Happy Birthday Bobby

Did you ever have an aunt with a guy’s name?  I do.  Her first name is Barbara but somewhere in her lifetime she received the nickname ‘Bobby.’  We called her ‘Aunt Bob’.  It never occurred to me that ‘Bob’ is a male name until someone pointed it out.  I mean…doesn’t everyone have an Aunt ‘Bob’?

Today is Aunt Bobby’s 94th birthday.  She always wanted to live to be 100 years old.  I thought she was nuts.  I still do.  But here she is, six years away from her goal.

She loved life and all that it had to offer her.  Sunrises, sunsets, bicycle rides at the beach, sand between your toes as you walked the shore line searching for perfect shells to use in those “make it yourself lamp, good German saurkraut and bratwurst, dogs, babies, kids, a sharp embroidery needle, assorted sizes of crochet and knitting needles, a well tuned sewing machine and a fine set of watercolor paints with good natural haired brushes.   She worked hard and saved her pennies to buy only the best because the best lasted for a long time and you saved money in the end.  You could often hear her say, ‘It’s time to go on an austerity program.’   She was all about that.

She was a self-made woman, never having finished high school but went on to work her way up the corporate ladder in Sun Oil Company.  She was well respected and well liked.

She always dressed in tailored clothing because it out-lived the fashion of the day.  Neat, clean and nattily dressed – that was Bobby.  Even her jeans, which rarely were ‘blue’, had iron creases down the front and back.  Her Keds sneakers were washed and spit-shine white.  Her socks matched her pants.  Her hair, perfectly coiffed, and make-up artfully applied made her ready for the day.

As I’ve written before, she taught me a lot:  to draw, to paint with watercolors, to clean, to love to read, to enjoy drives ‘in the country’.  Her home was my refuge.  So many weekends she’d let me lay in bed and read for hours and hours on end.  My uncle used to tease her saying, “You’d let those kids swing from the chandelier if they wanted to!”  And she’d retort back, “That’s right!  That is what childhood is for…FUN!”  In spring and summer she’d plant a vegetable garden and talk to the plants to encourage them to grow, showing me how to dig the hole, fill it with fertilizer, place the plant, water it, cover it and tamp it down then talk to it to encourage growth.  She took me to church and taught me to love God by her example of loving and serving Him herself.

She served on the Altar Guild, so when it was her week I would go to church to help clean the pews, dust and change out altar linens.  We’d bring the soiled ones home, wash them by hand and bleach them bright white, repair a hem that was torn or whatever needed done.  There were some years she’d make new communion linens and she showed me how to embroidery little red crosses on them.  I now carry on her tradition of sewing for the church.

Today Bobby is 94 and does not know it.  The cross of Alzheimer’s she has carried for 15 years prevents her from knowing anything other than her first name – Barbara.  Though she is ‘living’ one could barely call it that – at least from my external observance.  I cannot fathom why God allows her to continue to carry this cross for such a long time.  If she were aware of her physical state and appearance, she would be horrified.  But our faith teaches us to say and try to believe/accept ‘Glory to God for all things.’  I guess Bobby is still teaching me, even after 50 years of a life of my own.

And so I sing to her “Happy Birthday to you!  Happy Birthday to you!  Happy Birthday dearest Bobby!  Happy Birthday to you!”

This photo is my absolute favorite of her.  It captures the essence of her so well.

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4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. matt
    Feb 01, 2011 @ 23:56:22

    Yes, I did have an aunt with a man’s name. After six daughters he decided that whatever the sex of his next child it was going to be named after him. Daughter 7 was a girl and her name was Clovis.

    I dread Alzheimers. It is probably the only disease I am afraid of. I will pray for your Aunt Bobby.

  2. Mrs. Mutton
    Jan 17, 2011 @ 21:39:18

    My goodness, were you fortunate to have such an aunt in your life! I won’t insult you, or her, by tellng you about women with similar success stories — those women didn’t have such a warm and caring personality as your aunt obviously has. I can see wjhy it killed you to see her into a nursing home, but with Alzheimer’s, there isn’t much else one can do.

    I’ve often wondered why God allows people to continue living in this state — I hope we don’t find out first-hand! Meanwhile, Happy Birthday to your aunt, and may she enjoy every second of time left to her!

  3. Laura
    Jan 17, 2011 @ 18:28:01

    Happy Birthday to your Aunt Bob…and we often have gender bending names in the south…women named Johnnie and men named Beverly 🙂

  4. Elizabeth
    Jan 17, 2011 @ 17:17:42

    She sounds like a very wonderful woman and a real blessing in your life.

    Just finished re-reading Elizbeth Goudge’s _The Scent of Water_ and one of the themes was accepting the illnesses that came… reminded me of your post. We don’t always know why or what God is molding in us, even when we cannot see it being done…

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