Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

From the 50s and 60s to today . . .

Thursday, June 1, 2017

My 'Great' Aunt

Teacher of all things important.
Care-taker extraordinaire.
Sometimes you think you know someone.
But you really don't . . .
My Dad is the youngest of eleven children.
Nine boys.
And two girls.
The youngest girl, my Aunt Mary, was a short, round, happy lady with numerous children and even more numerous grandchildren.
More about her in another post . . .
His other sister, Emily, was an entirely different person.
Emily was the eldest child in the family.
She was a tall, spare, maiden lady.
Erect and correct.
And I was terrified of her.
Emily had served a mission for her church in her early twenties.
Briefly - and tragically - entertained the thought of marriage.
And lived the rest of her life teaching home economics and helping her mother care for the family home.
She was the professed cleaner to my Grandmother's cooking.
The maker of everything tidy.
The bestow-er of a set of sewing scissors to every niece who reached grade nine.
And the dragon in the den at the top of the stairs.
A note . . .
Aunt Emily's office was the first room to the left as one went up the stairs of the family home.
It was a lovely place. Neat and organized.
With a little window/door that opened out onto the roof/sundeck of the garage.
Us kids loved to sneak into that room and let ourselves out onto that deck.
But only when Aunt Emily wasn't about.
Back to my story . . .
Throughout my childhood, I loved visiting Grandma Stringam's home with my parents.
But walked softly around Aunt Emily.
When I was eighteen, all of that changed.
I had moved to the city to attend college.
Go figure.
For four months, I stayed with my Grandma and Aunt Emily.
At first, though I'm sure they tried to make me feel welcome, I spent very little time in their home.
Choosing, instead to study at the college or at a friend's and returning only at bedtime.
Then I got sick.
Really, really sick.
Strep throat.
One evening, after we had put the paper to bed (a newspaper term for sending everything to the press and washing our hands of all responsibility), I collapsed.
My friends carried me, quite literally, to my grandmother's home and to my little bed on the second floor.
I remember very little of it.
There, safely ensconced, I lost all consciousness for several days.
Someone took care of me.
Gave me liquids.
Fed me.
Cleaned up after me.
Helped me to the bathroom.
Hauled me to the hospital for a shot in the backside.
I do remember that . . .
And generally took excellent care of me.
As I slowly became more cognisant, I realized that the person who had been so patiently and lovingly nursing me was my scary Aunt Emily.
One afternoon, I opened my eyes and felt . . . almost human.
Aunt Emily appeared beside my bed.
“Feeling better?”
I nodded uncertainly.
“Oh, I'm so glad! I'm going to the store to get you something special. What would you like?”
And it was then that I realized that eighteen years had gone by without me knowing my special aunt at all.
Eighteen years of misunderstanding and unwarranted fear.
Wasted years.
I wasted no more.
In the following weeks and months, we became friends.
Aunt Emily died at the age of 85 from complications following surgery.
We were given twenty five years of friendship.
I will always be grateful.


  1. Sometimes we just have to grow up a bit before we can see people for who they really are....or get strep.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Sometimes we just don't know a person until fate steps in. How lucky that you had this chance! Your description of her (both before and after) reminds me of one of my teachers. She seemed strict on the surface, but when I got older I came to know her better and she was a very warm and loving person.

  4. When times are difficult, those who love us will be at our side. I am glad that you had 25 wonderful years together.

  5. It is generally true that when we experience difficult times those who love us will be at our side.

    Those years together, and many memories ...

    All the best Jan

  6. Yes she was misunderstood by many of us. Dad remembered her more as a disciplinarian than a sibling. Emily taught Dad in school and was a little overbearing (according to Dad). I used to think that Emily was just a grumpy old bitty but it turned out that she was a broken-hearted woman and that was it. She met the love of her life when she was in her prime and they made plans to marry. But when she found out that she couldn't have children, he promptly left and married another lady, on the rebound, only to find out that SHE couldn't have children. I got to know Emily a lot better in the last 10 years of her life and was able to appreciate her more, and accept her for what she was...

  7. Misty eyes here. And I am glad that yours were opened and you had those precious years.

  8. That was beautiful Diane - I'm so glad you found each other. She would have loved having that special relationship with you and getting to be loved for herself and giving love in return. We can miss so much if we judge on face value alone can't we?

  9. Unconscious for several days? From strep throat? Which I know as tonsillitis and had no idea it could get so bad as to make a person that ill. Here in Australia if one gets tonsillitis the very first step after diagnosis is a penicillin shot.
    But it did help you know your Aunt Emily much better, so that's a plus and she sounds like a wonderful person.


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