The Caretaking Matriarch
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
For as long as I've known her, Aunt Margaret, (Aunt Maggie as she has come to be
known), has been the caretaker of me and our extended family.
I recall an early stay in the hospital at the age of four or five where Aunt Maggie's caretaking reached out and touched me in a very peculiar way. She was the supervisor on duty that evening and was called when I refused to cooperate with receiving a shot. She promptly took over and gave me what no one else could, a swat on the butt that took the sting out of any shot. While the memory has not been forgotten, it certainly was not her typical style. Aunt Maggie has always been a very caring and loving individual. I cannot recall her ever saying something bad about anyone else even if I thought they might deserve it.
Aunt Maggie started her nursing career at the Lutheran Hospital School for Nursing in St. Louis, Missouri in 1943 with twenty-three classmates. She completed her schooling May 12, 1946 with only eighteen remaining in her original class. She practiced nursing in St. Louis, Cape Girardeau, and Fort Worth, Texas during her forty-four year tenure as a nurse. She worked in a variety of areas including, floor duty, night and evening supervisor, obstetrics, surgery, intensive care, with her final position culminating as the Assistant Director of Post Anesthesia Recovery. Her employment experience took her briefly a couple of times to the Lutheran Hospital, to Southeast Missouri Hospital for thirteen years and rounding out her nursing career at St. Francis Hospital with twenty-six years before retiring in 1990.
While she retired from her professional career as a nurse, she certainly has never retired from her caretaker and inherited matriarchal position in our family. When Aunt Maggie's mother died in 1989, the duties of family togetherness shifted to her. She is the glue that keeps our family connected no matter how far we are from one another or when we last talked with each other. Aunt Maggie keeps us together by her frequent visits to different extended family members and phone calls when visits are not possible.
Aunt Maggie is the best when it comes to being a guest in your home. She needs no entertainment, although is always up for whatever you want to do. The years are wearing a bit on the, "whatever you want to do" stuff but I know in her heart she would give it her best shot if you asked. A good book fits her quite well and she can be occupied for hours. She is great at games and even introduced me to the game Skip Bo that my husband and I now play for a dollar a game unless it is our five dollar night. I remember growing up "down the street" from my then grandparent's house and now Aunt Maggie's house. She taught us kids how to play Canasta and we would play together for hours. But if you just wanted to sit and talk, Aunt Maggie is one of the best. She doesn't try to argue with you about the topic, just simply states what her thoughts are. And she continues to use that sharp mind of hers. You can find her working crossword puzzles that none of the rest of us would tackle.
Another favorite hobby of almost thirty-eight years has been collecting found money from soda machines, phone booths, business floors, the streets of Cape and other visited cities around the country and the world. At last count, Aunt Maggie has found over four hundred and fifty dollars.
While Aunt Maggie had no kids of her own, she was quite the draw with me, my siblings and my cousins. She made us feel valued, loved and special and we had fun with her. My brother, sister and I reaped the rewards of her adventures because we lived right there. We were able to experience many outings because she frequently invited us along to Hot Springs, Arkansas so we could learn how to water ski from my aunt and uncle. She took us to Clinton, Iowa to visit other relatives and to Fort Worth, Texas and Galveston for a dip in the ocean. I remember her Comet and how she would sometimes tell us that we didn't have enough gas to get home. Boy were we scared, especially because she would say this when it was dark. One of my most memorable trips with Aunt Maggie was when I had the privilege of going to Europe with her when I was only fourteen. What an exciting trip it was and I felt quite honored being the niece who was able to go.
Yes, I have many memories of trips we have taken and adventures we have enjoyed together. Wherever Aunt Maggie went to visit, the one thing you could always rely on is, if you needed a bit of nursing, companionship or TLC, there was no one who could deliver it better than her.
She has taken care of her own mother's last days to the companionship and nursing of the death of her sister's husband a couple of years ago and her own brother and sister-in-law's recent deaths. Now she visits and assists the remaining siblings and their families who struggle for health and clarity of mind in their now "Golden Years" that have begun to tarnish around the edges.
In the twilight of her life, despite bone density issues which caused her to be hospitalized for a week, with for lack of a better medical term, a broken vertebrae or as she tells me a compression fracture of T7, she is still going strong. Amazingly, doctors were able to infuse some type of hardening gel which has alleviated the pain for the most part. But this hasn't stopped her from her caretaking matriarchal duties. Aunt Maggie is still networking with the family, trying to coordinate the attendance of various family members to functions that would bring us together and keep our family in tuned with each other.
Other families may have that someone special in their lives but in our family we have the greatest blessing of a caretaking matriarch, Aunt Maggie, who always seems to place others needs in front of her own. Now it is our family's turn to raise her up and provide for her needs. But true to her character, she will probably turn it back around as to how she can help us staying true to her caretaking personality.