night TV shows and opining on the state of the world today. My aunt was 91, and she was content to go, but that does not make her loss any easier for those left behind.

We miss you and love you, Aunt Dolores.

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