While we were in Colorado, we made a quick trip to Ft. Collins to visit my Aunt Darlene.
Although almost 85 years old and crippled by osteoarthritis, she still lives on her own. When we arrived, she gingerly made her way across the garage to greet us. Her hugs were loving,enthusiastic and warm for all of us, including the three new kids.
She recognized each of our adoptees from pictures she'd seen, and delighted them by reciting their names and ages.
As we followed my Aunt Darlene into her living room, I reminded the kids that since their great aunt was born in 1926 she had memories of both the Depression and World War II. They had a great opportunity to hear about history from someone who'd lived it. We started asking questions and she started sharing.
Aunt Darlene told us her clearest memories of the 1930s weren't of the Depression itself but of the affects of the Dust Bowl on her home in western Nebraska. As a little girl, she'd helped her mom (my grandmother) lay fresh wet rags at the base of the doors and windows each day in an effort to keep the rolling clouds of dirt at bay.
When we asked about WWII, she spoke of the rationing that had been part of that era. She'd seen it up close because she'd worked at the family grocery store alongside her father. She rememered learning about sugar that had been hoarded in people's attics being found after ten years rotted and useless.
As we sat discussing the second World War, I was struck by how odd it was that nine of the children in the room were born in Russia, America's enemy during Cold War that immediately followed WWII.
My aunt, who probably never topped 4'9", has been reduced over the years to about 4'4" by all the fractures she's endured in her back.
She may be small in stature, but she's a giant to me. Spending time with her, you'd never know all that Aunt Darlene has lived through. Both her children died young, one son as a toddler and the other son as an older teen. She watched her husband struggle with emphysema for more than two decades. He died just before their 50th anniversary. Despite all this suffering, she's content with her life and uncomplaining about the challenges that she faces in her mid 80s. She treasures her extended family and loves her friends.
I'm glad all of my children have now had the opportunity to meet my itty-bitty aunt who has a giant heart!