I took my aunts to the casino a few weeks ago, but in reality, they took me. Aunt Linda is 82 and Aunt Sammie is 75—eighty is the new sixty. Everybody still drives and walks on their own and everybody certainly has a windy mouth on their face, including me. So, Aunt Sammie drove like a maniac because I arrived at her house at 7 a.m. instead of six, moving slow, feeling the onset of a cold. But the early hour didn’t slow any of us down when it came to our voices.
A warmth fills my heart when I’m around them—the noise, talking over each other, the storytelling. . . about Uncle Vic’s newly found son who is in his 70s, about the time Grandma gestured for a card at the blackjack table (actually hitting) when she had twenty. She got an ace! We were all at that table years ago, but we let Aunt Sammie tell the story.
There were names mentioned and sharings about Sally, and Vickie, and Irene, and Jeff, and Mom and their children and grandchildren and all of the offbeat people I am blessed to be related to. There’s a deceased unnamed uncle related by marriage who nobody wanted to dine with in restaurants because he would “fake leave” and then beeline back to the table and take the tip after Grandma left a generous few bucks. The same man often took Auntie on a date to Costco where they dined on samples.
When Auntie passed away in her 90s, she had the most interesting funeral I ever attended. She probably enjoyed watching the odd priest in his white flowing embroidered gown with his towering white hat (from where ever she was). He swished his waist in a circle every time he spoke her name, always using extra syllables, “Isabel,” swish, swish, “Isabel.” He’d tell a story, but not the Costco story, and then he’d swish, swish, moving his waist as if a hoola-hoop swirled on his hip. A buck (or a deer, I’m not certain) showed up about 20 yards from where we stood on the lawn and gave that priest a look that I interpreted as, “What in the hell is that?” That buck must have been channeling Auntie because she would have had a similar expression. I never smiled at a funeral before—I never laughed at a funeral before until Auntie’s.
We’ve had spiritual sightings of grandma and people punished who do wrong by the family. Grandma’s a fierce force. My grandniece one time saw her shove a kid down the slide at their apartment play area. The same bullying kid who had picked on her. The kid ran home so fast, pale like he saw a ghost.
Grandma’s presence is always with me in casinos. She taught me how to gamble. Surely, she joined us on that day; two of her daughters were with me. Aunt Linda and I played the tables (Aunt Sammie loves the slots). Is it any wonder that the three of us left with a substantial uptick in our wallets? Grandma enjoyed that day as much as we did.
Last summer, I visited Aunt Linda in Houston. Aunt Sammie had been staying with her after radiation. We played cards, Five Crowns, a new game they’d never played. I had shipped it to Aunt Linda in advance, knowing they’d love it. Competitive little buggers wouldn’t put the cards down once I finally convinced them to play a game. My face hurt from laughing. I left that weekend wondering why I haven’t spent more time with the Aunts. There’s never a dull moment with my family. I miss that. More please…