Last week was a sad one - the passing of my dad's oldest living sibling and his only living sister. My aunt, Marlene Meadows Archer, was one of a kind. Her grandkids called her Nene - probably because they couldn't pronounce Marlene. She was the family historian. The one who remembered everything - right up to the end. She was 85 years old and even though her body was rebelling her mind (she called it her "members") never left her.
My granny passed away when I was only 9 1/2 years old. I remember that night clearly because it was the first time I ever remember hearing my quiet, sweet daddy holler or cry. When the call came he cried out loudly, and I didn't know why but I knew it wasn't good. He loved his mama! I remember that Aunt Marlene tried to take her place best she could to keep all the family together. Her home became the new gathering spot. She loved her brothers oh so much, and she loved all her nieces and nephews too. She remembered our birthdays, our spouses' names, our kids' names - all of it. She lived just across the river in Texas until she and her husband retired to Toledo Bend. We would visit there too, right on the lake. When he passed away she moved back to the home place in Louisiana. She had a gorgeous yard with old plantings that I never was brave enough to dig up (I do NOT have a green thumb!)
My grandparents had 6 children, but their oldest girl (my namesake, Mae Imogene) died before she turned 3. In fact, my Granny would have been pregnant with Aunt Marlene when she passed. I can't imagine. After Aunt Marlene, my Uncle Kent, then my Daddy, then my Uncle Curtis were all born within 5 years of each other. Uncle Sam was the youngest; born seven years after my Dad. My daddy was the first sibling who lived to adulthood to pass away, in 2006. After the funeral in Lufkin Aunt Marlene's son John did the escort to Louisiana and conducted a service there for the family who wasn't able to make the trip to East Texas. Once the burial was over, we all gathered yet again at Aunt Marlene's home. She told stories as only she could, and even though we were heartbroken we laughed and laughed at the tales she told of our Daddy, uncles, cousins and their friends when they were young. Many of those stories we had heard, but some we hadn't. She had a warm, often loud voice, and had that Louisiana accent we didn't get here in East Texas.
Last year I took my mom over to visit Daddy's gravesite and we went to see Aunt Marlene in the nursing home where she had gone to stay a few years before. She wasn't doing well physically but she was the same Aunt Marlene! Telling stories and laughing, even though she was in pain and having a hard time breathing well. I wish we had gone more. I wish I had recorded her telling those stories. Even though two of my uncles are left with us, her passing was like losing a link to my Daddy no one else had.
I will miss you Nene !