Talking to my 86-year-old Aunt Phyllis is always a pleasure. She is a smart woman with a great sense of humor, so our conversations are always lively and full of laughter. She is my Mother’s youngest Sister, and my Godmother, which makes her very special to me.
Aunt Phyllis married, at age 18, the love of her life, my dear Uncle John. These two had nothing to start with. They built a comfortable life together and raised three daughters, by working hard and being frugal when they needed to be. They always had good friends and family around them, and they were solid citizens. Their daughters grew up to be good people, hard workers, and had their parents’ fiscal sensibilities.
I remember seeing this video recently, of my Aunt Phyllis and Uncle John dancing together at a reception twenty five years ago. Watching these two Jitterbug seemed to put things in perspective. They danced as if each movement was anticipated by the other so completely, that the motions were seamless. They had probably danced together hundreds of times, and it looked effortless. As I watched, I began to think of this dance in other terms. They had danced through lean times when they were first married. They had danced through weary hours raising children. They had danced through work, play, travel, worry, and joy. When their lovely daughter got cancer and later suffered the result of the assault of treatments on her body, they danced through the death of a child. So many dances. Always with the same partner. The strength and consistency of their love was evident in all these things. No wonder it looked so seamless to me.
Uncle John has developed a type of dementia that has taken away his memory. He is now in a long-term care facility; Aunt Phyllis goes to see him almost every day. She has meals with him and often stays while he naps. He still remembers her, but their whole history is lost to him. He doesn’t remember his daughters when they come to visit. This very bright man with a quick smile and a twinkle in his eye, is now an elderly gentleman with very few words to say.
Aunt Phyllis never complains. She is a strong, resilient lady who remembers every dance she had with her good, strong partner.