As I mentioned yesterday, I have often made the mistake of counting life's mileposts when I could have been savoring the scenery. As I have grown a bit older, one of life's high points I discovered I was missing was my dad's younger sister. Aunt Betty and Uncle Glenn (more on him later) have proven to be one of the great joys of my journey.
Growing up in Socorro, New Mexico had its challenges. But for my aunt and uncle, it didn't begin to touch the hardships their parents had faced before them. Aunt Betty was the youngest of four Norris siblings, with three older brothers. To understand her, you need to understand something about her family growing up.
The oldest boy, Granville (we called him "Granny") was an adult when Betty was born. The second boy, Rex (we called him "Yogi"), was pretty much grown, too. My dad, Jimmie, was eight when Betty came along.
Now, let me turn the story upside-down. I performed Granny's first wedding (to his childhood sweetheart) when he was 83. Rex was married for a short time when he was quite middle-aged. Then, after being single for some years, he remarried and became a dad for the first time at age 60. They had another one after that!
My dad was 28 when I (their oldest) was born. And then there was the "baby" -- Aunt Betty.
Aunt Betty had her first when she was 16, was a grandmother in her mid-thirties and a great-grandmother in her early fifties. She grew up really fast!
To say the least, Aunt Betty knew how to take on responsibility. I watched her raise her five kids, three of whom are older than me. I watched her care for her aging parents.
And, after Grandma and Grandpa died, I watched her look after her three older brothers. Faithfully.
The reality of it became very personal when she and Uncle Glenn started providing every sort of help to my mom when my dad became very ill with cancer. At times they would drive to my parents' home -- just ten miles away -- and stay overnight to help wherever needed.
Aunt Betty never slowed down long enough to think about her own needs. She just served. And served. And served. All the while, she bore the impending death of her only surviving brother with dignity.
But I can't tell the story about Aunt Betty without telling you something that still brings me a smile every time I remember.