Last night, I received some very sad news. My Aunt Clare passed away at 85 years of age. Slowly but surely, the very roots of my childhood, my aunts and uncles, are regrouping for a spectacular family reunion in God’s kingdom. Although it gives me solace that Aunt Clare has been reunited with my Uncle Hank and our entire departed Hunky Clan, the sense of loss for her children and her entire extend family will be deeply felt.
Aunt Clare was my Godmother. We had a very special connection. Although we haven’t talked or visited in some time, she has always held a special place in my heart. From a very young age, I always felt “special” in Aunt Clare’s eyes. The truth be known, I think she made all of her nieces and nephews feel the same way. It was just her nature. However, I prefer to feel that as her Godson, I was the singular recipient.
I remember that I would always receive an extra gift at Christmas from Aunt Clare and Uncle Hank. That’s what Godparents did back then. It certainly made me feel special since my brother and other cousin’s weren’t as fortunate as I with another gift to open when we visited her home. Aunt Clare was always sensitive to that fact and would quietly present the gift to me when others were not around. No pomp and circumstance….. just a quiet token of her love.
Aunt Clare had four children, two girls and two boys. Cheryl is the first born. She is about the same age of my only brother, Steve. Tommy was her first son, and he and I are about the same age. Etta, her third child, was her second daughter and the person who has been caregiver to Aunt Clare. Finally, Aunt Clare’s youngest child is Jerry. All of her kids live in the area and have been a constant part of her life.
Aunt Clare had that innate hunky ability to make everyone immediately feel welcome and part of the family. No truer examples of this exist than with the special relationship she had with her son-in-law Mike (Cheryl’s husband), and her two daughters-in-law, Marianne (Tommy’s wife) and Linda (Jerry’s wife.) Aunt Clare was an equally loving Grandmother and Great-Grandmother. As her family expanded, the love just grew and grew. The joy she felt when they were all together had to have been immeasurable based on the huge smile on her face.
Although those special times with Aunt Clare when I was a very young child will always be a part of my memory, our relationship blossomed even more in my teens.
Aunt Clare was ALWAYS COOL! She was “the aunt” in the family that understood trends, music, fashion, movies and all things important to the teenage mind. You see, Aunt Clare managed the concession stand at the South Hills Drive-In on Rt. 51 in Pleasant Hills. Along with her own children, I was also hired as part of the crew that worked at the concession stand. I think I worked there for 3 seasons, 1968, 1969 and 1970.
Working conditions were ideal for a teenager at the drive-in. Aside from the obvious….free movies, free popcorn, free pops…. was the fact we didn’t begin working until about 6 in the evening until about 2 in the morning. As any teenager will tell you, being able to sleep until 2 or 3 in the afternoon was near nirvana!
In addition to those perks, was the fact that Aunt Clare was my boss. Yes, she was very focused on providing great food and service, but she was always fun to work for and a blast to be around.
Each evening, I would make my way to her home on Lindberg Ave in Munhall to hitch a ride to the drive-in. I never minded the ride to work since my “Cool Aunt Clare” always drove the neatest cars. For two of the years that I worked at the drive-in, I was driven back and forth in a 1968 or 69 GTO convertible! It was a bright lime green with a white convertible top, white leather interior AND an 8-track player! I’m sure you can get the picture, a carload of teenagers (seatbelts didn’t become “law” until 68 or 69, but no one really paid attention to it) and the sounds of the Beatles, the Jackson 5 and the Beach Boys blasting as we tore up the road.
Most adults complain about the musical tastes of their teenage children. I know I did (with just cause!) Aunt Clare never complained about the music, she embraced it and pumped up the volume whenever we were together. When we were done with our workday at the drive-in, she’d suggest that we all jump into her above ground pool and swim for an hour or so. I’m sure the neighbors didn’t like it, but we were living and loving life.
I suppose that is how I choose to remember Aunt Clare. She was my one aunt who lived life to the fullest! In the words of Helen Keller, “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.” There should have been no reason for Aunt Clare to have regrets when she left us yesterday. She HAD lived life to its fullest as well as positively impacted those that surrounded her with the love she craved and the love she gave.
I love you Aunt Clare, rest in peace.