My parents were not financially in the best position to have a family when they got married. They had always planned on having a family later in their married lives and often joked about how their first child being conceived would coincide with the day they won the big prize at the state lottery. Unfortunately, I was born before they had a chance to place a winning bet and my birth sent their finances into a tailspin.
I was born earlier than my mother’s actual due date because my mom was often stressed out trying to make ends meet with whatever meager income my parents could scrape by. Which is why when I was born in need of medical attention, my parents were practically at their wits end trying to figure out how to afford the payment for the neo-natal intensive care that I required. I spent the first four days of my life in an incubator because my lungs were under-developed causing me to need the specialized contraption to help my lungs mature faster so that I could start breathing on my own. At the end of my hospital stay, my parents were met with a huge bill that they could not settle in cash.
My mother’s sister was a spinster who had done well in life so that she lived comfortably and with a financial nest egg that served to pay for her whims, caprices, and other needs. She was like the good Samaritan of the family who was always ready to help when necessary. There was just one problem, she did not like children very much. So my parents were apprehensive to approach her for help at first. They tried to find other ways to pay the bill, but eventually found themselves with their backs to the wall. That aunt came by the hospital on our last day of confinement and paid a visit to the neo-natal unit since I was already out of the neo-natal intensive care unit. From what I gather from the family stories about my birth, she had said that I was a normal looking baby and she would like to help my parents take me home. Of course my parents were deeply indebted with gratitude to her because of that favor and did their best to repay her in kind because she declined to call it a financial debt and have them work it off or pay for it.
I was told that she took a liking to me, which was strange because she never had a kind word for any of the children born into the family at the time. So, it came as a complete and utter surprise to all our relatives when she told my parents at my christening reception that she would gladly come over whenever they needed someone to watch the baby. That offer of hers sealed the deal about what her presence would be in my life and how she would affect it.
She was present for all the big events in my life. When I turned a year old, she gifted me with a special set of tea kettle shaped earrings which I am told, is a family heirloom that belonged to my grandmother and she felt it only fitting to pass on to me because my features reminded her for their mother. She was like my nanny growing up. I never missed my parents because she was always there to comfort me and entertain me while my parents worked. I was never hungry because she kept me well fed and made sure that I always smelled like a newly bathed baby. In many ways, she was my surrogate mother and there was probably a time in my life when I loved her more than my own mother.
My earliest memories of her was of me stepping on her feet and she was holding my hands up to her and she would walk around the house saying that we were dancing. I remember how she would hold me by the hips and then she would say “dip!” and I would lower myself as we pretended to dance the tango. Being the parental figure in my life while I was growing up, she became the person who taught me about conduct when in public. Her being a spinster was why she gave emphasis to discipline and acting responsibly . That is why my parents were often praised when they took me with them to other places, I acted like a mini-adult . I knew how to conduct myself in public and that wrong actions had consequences for me. She was the iron hand who dealt out the punishments while my parents loved me no matter how naughty I got. She told me that she did her best to teach me how to conduct myself properly in public because she did not want me to any mistakes in life. She said she did not want to see me get hurt because she loved me.
I had a rebellious streak as an adolescent. Unable to follow orders without question. I developed my own personality and clashed with hers. She no longer knew how to deal with the person I now was. She no longer came to the house that often and when she did come to visit, we usually argued. Eventually, my parents thought that it would be best for her to move in with us because she was getting on in years and could no longer live alone. I was against it from the start because I did not want to spend every single day fighting for my rights to enjoy my youth and life. She was against the modern definition of fun and fashion. My mother tried to talk to me about her sister’s health and begged me to just be nice because she was not long for this world anymore. In my mind though, it seemed like she would live forever and torment me.
She fell very ill one summer and needed to be hospitalized. The doctors who diagnosed her said that we had taken her to the hospital too late and the Sepsis could no longer be reversed.. I tried my best to hide it from my aunt and did my best to spend what little time we had left together creating happy memories for her.
As her body began to shut down, she told me how much she loved me and that she never meant to hurt me. She wanted only what was best for me and showed it to me the best way she knew how. She asked me to forgive her for any wrong doings that she may have done to me and asked me to remember only the good times we had growing up.
I still carry that part of myself that she molded and taught within me. Her lessons are still evident in the way I conduct myself in public. Sometimes, I find myself thinking about the conversations we had in my early days of life. Sometimes, I can still hear her voice telling me “That is the right thing to do. Regardless of how today’s society acts.”