“This number is no longer in service,” the recording said.
Dad’s only living sister had just been knifed out of my life. The search to find the 97 year old petite lady began. She may have gone into a nursing home, then my heart tightened, she may have passed away.
“Hello, my aunt lives in your apartment building and her phone’s been disconnected, please call me back.” Twice this message was left, along with contact info, in the next few days.
A few days later, my cell phone rang, and it was the lady who managed the apartment building. My muscles tensed as if bracing for the bad news. It was. My Aunt had passed in May. Why hadn’t I called her sooner, I knew she was old and I may not get to speak to her again, now it’ll never happen.
My throat tightened as the situation was gently explained. She did not die of old age, she fell and hit her head, was taken to the hospital, and a few days later, joined my Dad in the great unknown, beyond this earthly life.
Seven years ago my Aunt had told me she had no one left, now that her brother was gone.
Reassuring her that I was still here didn’t help. We live thousands of miles apart. We both knew it wasn’t the same as having someone close by. At 97, she did not participate in the internet society, although she said she did get a computer once, then gave it away in frustration.
There was one bit of good news though. Someone came to take care of my Aunt’s after death business. The apartment manager had scribbled down a ladies name on a piece of paper. After a few seconds of rustling in the papers on her desk, she presented me with the only clue to the last of my Dad’s family.
Who was the mystery friend or relative that may be able to answer my questions?
What were the circumstances of her death? Would they know what her life was like in the months before her passing?
So the search begins for more answers.
Decades ago I set my life goals by using the book
“What Color is Your Parachute”, in combination with working with the State of Alaska Vocational Rehabilitation Department. By then I had finally been given affirmation that there really was something wrong with me, that I was not a hypochondriac. I always knew I was a little crazy. But just a little. Depression is probably better than some of the other brain malfunctions that are obvious in some of our homeless people here in Waikiki.
The goal setting gave some organization and a time frame to my life’s purpose. Getting through all the smaller life goals was key to finding the one thing that I want to be remembered for. My longest term life goal was to be able to create awareness of mental illness. Coincidentally, mental illness has become one of the most studied illnesses in the past 30 years.
And, yep, I came out of the closet. There’s a lot of prejudice about this topic still and maybe always will be. Not all of my friends and relative approve of my openness about my illness, but how are they going to know if no one will talk about it?
The first of the trilogy of my autobiographies
will touch on this topic towards the end, when I had my first huge episode of depression, and stayed in that state for most of my marriage to my first husband. Even though my mental state caused some really life changing problems, we have some incredible memories. We lost one son, and we had another son that lived. We traveled and drove to or through every state except Hawaii. We experienced life in northernmost Maine and southernmost Georgia and Missouri. I was welcomed into a wonderful family, my in-laws. We celebrated Christmas’s, birthdays, and anniversaries.
So here I am,
a mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, and still I fight. I can’t believe I lived this long. I am so grateful that there are now medicines that help. I have achieved a lot of my goals, and because of those educational and work and relationship goals, now I am working on that life long goal of spreading the word of mental illness. The second and third books will deal with my fall from grace and then my climb back up to a more normal life.
Searching for photos of my family
when I was little was a huge challenge. The earliest photo of me is when we lived on our farm in Kent, Washington in 1956. A traveling photographer came to the farm and took our photo, four little stairsteps, sitting one in front of the other, a side vew with us looking at the camera. It is one of my most treasured photos.
We moved to Alaska
in March of 1957 to homestead out on Chena Hot Springs Road, just across from Two Rivers Lodge. In 1960, our beautiful new house, just completed, burned clear down and right through the basement floor. Nothing but a few ashes left. Thanks to our relatives in the “lower 48″, we were sent copies of a few photos, including my favorite.
There were baby photos
of my older sister sent to us, but none of me. I would love to have at least one of me as a baby. I am making sure that my son and daughter always have their baby and growing up pictures by making multiple copies of the story of my life.
How it felt when looking for photos of myself or my siblings because of the fire is a wonderful reason to make multiple copies for my kids.