Last week, on February 1, 2016, my Aunt Nancy (Mix) died. It’s taken me almost two weeks to be able to begin to write.
My earliest memories have Aunt Nancy interwoven throughout them. In that time when Mom and Dad had separated, and yet before my brother had been born, there was a time when Mom and I lived in an
apartment in Coudersport. I remember being all dressed up because Grandma and Grandpa Mix AND AUNT NANCY were coming to visit. I remember constantly checking the window to see if they had arrived yet. I loved visiting Grandpa and Grandma, but I was EXCITED to play with Aunt Nancy. To this day, I can remember her smile… and her giggle.
Part of my love of reading and books have an early Aunt Nancy memory as well. I only had a couple of weeks of first grade left and she gave me a Children’s First Dictionary for my birthday. I read that thing front to back and back to front. And she had me read words and kids’ definitions to her as well. I knew that she had trouble seeing, but it was still years before I understood that she could no longer even see me at that point.
In the time when I was home from college, we would still read books together. In fact, we had taken one of our road trips down to Olean to the Christian Bookstore and I read the titles as we walked down the aisles of the store. We discovered one by an author I had never heard of named Janette Oke. She decided the one we wanted was her book Once Upon A Summer, following an orphaned adolescent boy named Joshua. I remember we tossed around what a cool name that was, and I thought maybe I might name my son Joshua someday. And over the next couple of weeks, we would sit in the living room and I would read the book aloud.
It was such a great idea that Grandma and Aunt Nancy would read Janette Oke’s novels together for years and years.
Every once in a while, Aunt Nancy and I would take off for a store or a mall. Olean, Erie, Elmira. After Gay and I were married, we added the Altoona and Johnstown malls to our itinerary as well. Everything went pretty well, except for two problems we had to overcome: I could guide her wherever she wanted to go except the restroom. So I would check out what the mens’ room looked like, describe it to her, and suggest that the womens’ room was probably similar. She never got lost and always came back safe. The other obstacle was trying to explain to Grandma Mix that she could be safe “out there.”
Probably one of her favorite activities was talking on the phone with Aunt Roena. She also loved spending time with her family. Every so often she would sneak up behind me and put her ALWAYS COLD fingers on my neck and just giggle. Of course, I tried to return the favor as often as possible.
According to the Bible, in Proverbs 13:12, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.” Eventually Aunt Nancy came to the realization that the time to leave the nest had come and gone… and there was a gradual sinking and growing depression… and then confusion… and eventually delusions.
Monday evening, after I got the call saying she was gone, my wife, Gay, commented that there was once a movie entitled: “When Stella Got Her Groove Back.” Not that either of us had ever seen it, but Gay could just envision Aunt Nancy arriving in Heaven as “When Aunt Nancy Got Her Giggle Back.”
Almost twenty years ago, for Aunt Nancy’s fiftieth birthday, Gay wrote a poem for her. Here it is…
An Ode to Aunt Nancy
Here’s to a lady born as a Mix,
Whose birth as a girl gave her brothers a fix!
Nancy Jo Anne they gave as her name,
And spoiling her rotten was their favorite game.
Tea parties with Ted, cleaning the pens,
4-H blue ribbons for prize-winning hens –
Her life on the farm was simple and sweet,
The love of her family made it complete.
But to her, life was not always kind;
A childhood ailment left her sight blind.
Not one to be stopped by what it brings,
She clearly saw life through other things.
Her listening ears heard more than was said,
And in giving wisdom her loving heart led.
Not one to go out much, never too fancy,
To each generation she is known as Aunt Nancy.
Her lap has held babies, by count, quite a few,
And they came to know her loving heart, too.
Her giggle, her smile, her sense of humor,
Her ability to know the truth from a rumor
Has enriched our lives with her sense of wit
(Sometimes she doesn’t know when to quit!).
She’s hard to surprise this aunt who knows all
And loves to go shopping at any old mall.
But that’s not her only shopping pleasure:
The Avon Book is full of wonderful treasure!
And so, on this day, fifty years from her birth,
We celebrate her life, her love, and her mirth.
By G. Mix, 6/24/96