Goodbye, Aunt Midge, please say hidy to Ann and Molly and Judythe for me

My aunt Mildred, affectionately known as Aunt Midge, passed away this Wednesday morning. Beyond the feelings of loss, grief, sadness, it is significant to me personally in that we were not particularly close, but that we recently reconnected after decades of wildly divergent lifestyles, tacitly agreeing that it was all water under the bridge, and discovered a fondness that has spanned six decades. Her spirit remained as robust and her mind as sharp at 91 as it was fifty years ago. I am fortunate to have such a vibrant, life-affirming heritage.

Aunt Midge is a legacy from the era of independent, hard-scrabble farming, the native Texan offspring of a Welshman and French belle who migrated from the Carolinas across Alabama and Georgia to the fertile sandy loam of central Texas. The Hill Country is a gentle remnant of the ancient Balcones Fault, which lies thirty miles to the east of Elgin.

The north-south fault line exposes a hundred mile long slash of granite, marble, and fossil-laden limestone formations, honeycombed by the myriad cold water springs that percolate through the matrix. To the east of the fault, the land slopes off to the fertile, black, loamy topsoil accumulated through the ebb and flow of archaic tides. A rich, alluvial plain gradually descends from the heart of the state to the Gulf of Mexico 130 miles east.

Long stretches of beige, sandy beaches ring the deceptively small, utterly treacherous bowl of water that regularly brews up ferocious hurricanes to batter, drown, and gouge out huge chunks of the coastline. The circumference extends from the Yucatan Peninsula of southern Mexico, north along the oil-soiled Texas coastline, across the swamps of lower Louisiana, the diminutive panhandles of Georgia and Alabama, to end at the southern tip of the Florida peninsula. The finger of land appears to stretch toward Cuba and other Caribbean Islands that dot the narrow mouth in an attempt to complete the circle. A tricky gap where cooler currents from the vast Atlantic to the east frequently and forcefully intrude into the shallow, bathwater-warm Gulf.

Alas, poor Florida! The straining finger is frequently bombarded from coast to coast when a big 'cane plows across the entire state unabated. Florida is the point of no return, deftly deflecting a big blow to the north, drowning much of the Atlantic coastline; or diverting the storm westward, to be whipped into a frenzy when the chilly Atlantic system travels over the tepid Gulf.

The Cherokee were one of the largest groups of Aboriginal people, with established communities in North Carolina, Alabama, and Georgia. My European ancestors commingled with these original residents to establish one of the robust, hybrid stocks common to Texas. So common, in fact, that I have Cherokee genes from both parents. An earlier product of the blend, Aunt Midge was closely connected to the land--she spent her entire life within a one hundred and fifty-mile radius encompassing Austin, Elgin, and the Gulf coast.

A few scant years after the second World War, Aunt Midge found herself a widow. Big Roy, my uncle, lost his leg in a lumber mill accident. Whether he died of complications resulting from the maiming, or from his inevitable surrender to alcohol, or simply from despair (it was never clear to the younger cousins), he left her with two young children still in school, and the burden of supporting a family as a single mother.

At some point along the way, she obtained a nursing degree, and embarked on a lifelong career as a practitioner and teacher of nursing, eventually retiring from the faculty of the UT School of Nursing.

My cousins were exemplary, negotiating the difficult years to excel in academics, participate in school activities, and make significant contributions to the community. Midge's daughter also earned a nursing degree, and became involved with the Travis County blood and tissue bank and other health service organizations. Midge's son also studied the sciences, retiring as a biologist for the Texas Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. A Water Ranger, as it were. Both epitomize the drive, passion, and acumen of well-educated, hardworking, diligent, salt-of-the-earth Texans.

More significantly for the younger cousins, the older cousins consistently showered us with love and joy, and exhibited the endearing, sweet, caring demeanor that I associated with our father. My kind and handsome male cousin exuded that same kindliness and acceptance, and my female cousin was the distaff manifestation of this most benign and caring facet of the Snowden persona.

In processing such a significant life change, I am impelled to honor my ancestresses for their wisdom, experience, love, support, and courageous spirit--all the life-affirming characteristics of an exceptional and caring human being. I gratefully acknowledge the essential life force that connects me with my predecessors and progeny.

Oh, Fortuna! Velut luna. Status variabilis. The Wheel of Fortune inexhorably turns once again in ever-expanding consciousness.

Rest in peace, Aunt Midge. Your indomitable spirit above all else makes me proud to be a Texan. And give Daddy a hug for me, would you?


Joy Des Jardins said...

What a sweet tribute to your Aunt Midge. There's something to be said about reconnecting with family after many years of just living your lives. I've done a little of that myself. Very nice post.

kokopelliwoman said...

Thank you, Joy, writing is wonderfully healing for me--describing a relative in a story gives me a final opportunity to say "Namaste." Another step in the dance of life.