Auntie Neesie

I wish I could have been a loving, supportive, solid presence in the lives of my nieces and nephews. Balancing this wish is a perspective offered by author Karen Slaughter: a drowning person cannot take the time to teach someone else how to swim.

It’s no secret my family had difficulties. I have seven siblings, and genetics ensured a storm of trouble raining down on subsequent generations. I ache with sorrow for what my nieces and nephews suffered while I was busy keeping my nose above water.

It’s said that if a child feels truly seen by at least one adult, there’s a strong chance of going beyond survival into real success. While I could not serve this purpose for my nieces and nephews, they have another auntie who does. My older sister Neesie delights in all of my nieces and nephews. They feel loved and accepted for who they are, just as they are.

Neesie started her vocation with me and my two closest sisters. We were “Us Three Kids,” the youngest in the family. An elementary school teacher, she donated every vacation to our care. While Mom screamed in drunken mania in the back bedroom, Neesie taught us essential skills like cooking, baking, knitting, and crocheting. From her we learned about the facts of life and how to manage hormonal hell—not a small job with three girls barreling through puberty in succession.

Neesie saw us. She loved us, and she laughed with us. We carried the benefits of her attention into adulthood, and we passed on her brand of love to our children.

Recently I asked a couple of nieces and nephews how they experienced their Auntie Neesie. Glowing, they launched into memories of childhood bliss.

When I shared their appreciation with my ailing sister, Neesie glowed too. She laughed with delight. She said maybe she had no children of her own so she could provide love and support where it was needed.

Neesie accepts and appreciates her place in this world. She does her crafts and coloring and enjoys her time watching TV. She is joyful. She’s still teaching me how to live.

So thank you, Neesie. You are pure of heart, and you gave us what we could find nowhere else. Your gift has become a permanent part of our DNA. We’re doing our best to pass on your love to the next generations.

Quite a legacy, Auntie Neesie. Well done.