It takes a special relationship to prompt a statement such as that.
My family, and myself, had the privilege of being part of one that special and more.
You probably already know this, but I was an Air Force brat growing up. My dad joined the Air Force when I was five and we arrived at our first base shortly before my sixth birthday.
Another thing you might know (or have gathered from my incredible personality traits) is my family is from the South. My mom from Alabama and my dad from Texas- our entire extended family (as small as they are) lives in the South. For the first six years of my life, I lived in the South.
So imagine the shock to not only myself but the rest of my family, when we rolled into Rapid City, South Dakota.
To say it was a culture shock (as well as a climate shock) would be an understatement.
But it wasn’t long until my parents found kindred spirits in a couple that lived down the street from us.
One thing about being far from home and being part of the military is you learn to create family wherever you are. And this couple became our family. They were my second parents. We called them Aunt Eva and Uncle Ed.
We did everything together. We ate dinner together, and when it came time for my uncle and dad to do their PT tests, we dieted together- well they dieted while we (mainly me) assembled messages of disgust with the bell peppers.
After four years or so, they moved to Omaha, but as luck would have it, we followed a few years later. Bought a house not too far from them and a short time after- they had a baby.
Oh this baby. I loved this baby. This baby was the cutest and most adorable baby ever. He was about as sweet as you could ever imagine a baby to be. I loved him. I can still see him sitting in his high chair giving me this shit eating grin right after he decided to spit carrots or sweet potatoes or some other orange colored food all over me. You could not be mad at that face.
Mitri became the fifth kid and although my baby sister will always remain “the baby”, she shared that role with him quite well. We would all sit around and laugh at his “jokes” that were just horrible; things like “why did the ketchup cross the road? Because it was cold.” and he would just laugh and laugh. Thought himself quite the comedian.
He would call us “the childrens”. It was Aunt Martha, Uncle Jimmy and the childrens. He was also a very matter of fact kid. I can’t tell you the number of times he would say to one of us- “you hurt my feewings”. Ahhh, I loved that kid.
My Aunt Eva was hysterical. When she would play Mario Brothers she would move her entire body to control Mario. She would even jump a little. So funny.
The best part of Aunt Eva was getting her to laugh. She would get tickled and it usually went downhill from there. Case in point: One time when they had come to St. Louis to visit we (the childrens, Mitri, and Aunt Eva) went to get ice cream. As we were driving home my brother made a face at a driver in a neighboring car. We all laughed and laughed, and as we kept talking about it and laughing more, walking through the door of the house… she peed her pants. I kid you not- there was actual pee. And of course this just made us all laugh even more. So funny.
She was also the disciplinarian of her house. Oh my lord was she ever! One day she walked in on my brother and sister jumping on the couch (or the bed, I don’t remember) and she beat their little booties like she owned them! For a little woman she packed quite the wallop- they still talk about it (and laugh) today.
At her heart though she was one of the most caring and loving people ever. After a particularly rough driving lesson with my dad (we butted heads due to our mutual lack of patience and quick tempers), she took me out and gave me lessons on driving stick shift- on a car that I eventually owned after they moved to Germany. I would get in that car and it still smelled like her. Every once in awhile I catch a whiff of someone wearing her perfume and I automatically think of those driving lessons in the bowling alley parking lot.
If Aunt Eva was the disciplinarian, then my Uncle Ed was the gentle giant. It was funny because even though he’d been around for the majority of my life, he was still awkward around us girls, like he didn’t know what to say to us. And he was very protective of us. Just ask one of my first boyfriends! He came by to pick me up and my dad must have been pulling alert or on TDY, I don’t remember, but Uncle Ed stepped up to the plate and I don’t know what he said to that poor boy but I vividly remember him saying that we needed to be home by such and such a time because he promised my Uncle Ed and there was no way he was going to be late! I can’t imagine what would have happened had they had a daughter- all I can picture is an entire population of frightened young men out there.
Uncle Ed and my dad were quite the little jokesters themselves. They used to feed us all kinds of crap- like when they took my brother out in the canoe one time and he came back telling my mom all about the frogs. They were everywhere! And they kept making this noise! Or it was just my Uncle Ed and dad farting. Men, I swear.
We are starting to get to the age where grandparents and in some cases, parents are dying. And you inevitably hear, “I don’t know what I will do when my parents die.” Well I’ve gotten a taste of it, and it is not pleasant.
It’s been six years since my Aunt Eva, Uncle Ed, and Mitri died. Honestly, a little bit of myself went with them. Like any family member, they are a part of your memories. I can’t parallel park without thinking of my Uncle Ed being pissed as hell that my aunt let me use his beloved Jeep to practice. I can’t hear certain songs without hearing Mitri singing along at the top of his little lungs. Hell, I can’t eat Little Ceasars pizza without thinking of the old commercial with the kid going “that’s a lot of pizza Uncle Ed!” and how we would say that over and over. I can’t smell apple cider vinegar without thinking of the day my aunt tried to fog us out of the house while making some chicken dish- it was brutal.
But it’s a testament to what kind of people they were that even in their death- there was happiness. When we went down to Texas for their funeral, as weird as it sounds, it was a happy time. Granted it was horrible, painful, gut wrenching, but at the same time- happy.
My uncle’s mom welcomed us into her home and allowed us to grieve with her. We sat around and told stories and laughed and of course cried. When we were done crying, we’d start right back up with the laughing. We all shared in our love of this family. A family that truly defined “good”.
They had their faults, but at their core- they were about as good a people that you could ever hope to know.
In their obituary, my uncle’s mom described our families’ relationship as the title to this post- “It was a love that was unparalleled and will last forever.”
It was and it will, and I’m proud to have been able to call them my family.