I’ve talked a lot in the past about the hostile environment that is my family. I’ve related my mother’s abusive nature, and my abusive childhood at the hands of (literally) my mother. But for all my negative experiences, I honestly don’t think I’m the one the got it the worst. That person would be my Aunt Lara.
Lara is my uncle Al’s wife. My grandparents have fours kids, and Al is #2 behind my mother, and the first son.
I don’t remember much about how my aunt and uncle met, because I was really young. But apparently I was really smitten with her as a little guy. According to family legend, Al proposed to Lara on Christmas morning one year, and I got so upset I started crying because I said I wanted to marry Lara. Apparently I was very angry at my uncle that Christmas.
My aunt Lara and her extended family are fixtures in my memories growing up. Her parents were always so nice and welcoming to me, as well as the rest of our family. I remember her dad Larry use to drive a truck for Lays Potato Chips. Like one of those trucks that goes around and refills areas, or vending machines. He would let me climb in whenever we came over and grab snacks. And as a fat kid, that was the way to my heart; free snacks.
My memories of my early childhood are pretty hazy, but what I do clearly remember is my aunt always being the way she is now – bright and bubbly, friendly to a fault, and always trying to get the family together. But when I look back at the way my mother treated her, or would talk about her, you would think my aunt was some kind of evil person.
It really makes me sad to think on how my mother treated my aunt. I’m sad to say that it probably formed a lot of negative feelings I had towards my aunt and uncle, and prevented me from being closer with their kids (my cousins).
But, we’re all grown up now, and for all the abuse and attacks everyone lived through with my mother, surprisingly, we’re closer now than we’ve ever been. My cousins are amazing people. Their oldest, Meg, is a talented chef, and caters high profile events in San Diego. And her grill game is off the hook. Their youngest, Brandon, is a talented graphic designer. He started his own t-shirt design company years ago, and has continued using those skills in other areas of his career path in the years since. My uncle is a successful contractor who has worked on and help build homes and buildings all through California and Nevada. And my aunt, she is still the same happy, smiley, bubbly person she has always been. She heads up cafeteria services for her local school district.
Lara has the kind of down home, hey y’all, spirit you’d only expect from someone who grew up in the Midwest….or someone who knows what the real value of family is all about. I jokingly tell people that my aunt reminds me of Paula Dean the way she talks and laughs, except if Paula Dean was a good person.
So, you’re probably wondering why I admire my aunt. All that has been said here is nice and lovely, but how does this all equate to admiration. Well, I admire my aunt because, like my wife, she could have easily said, “Oh fuck this”, when confronted with all the crazy that is my family. And it’s not like it took years to creepy out, they are crazy from the jump. But she never did. She loves my uncle, and has been his greatest champion all these years, even encouraging him to maintain a relationship with my grandparents, despite my mother’s meddling ways, because…family. I admire her because no matter what stories or little backbiting comments I may remember my mom saying behind her back, I’m sure she heard worse, and yet she still smiles, and stayed.
And I admire her…no…I love her, for being the only person to even care enough to find me, and check in on me after I stepped away from my family. I have family to this day (over 11 years) that have never even said a word to me. But Lara did. She cares.
Maybe that’s what I sensed her all those years ago. I knew she was kind, and had a huge heart. Whatever it is, I’m glad I still have it in my life, and that’s why I admire my Aunt Lara.
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