Have you ever had someone walk into your life and make a world of difference? I did.
I can remember being in the company of my Aunt Joan and Uncle Paul, as far back as my memory goes…maybe when I was four or five years old. They weren’t blood related; however, they were closer than blood. They treated me as though I was their own blood. AJ and UP lived on the same street as I did during the first 5 years of my life on, Kling Street in West Orange, New Jersey. Aunt Joan and my Mother were best friends; tied at the hips until I was 17 years old.
Aunt Joan was beautiful. She was tall, slender, had blond hair which she always wore in a French twist, fair skin, high cheek bones, light blue eyes and a pretty smile. AJ always wore the most fashionable clothes, shoes, accessories, coats and handbags. She, like my mother wore full makeup to go to the bank. She was a Librarian in a local High School; I always loved to read and she encouraged it.
My parents entertained a lot. There was always a reason to celebrate; my father’s excuse to drink with others. AJ and UP came to our house every Friday night to play poker. Aunt Joan always played poker, while Uncle Paul watched boxing matches on tv in the living room. I would travel from room to room chatting with the adults. I spent a lot of time with Uncle Paul; he would always give me mini pep talks. They always stood up for me when my father became verbally abusive. After years of them watching and listening to the abusive of my mother and me, they decided to walk away. According to AJ, “they couldn’t take the abuse anymore”. My mother and I were devastated. My mom cried for months. Mom never brought new friends to the house after that. My father ruined her life in so many ways; mine too.
I was about 17 when their friendship split. I felt I needed to be loyal to my mother and give up my relationship with my aunt and uncle. This created such a huge void in my life! AJ was the only one that told me to follow my dreams, she approved of my first love, and always encouraged me to keep seeing him. She loved my energy and was truly interested in me.
My mother taught me great things like: strength; loyalty; kindness; how to love; to be hardworking; honesty, and most of all preservation. My mother took me to dance, swimming, roller-skating, gymnastics and art classes which I loved; However, I wasn’t prompted to read, get involved in team sports, think of different career choices, or get ready for college. Looking back now, my parents never encouraged me to do anything in life; thank goodness I had a great work ethic. I loved my mother more than anyone else in the world; however, she never inspired me; she taught me codependency.
It wasn’t until after my mother passed away that I reached out to my Aunt Joan and Uncle Paul. Uncle Paul had just passed away. It was a wonderful phone reunion! We laughed and cried; mostly cried. It was on this phone call that I found out just how much abuse my mother had endured over the years of her marriage. I didn’t know half of what went on. Same with the abuse with me. She reminded me of how when my mother would go to tuck me in at night, I would be hiding in a different spot each night. Hiding from what? She asked me and I had to tell her it was my father. AJ cried and told me how much they tried to help me, but couldn’t.
Just a few weeks ago, Aunt Joan passed away at the age of 90. I spoke to her 2 days before she passed and she still sounded spunky as ever!
I will always cherish the relationship I had with both Aunt Joan and Uncle Paul.