In “Aunt Bea, She Ain’t,” I quickly came to the realization that my birth mother was not exactly the kind of woman I had envisioned most of my life. I also learned that this didn’t matter a single iota. I was to learn over ensuing days and years that although quiet at first glance, she was a private, strong, somewhat sassy, warm, and gracious person. She had made a few mistakes, just like the rest of us, but in her case, some of those mistakes were hung out on the line for all to see. And in small towns, we all know how long it takes for those clothes to dry.
Undaunted, she went to school, became a beautician, started her own salon, bought her own home (more about that in a bit), and raised my half-brother and sister. She educated herself about vitamins and nutrition and abided by the truths she learned before becoming enthusiastic enough to offer a variety of vitamins and health aids alongside her hair products. She was not well-treated in her first marriage but stayed with it until her husband left. When I met her, she was again married and again not treated well- some of which I witnessed myself. She had a guy-choice problem, that’s for sure. But from what I could put together, she came to a place where she had realized that and determined to make lemon-aide from her lemons, and she did it by making the decision to love, regardless. That’s the kind of lady she was.
I know in her day, people looked down their noses at her, maybe because she wasn’t silent about having had a child in her youth, or maybe because financially, she had been at the lower end of the scale, or maybe because of her choice in men, but if I could love like she loved and forgive like she forgave, I would consider myself blessed, indeed.
Soft-spoken and somewhat shy at first (just like Yours Truly), she did have a keen mind for business and some strong opinions which I gathered life had taught her to temper. She wanted to be near me always. She stared at me unabashedly- the way I wanted to stare at her but would only do when I thought she wasn’t looking, which wasn’t often. I knew what she was doing as she stared: checking my features, comparing me to herself and her first love. I compared us, as well, and by the end of the first day, I boldly asked, “Are you wearing colored contacts?”
“I’m wondering if our eyes match. I know we look alike, but I want to know how much alike. Do you have any brown spots in your eyes?”
“Yes, I do! Tomorrow, I’ll show you.” And the next day, she went contact-less so I could see my eyes in her face.
At one point, I noticed her limping a little and asked about that. She replied, “Aww, that’s nothing- just some silly arthritis.” This is, by the way, the same response I give most people when they ask about my occasional limp. She also had a hearing aid, which I believe I discovered on Day Two. Within years, I learned I needed one too.
After a lot of conversation, she led the way to my half-sister’s home where I encountered my half-sister for the first time along with her husband, her daughter, son and her grandchildren. My half-sister and I had exchanged some letters, so I knew a little about her, but I think I’ll have to save an entire post for her and my half-brother!
They had all been so considerate of my feelings…We went to dinner, but only a few people came, so I was not so totally nervous that I couldn’t eat. I was sharply aware of my mother’s pride, my sister’s desire to know me, and my niece’s amazement of me.
Everyone was smiling and joking and laughing…and staring. My sister kept stroking my arm as if she couldn’t believe I was real. My dear James is so great with people; he helped keep conversation light and tried to keep them from focusing too intently on me. But when my manners slipped and I clumsily used my left hand to eat the bite on my fork, my niece asked excitedly, “Are you left-handed?”
“What? Oh. No…I just forgot my manners.”
“Oh. Are you hungry?”
I looked down at my plate and laughed…I guessed it was as good excuse as any … “Yes! I’m starving!”
After that, I didn’t blink without thinking about it first.
Photo Credit: CHailey
Current posts tell the chronological story of Cindy’s search. (Names, places changed for family privacy.) Get up to date by clicking here, then read the posts in order, beginning at the bottom of the page. It is the author’s hope that readers find encouragement, inspiration and knowledge for their own journey.