“Have you started collecting for your hope chest?” my aunt (grandma’s sister-in-law) once asked me. I didn’t even know what a hope chest was, other than having heard it referenced in Back to the Future. My aunt has been a widow for the last two years. When my uncle died, I asked what was going to happen to her. She was on her own now, something women her age fear, especially if they’ve never learned to rely on themselves much before being thrust into a new life. That change. I never much associate my aunt with change. She’s lived in the same small southern town since her parent’s died. The same house where they lived. With the high ceilings and antique furniture. It is is like stepping into another world. As kids, it wasn’t always a fun place to visit. The adults would settle into their comfortable chairs in the living room and talk while we would go outside and play, desperate for a neighborhood where other mischievous kids roamed.
I stopped by my aunt’s house this weekend to pick her up and take her home with me. We had four states to drive through together, and I worried that conversation would be sparse. She was more talkative on the drive back, the way my grandma starts trailing into stories about the family and other concerns on her mind. A more intimate conversation than I suppose we ever have. My life is painted intentionally rosy for my aunt who is a xenophobe about everything, from eating to personal appearance. Her mindset never left her small town. Or, more specifically, beyond the boundary that is white. She still remembers the last movie she saw in a theater. Her house is a constant reminder of the way things were. The television is usually only turned on when the local evening news place. The visitors are old friends. Almost nothing in the house has changed since I started visiting she and my uncle. It’s exasperating to think how much of the world my aunt has willingly let pass her by, judged as unnecessary or unworthy, and passed on to distant memory, if it even survives that. It is a dangerous thing, to be that age, alone and terrified of the world.
I turned to look at her the other night as she was on the phone with her brother, her soft, harmless face a silohuette in the light and suddenly thought how much I’ll miss her when she’s gone, stubborness or not.