Love, Loss, and Family

I was away part of this week in Green Bay because my Aunt Emogene, known as Gene to most people, died late on June 15th. Her daughters had warned us this was coming, so we were as prepared as we could be for the bad news.

Aunt Gene (left) and my mother (right) July 6, 1936.

Aunt Gene (left) and my mother (right) July 6, 1936.

Gene was closest in age to my mother–a year and 11 days older. Aunt Mabel had had the roost to herself for six years before Aunt Gene came along and then with my mother following so quickly, she was thrust into the role of older sister. Apparently my mother and Gene were little terrors and broke all Aunt Mabel’s doll dishes and tea set. Who knows what other sibling crimes were committed?

My mother, Aunt Mabel, and Aunt Gene July 4, 1936 on an overlook at Lake Winnebago.

My mother, Aunt Mabel, and Aunt Gene July 4, 1936 on an overlook at Lake Winnebago.

The sisters were close, talking often. At some point, my cousins and I started referring to them as ‘the Siddens mafia.’ Because we talked regularly to them and they talked regularly to each other, sometimes information that wasn’t meant to reach someone…did. One or the other mother would say, ‘Have you talked to [cousin’s name]? She’s been [xxx].’ Or: ‘did you know [whatever]? Why didn’t you tell me?’ Sometimes I just hadn’t thought about it.

The Siddens mafia, speaking, hearing and seeing no evil... (left to right, Aunt Gene, Aunt Mabel, my mother)

The Siddens mafia, speaking, hearing and seeing no evil… (left to right, Aunt Gene, Aunt Mabel, my mother)

When Aunt Gene and Uncle Vic visited, or we went to visit them, we knew we were in for a good time. Mom and Gene were close, and Dad and Uncle Vic were both farm boys who had served in the U.S. Navy in the second World War. How they all laughed when they got together–and what a boon atmosphere that was for us as kids, surrounded by all that laughter and love.

Aunt Gene and Uncle Vic, in 1982 at my parent's.

Aunt Gene and Uncle Vic, in 1982 at my parents’.

Aunt Gene was widowed in her late fifties after almost forty years of marriage. She was 19 when she married Vic and she was fond of telling the story that he had been to war, but had to get his mother’s permission to marry because he wasn’t 21 yet. As a woman who had focused on her children and home and then her grandchildren, she might have gone adrift at this loss. But she leaned on her friends from church and stayed connected to her community. She went to see friends in Arizona. With two friends and Aunt Mabel, who was also widowed by that time, she rented a condo in Florida one winter. Because she was tiny, there is apparently a picture of her in the trunk of the car the ladies rented, extracting a suitcase that was pushed too far back for anyone to reach.

Aunt Mabel, Aunt Gene, and my Dad at my parent's surprise 50th wedding anniversary party...

Aunt Mabel, Aunt Gene, and my Dad at my parents’ surprise 50th wedding anniversary party…

Aunt Gene was impish and sparky. She could seem so pleased to be with you that she just leaked good humor. She could be very funny and she might say just about anything. One of her grandchildren was telling a story at dinner the night before the funeral and either her mother, my cousin Vicki, or her aunt, my cousin Allison, said ‘You’re not telling that tomorrow are you?’

She was laughing about something here, but I don't remember what.

She was laughing about something here, but I don’t remember what.

I was fortunate that my cousin Allison and her husband moved to Virginia, because I got far more exposure to Aunt Gene and Uncle Vic than I might have otherwise. She and Uncle Vic came often and after he died, she continued to fly out, at first with my cousin Vicki’s children and then by herself.

With Aunt Gene and Talley, my cousin Vicki's daughter at Allison's in 1987.  Talley now has her own 12-year-old.

With Aunt Gene and Talley, my cousin Vicki’s daughter at Allison’s in 1987. Talley now has her own 12-year-old.  And that’s MY ratty purse thrown on the couch…

She had a hard year this past year and died on my cousin Vicki’s birthday, which, frankly would be  hard to take. My own birthday was three days later and kind of hard to focus on given the loss. But children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, a sister-in-law, sister, and lots of friends came together to see her off. We were lucky to have soaked up all that love for her 87 years. And then 14 of us went off to Bay Beach, which she loved, and finished up with dinner at Sammy’s, her favorite restaurant. As my own niece texted me recently on her birthday “Thanks for the love.”

Vicki, Allison, my brother Scott, and me--trying to stand as tall as my older cousins in 1963.

Vicki, Allison, my brother Scott, and me–trying to stand as tall as my older cousins in 1963.

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36 Responses to Love, Loss, and Family

  1. reocochran says:

    Sorryvforvyour losing your Mom’s sister. If they had had the same hair color, they ciuld have bee fraternak twins 🙂 You told this true story with so much love. I could imagine a smile on your lips, as some of the sweet details were typed into place. It certainly was a blessing to have cousin’s move close so you got to see more of Aunt Gene. My mom will be 87 this November. I would be bereft should I lose her. But do feel it is a good and long life ( for either Mom or your Aunt Gene.)
    My favorite special descriptions were when you said she “leaked good humor.” Then your comment about how it felt to be in the midst of all the laughter, “boon atmosphere.” So lovely!

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  2. I am sorry for your loss Lisa, even forewarned, it is still hard. What a wonderful family connection you have – that is a treasure that old age and moving on cannot undo! I think knowing a life has been well lived and the departed much loved is a great blessing for everyone. You had a birthday too – I have made a note! Hugs my friend.

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  3. Lisa, I am so sorry to hear about your Aunt Gene. Even when we expect a loss, nothing can truly prepare us when it does happen. But what a wonderful tribute you have paid to your beloved aunt. Your love for her shines through. How blessed you were to have her in your life, and she, to have you. It seems strange to wish you a happy birthday as part of this message, but nevertheless, happy belated birthday.

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  4. Sorry for your loss. Thanks for sharing.

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  5. A fitting tribute to a clearly loved lady, Lisa.

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  6. So sorry for your loss… thank you for sharing lovely memories and photos. Pauline is right – your mom and aunt Gene could have been twins. I have never heard the name Emogene before, do you know where it comes from?

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    • arlingwoman says:

      Thanks, Jan. It’s just a variation of Imogen, I think. Not much used anymore, but apparently popular in the 1920’s. They were so close in size as children, and often dressed alike, that many people did think they were twins.

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  7. I”m sorry for your loss, Lisa. You’ve written a wonderful memoir of her life and legacy and all that she meant to you. We can’t prepare for the loss of a loved one, as much as we wish we could. It’s hard, too, when birthdays and losses fall so closely together.

    How wonderful to have such terrific photos of life growing up and times spent with Aunt Gene. Sending good thoughts to your mom as well.

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  8. KerryCan says:

    This is a wonderful tribute to a wonderful-sounding aunt! It’s nice that she was so consistently part of your life–we have tendency to lose track of older relatives as time goes by, or at least I am guilty of that. I’m sorry for your mother, to have lost a sister so close. My sister is less than a year younger than I and I cannot imagine life without her.

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  9. Dear Lisa, I am so sorry for your loss. This wonderful tribute to your remarkable aunt pseaks of the love you felt for her and the love that lives in your wonerful family.

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  10. sorry I pressed send too soon! Take care my dear friend! xoxo Johanna

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Boomdeeadda says:

    Hi Lisa, sending gentle hugs of comfort. This was a really nice read even though a sad day for your whole family. Your Aunt would be very tickled and happy to know what a positive influence she had on your life. You’ve written from the heart, thank you so much for sharing. BTW, my parents sofa in the 80’s was also flowered. I thought it tacky for a long time but maybe now it’d be kind of ‘Anthropologie cool’ ? That’s sure a cute photo with your cousins, I see skinny runs in the family. I adored growing up in the 60’s didn’t you? Open doors, running around the neighbourhood, more predictable weather and the music was what life memories are made of. I’m sorry you’ve had to say goodbye to your Aunt Gene, while you’ll be missing her sunny ways great company and laugh, she’ll always be in your heart because as your post shows, she’s always been there from the start. Take Care Lisa

    PS. Happy belated Birthday, I celebrated another this month too. High five to enjoying another healthly year!

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  12. starkwe says:

    Beautifully written. I’m sorry for your loss.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. These are such beautiful memories, Lisa, of a woman who seemed to be full of life and laughter and a great deal of spirit. Your family sounds incredibly close–such a beautiful thing during this particular age when folks get scattered to all ends of the earth.
    The pictures look like they will continue to bring these warm rememberences back to you as you need them.
    I’m sorry to hear this lovely lady has passed, but you were all so lucky to have had such a treasure for so long.

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  14. Robin says:

    I am sorry for your loss, Lisa. This is a beautiful tribute, with beautiful memories for you to keep with you. I often think that memories are a little like having a tiny piece of the people we meet and know and come to love.

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  15. Allison says:

    Oh Lisa…..I just read this. Brought a tear to my eye, but what a sweet homage to my mother. Love you dear cousin!! xoxo

    Liked by 1 person

  16. vicki says:

    Thanks for sharing these thoughts. Absolutely beautiful. Love you!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Melanie says:

    Thank you for this beautifully written post. I was so happy you were there with us. To get to say good bye to my Gram then celebrate in a way by going to Bay Beach and Sammy’s and all the support you gave to my mom and aunt. Love you

    Liked by 1 person

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