I relocated February 18, 2019 to another state so I could be closer to my paternal aunt. My last living relative who cares at all for me- the closest thing to a maternal figure I had growing up. Even though she was my dad’s sister, she remained very close to my mother even after Darlene dumped my dad. Therefore, thankfully, being in Darlene’s good graces, she was allowed to be a part of my life as a child and young teen. She was a busy flight attendant so I didn’t get to see her often, but it was a huge and delightful gift every time I did. She had the compassion and nurturing nature Darlene lacked for me. When she was around, it felt like what I dreamed a mother’s love might feel like.
After I settled in, I took over her housekeeping, dog walking, and laundry as she’d had an aneurysm several years back and had some difficulty still getting around. Her housekeeper had been taking advantage of her and my uncle for years as well as stealing from them. I was furious to find this out and agreed to take over those things. My aunt helped me out by paying me for my help.
This meant I went to my aunt’s seven days a week which I likely would’ve visited that often any way since I was so grateful to have some family again. It made me feel good to help her because she’d helped me in my life and I’ve always felt guilty that I didn’t get the chance to ever help my dad after all he’d done for my children and me over the years. At least I’d get to help my aunt!
My dad had told me that when his mother died(very young) and my aunt was only seven, that the last thing she’d said to him was, Johnny, take care of my baby girl. He had taken that promise seriously all my aunt’s life so I felt now that I was helping him at last by honoring his momma’s last request after he was gone.
The only drawback to the arrangement was the domestic situation wasn’t at all comfortable when my uncle was home and the two of them had taken to drinking very heavily daily. After years of carrying the burden of being totally responsible to help her daily since her aneurysm, my uncle was clearly frustrated and maybe a little resentful that my somewhat young aunt needed physical assistance regularly so early in their golden years. She really wasn’t much work to help as she tried to be as independent as she possibly could, but I do understand that after years of it when my uncle had likely presumed he could relax and enjoy his retirement, it had to feel like a big and unfair burden.
Given certain circumstances, the chores I had accepted responsibility for were far more taxing than I’d ever imagined and I soon started feeling the stress acutely particularly on top of the daily drunken domestic hostility when my uncle was home. I tried to schedule my daily visits around his schedule so as not to encounter him and hear the cruel disdain he treated my aunt with now. I tore my heart out to hear him verbally abused her. By October, the stress really was getting unbearable and I cut down to five days a week to allow myself a few days of respite from the PTSD and emotional stress of the overall situation and extenuating circumstances.
By November the stress was so unbearable I had quit all tasks I’d agreed to and was helping her find suitable replacements. I wanted to just be able to enjoy time with my aunt rather than be so stressed out, I couldn’t just sit with her. As much as I appreciated the extra money, my purpose moving by her was to be able to enjoy time with her. I think she had been very lonely and somewhat emotionally neglected and abused for at least a few years prior and needed the company and nurturing companionship more than anything else.
On November 5th I was taking a day off from my daily visits when she called around 6 PM and said, I’m sick will you please come take care of me? Never in my life had I heard my aunt complain of being sick. She most definitely was not a complainer! Of course I rushed immediately over feeling so grateful I’d moved six miles away from her and could easily and quickly run over to help whenever she needed.
Immediately walking into their house, I sensed my aunt must really be feeling poorly because she wasn’t in her usual spot on the sofa, where she always was day and night until bedtime. She was in bed and complained of stomach pain. She told me she couldn’t stop shaking although I took her temperature and she didn’t have a fever. I assumed it was a stomach bug and she hadn’t eaten or had anything to drink except her usual wine. I gave her broth and Pedialyte trying to hydrate her from her vomiting.
The only request she made of me was to change the sheets. My uncle had been having some health issues awhile and the sheets were filthy since I’d stopped doing the household chores. In addition, she had vomited black coffee all over the bed. The sheets were beyond nasty and there she was stuck sick in those dirty sheets. I immediately went to get clean sheets to change them. My uncle was more intoxicated than usual and got very angry, yelling at her for wanting the sheets changed. My PTSD kicked in and of course, I went into fright mode frozen and unable to argue back although I desperately wanted to change the sheets.
Same thing happened when I suggested we take her to the ER because she seemed really sick. My uncle got very angry again, hollering and ranting, so I went into fright mode again and could not stand up to him and argue the case. I texted my cousin who then got yelled at by my uncle too. We decided I’d just take her to her doctor’s the next morning rather than have my very drunk uncle ranting and screaming at her.
I sat next to her awhile and when I couldn’t take my uncle’s drunken anger any more, I kissed her on the forehead (she said, don’t kiss me, I’m probably contagious; I said I don’t care if you are!) then said I’d be over in the morning to take her to the doctor’s. I asked her to call me when she woke up so that I didn’t wake her from much needed sleep as she’d been struggling with insomnia for a few days. I felt sleep would be the best thing of all for her.
The next morning I was trying to put on some striped suspenders she’d recently given me because I knew she’d get a laugh out of it if I showed up in suspenders to take her to the doctor. I was struggling with the suspenders but wasn’t worried about the time since I knew she’d call me whenever she awoke.
I received a text message around noon from her sister-in-law’s son saying he was sorry about my aunt. She had died in the night. THIS COULD NOT BE REAL! She was only 64!
And, WHAT THE FUCK? How could her in-law’s children across the country know before anyone had called me? I’m not only her closest next of kin after her husband and children, but I’d been her constant companion and caretaker for the past 9 months. There I’d been laughing at myself trying to get these silly suspenders on for the past hour so I could show up and make her laugh when I arrived and she was dead! She’d been dead for hours… since my uncle had woken up! This had to be a mistake because surely under the circumstances my uncle or cousins would have called me immediately!
Wrong. I immediately called my aunt’s house and my cousin informs me she’s dead. November 6, 2019, my aunt just did not wake up and would never wake up again. My uncle’s entire family across the country knew she was dead while I’d been six miles away struggling to figure out how to wear suspenders, laughing, and so excited to surprise her by wearing her striped suspenders to pick her up. My beloved aunt, the only source of maternal love I’d ever known was dead and she had been dead for hours.
This entire scenario was unreal. I’d just moved here 9 months earlier to be near her and take care of her as she got old.
I hadn’t stood up to my uncle and taken her to the ER like I wanted.
I hadn’t even stood up to my uncle and changed her sheets like she’d pleaded and I wanted and knew should be done. Her death bed sheets were filthy.
What if I hadn’t have let the housekeeping and sanitizing stress me out and had continued to strive daily to keep the house clean and disinfected from my uncle’s medical issue? She had been fine until the week I stopped cleaning the house every day.
My aunt had called me to help her and I’d been too spineless and PTSD riddled to fucking stand up and advocate for her for even those very basic things.
And she had died. Her last night was spent with my uncle screaming at her, drunkenly annoyed as fuck at her for being sick, screaming because she and I wanted to go to the ER, screaming because she had wanted clean sheets free from black vomit and feces, and I hadn’t even had the smallest courage to stand up for her in her most dire hour of need for little basic humanities. At one point, he had even raised his hand shaking it at her like he would hit her...as she was vomiting!
I left her alone in that situation. I did not advocate or stand up for her. I let PTSD paralyze me and she died that way.
She FUCKING DIED THAT WAY.
After a lifetime of being my safe haven, my only loving maternal figure, and my champion at times, I cowered to my PTSD and fear and I left her to die that way.
My uncle has the luxurious grace of not remembering the evening well. The next morning he hadn’t even remembered I had been there at all until I reminded him. His version is that she hadn’t wanted to go to the ER which is entirely untrue. He still believes that today as I couldn’t bring myself to correct him or tell anyone the whole truth of that evening.
I will never ever be able to forgive myself or shake the utterly unbelievable ugliness of that night I left her in that…to die. When she crosses my mind, as she daily does, I hear him raging, I see him raising his hand to shake at her as she vomited, I see her eyes pleading with me to change the sheets and take her to the ER, and I see me cowering down to a drunken tantrum; to petrified to defend the woman left on this Earth whom I loved and appreciated with my whole being; the only person alive left who gave a goddamn if I live or die. The only person left in the world who thought I was lovable and valuable as a child and as an adult, flaws and all.
These are my very last memories of my beloved, kind, compassionate, fun-loving, beautiful aunt. Her husband, my uncle, is lucky enough not to remember and I will never ever be able to forget.