Today's memoir of Deana comes from the daughter of her oldest brother, her niece Patricia.
I couldn't find a picture of the two of them together, but I found one of Patricia in her teenage years, which pertains to this post. Enjoy!
My aunt Deana was like a second mother to me in my tormented, drama-filled teenaged years. For some reason, when I hit age 12, my parents were no longer cool anymore, and that’s where my aunt Deana came in. She is only 14 years older than I, and in my young teenage mind, she was cool, hip, pretty, and young. She used to talk to me all about her teenage years regarding boys, and to my boy-crazy mind, it was fun trading stories. She was still so young at heart, and it made all the difference in having a confidant to share things with. I used to spend most of my entire summer vacations at her house, and even some of the weekends, when I felt it was “getting too heated” at my own home. Or, sometimes, when my Aunt Deana wanted to go on a hot date with my Uncle Bud, she would come pick me up to babysit on a Friday night, and I would stay there the entire weekend. My aunt Deana always helped me re-ground myself amongst all the teenage drama, and I loved spending as much time with her as I could. It was a win-win situation for us both. Like most mothers, she was stressed out with raising her children, and needed help. I needed an escape from my drama-filled teenaged years at home. So, I would come help her babysit, clean house, and we would generally just be each other’s good friend and companion during those times.
Like Cassandra, I also remember her keeping an immaculate home. I always helped her every morning to sweep and mop the kitchen, clean the bathrooms, vacuum, and other household chores. What was fun during these times was when she would turn on MTV (back in the day when MTV actually had music videos) and we would rock out to Martika or some other crazy 80’s band while cleaning the house. She used to grab the mop from me and dance around with me in the kitchen. Oh, what fun that was! I remember one time when “Sweet Child O’ Mine” by Guns N’ Roses came on, she grabbed the mop, pretended it was her microphone, and sung at the top of her lungs. High-pitched Axl Rose voice, and all! She was so fun, full of life, and best of all, silly!
As Cassandra mentioned, her mom was a fabulous cook. She also helped me learn to make my own peach pie when I was 12 years old. Peach pie was a tradition in her family every summer, and after she taught me how to make it, I would come over every summer, and we would make them together. I will always love and cherish those times as we grew closer together in our relationship. Plus, making peach pie and rocking out to Guns N’ Roses on the TV………what is not to like and love about that? See? Didn’t I tell you my Aunt was young, hip, and cool? Also, she helped me learn to cook as we made dinner together every night when I stayed there. She always had to have dinner on the table in time for when my Uncle Bud was coming home.
Another summer tradition was going to Knott’s Berry Farm. Because of all the help I gave my aunt during the summer, she always paid my way into Knott’s. This was a real treat because we grew up poor in my family, so trips to amusement parks were not usually something we ever did. I remember screaming and laughing with her on some of the scarier roller coasters, and when we’d get off them, she’d say, “That was totally awesome!”
As Cassandra mentioned, there was nothing she couldn’t talk about with her mom. It was the same with me. I truly believe because my aunt was there to hear and listen to me without judgment, that she saved me from making some really stupid mistakes in my teenage years. As a teenager, I didn’t feel as if I had anyone to turn to in my moments of drama and angst, and she was always there to pick me up and help me move forward. I will forever be grateful to her for that, and I hope to be the same kind of Auntie to my own nieces and nephews when they need someone to confide in.
She always struck the perfect balance of everything in her life, and religion was no exception. This was a rock to me as a teenager to see how someone could be hip, cool, and religious at the same time. She was always a shining example of someone strong in her faith and religion. This example shined so bright to me when she used to attend church all on her own with her three small children. Week after week she did this without fail for several years, and she never gave up the faith. I truly will always admire her for her rock-solid faith and dedication.
When I later got married and moved out of state, I really missed having my aunt nearby. The homesickness I had for her and my own mom (she was cool again by then) and everyone else I loved was very acute. It was always such a welcome joy to come home to California to see my beloved family, and seeing my sweet Aunt Deana again during these times always made my day. As more time and years went on, visits became fewer and far between. This past November, it had been a year since I saw her last, and I had the chance to come home for Thanksgiving . Gone was the young, hip, cool, Auntie I loved and adored. In her place, was a debilitating disease called dementia. It was a complete and total shock for me to see how far she had gone down in so short a time because I was still able to have somewhat normal conversations with her a year prior to that time. After my visit with her, when she could no longer see me, I broke down into sobs as we drove away from her home. I knew the Aunt I had loved and adored all those years was gone, at least in this life. I mourned my Aunt’s loss the rest of that day, but later was able to come to the conclusion that she is still there. Her mind may be gone, but she is still there! Her spirit is alive and well! Someday in the next life, she will be whole again. What a day that will be when we are all whole again, and reunited forever! I hugged her extra tight that day before I left, and I cannot wait to do so again the next time I see her. Dementia may take a lot from us and our loved ones suffering through it, but it cannot take away our love and memories. In my mind, she will always remain my young, hip, cool, and pretty Aunt. I love you so very much, Aunt Deana! Thank you for helping me become who I am today. I know I would have had some serious dark times without your love and support!