Wednesday, May 05, 2021

Explosive Knowledge and the Love of Auntie Gladys

 I spoke to my Auntie Gladys only two days ago. I had been trying to get in touch with her ever since she entered the hospice where she had gone from the hospital. Even though I rang several times, the phone wasn't answered. I had heard from my brother that Auntie Gladys was very weak and needed assistance with the phone, I had to call and hope that one of her family or someone from the hospice was there to help her. I took a shot on Tuesday and the phone was answered by a nice woman who got the phone over to her. 

The voice I heard was barely recognizable, it was so weak and it seemed impossible it came from such a vital, powerful, woman. When I told her my name she didn't recognize it and instead asked if I was coming that day. I told her that I lived in Toronto and that fact didn't help her to catch my memory. Later, I mentioned Joe, Auntie Gladys always liked Joe, and that was it. The key. The pebble. She said, ""Joe!" "Dave and Joe" oh my hello" Joe and I both spoke to her and then we were on firmer footing.

I spent a little time telling her that I had such fond memories of her throughout my life, that she had enriched not only my life but our lives. She responded, "Yes, they are good memories aren't they." Besides 'bye, now' those were the last words that Auntie Gladys said to me. She died the following day.

After hanging up the phone, I thought about the fact that Aunt Gladys remembered me through Joe. It struck me that she was the second person in my family who knew about our relationship. That knowledge, that explosive knowledge, had no power that would change her view that I was still her nephew. She kept my secret until keeping it was no longer necessary.

I read again today that parents still, routinely, throw their kids to the streets once they know of their difference. It seems that their hearts simply weren't big enough, or strong enough to withstand the blast. Explosive knowledge had nothing on my Auntie Gladys, and I will forever be grateful to her because of it.


Anonymous said...

We all need an auntie Gladys
What a lovely goodbye...

ABEhrhardt said...

As the parent of a trans daughter, I am finding constant opportunities for quiet advocacy when the subject comes up, in a retirement community where almost everyone is older than we are (71 and 73).

I don't have the energy for many other forms - even the Trevor Project wants you to commit to a three-hour slot, an impossibility for me - but I CAN help fellow residents uncertain how to respond, and even more specifically, how to speak to and about their children and grandchildren in non monogamous or non heterosexual relationships and lives.

I had the benefit myself of a very good friend and her daughter becoming her son before my daughter transitioned, and it helped a lot for me to learn, and I hope for her to have someone to talk to.

It can be done gently and with encouragement. We're a pretty liberal place, but it is still hard for many older people to talk about personal things.

I am so glad you had your Aunt Gladys with the strong belief that you don't lose children over stupidities to counter the nasty righteousness. I love that she remembered you as part of 'Joe and Dave.' My deepest condolences for your huge loss.

GPT and Me: Story Hour said...

Those last communications often contain treasures that we can carry with us after our lives ones are gone. I had a similar affirming experience with my father before he passed on, in November last year.

When I saw how close my father was to the end, I took a semester off school to travel back home and spend those months with my parents. Mom struggles with my name and pronouns but Dad got it immediately. When he told me that it bothered him that he couldn't remember my childhood, I said, "well, if you're trying to remember a little boy, don't forget that I was a little girl."

He waved his hand to show it was no big deal. "I know that. I just can't remember and it bothers me."

After I went back to school, Mom told me a cognitive therapist came to the house to work with Dad. The therapist asked him if he had any children. He couldn't remember. Mom prompted him: "you have three children."

The therapist asked Dad what his children's names were. He thought a long time.

"Well.... I know one of them is Max."

It's not the last thing he said *to* me, but it is my treasure of love and acceptance I carry with me as I adjust to a world without my Daddy in it.

I'm sorry for your loss of Gladys, who sounds like she was a strong and lovely person, and I'm happy that you got to have that affirming visit with her before she departed. <3


Unknown said...

Rest easy Dave and Joe’s Aunt Gladys. I remember her in your stories Dave, What a lady.

Liz Miller said...

Thinking of you and your family. May her memory forever be a blessing.

Liz Miller said...

Thinking of you and your family. May her memory forever be a blessing.