family · Grief · My Thoughts

Aunt Willie Almost Made 99!

Can you imagine living to be 98–a few short weeks of being 99? Think about all the changes you’d see in nine decades.

Me, AW, Jan & Mom Branson
Larada, Jan & Mom Standing & Aunt Willie Sitting

On October 12, 2018, my dear Aunt Willie Urbanoski passed away at 4:20 am at 98 years old. She wanted to make 100 but her God had different ideas. Over the last few years, we referred to her as “The Ever Ready Bunny” because she had been on the brink of death several times and came back to us full of vim and vigor, but when I got the text this time from my cousin, something inside of me shuttered–it didn’t feel the same.

As a child, my brother, Harold couldn’t pronounce Aunt Willie, so he called her “Aunt Wee Wee,” and it stuck. That was her name my whole childhood.

At twelve, I spent a week with her and Uncle Hughie fishing and then on to Albuquerque. She toured me around town to all the sights. I’m sure my love for Albuquerque began on this visit.

The Urbanoski’s attended very major event in my life and my brother’s–graduations,  marriages and more. When I was princess representing Branson High School at the Trinidad State Junior College Tournament, they came and supported me–always they were there for us.

Aunt Willie’s delicious humor kept us laughing right up to our last visit on Sunday, October 7, 2018. I had the habit of talking to Mom every Sunday night on my drive to a meeting, so when Mom died, I asked Aunt Willie if I could call her; she agreed with a twinkle in her eyes.

We anticipated our weekly phone date. We’d catch up on our lives and seasonally, we talked about the success or failure of the Denver Bronco’s. Aunt Willie loved Peyton Manning and wanted the offensive line to protect him more. Other times we’d talk about the dancers on Dancing with the Stars and moan and groan if our couple got kicked off. She loved to hear about Lin and my travels and dancing adventures. She also loved to talk about her three granddaughters and two great grandsons.

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She was my Mom’s older sister by nine years. She had no trouble telling my Mom that she had it made in their family until Mom arrived–Aunt Willie was the only grandchild until then. All my life, they had a close relationship, but I loved to watch these two sisters together, especially later in life after they were widowed–they lived about 20 miles apart for several years and spent as much time together as possible. I marveled at their mutual support during this part of their lives.

Aunt Willie had a special love affair with my husband, Lin. It started the moment they met with lots of flirting and carrying on and lasted even until our last phone call with lighthearted bantering going back and forth between them.

Her life was full and rich–she grew up in northeastern New Mexico in a small community, Des Moines, which she loved. For many years, she organized a yearly reunion for classmates.

She married the love of her life, Hugh Urbanoski and they raised the joy of their lives, Janet, in Albuquerque, NM. Aunt Willie worked and retired from payroll office at Sandia Base. As soon as they could after retirement, Uncle Hughie and Aunt Willie moved to Folsom, NM to be close to their daughter and her family.

For the last few years, I visited Aunt Willie monthly in Pueblo, CO and asked lots of questions because I enjoyed hearing her retell her stories–how she met Uncle Hughie, how she played basketball in school and was accused of drinking alcohol once, how much she enjoyed being a waitress in Raton, NM and so much more.

Losing her has been really hard. As I viewed her body this last Wednesday, I was reminded again that our bodies are temporary homes for our spirits. She looked peaceful, but that lifeless form wasn’t my Aunt Willie–vibrant and giggly and so affirming of me. I will miss her terribly–Sunday nights won’t be the same.

Death is a part of our lives. How do you handle it? I would love to hear your comments!

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family · My Thoughts

My Two Aunts — Two Strong Women

I hope your Memorial Day weekend was great. My Memorial Day vacation has been full of family, especially two lovely, elderly aunts.

On Sunday we celebrated my Aunt Joan’s 90th birthday with a theme party. She loves the Kentucky Derby, so it was derby day at her house. We donned hats, her great-grandchildren had stick pony races, and I listened to wonderful family stories. Her five children were there, and many of her grandchildren too.

Aunt Joan is an amazing woman. She had seven children–one died at birth and her second oldest son died from heart problems about ten years ago. She was a hard-working rancher’s wife, contributing to the school activities and local community.

She is my Dad’s youngest sister, and she loved to ride horses. My Dad’s favorite story about her was she could rope a calf better than most men. In fact, when she was the rodeo queen, she did a roping demonstration.

My brother and I sat next to her to eat at her party. She told us she’d like to go sky diving–how about that!

Larada, Aunt Joan, Bub

On Monday we went to visit my 98 year old aunt in a nursing home in Pueblo, CO. We had a delightful day with her enjoying holiday barbecue fare–hot dogs and hamburgers. We visited, laughed and did a FaceTime phone conference with my husband who wasn’t able to come.

“I’m mad at you,” was her greeting to him. He wasn’t able to come on this trip but reassured her he’d join me on my June visit.

Aunt Willie worked in Albuquerque, NM at Sandia Labs for her career, raising one daughter. She loved decorating cakes as a hobby, and we all loved her humorous, gorgeous cakes.

Aunt Willie was nine years older than my Mom, her sister. My favorite memory of those two was at my Mom’s house at Christmas a few years ago. They were standing nose-to-nose, fists quenched, reigniting an annual disagreed–all in good fun.

One said, “You add milk.”

The other said, “No, Mama taught us to add water to make the turkey gravy.” This good-hearted disagreement went on at any holiday they served turkey.

My Mom passed away five years ago, and recently I asked Aunt Willie, “Are you the water or milk person in the turkey gravy dispute?”

She giggled and said, “I don’t remember!”

Larada, Aunt Willie

My life has been richer with these two. Long lives, happy dispositions–these two women embody what I hope my future holds. I hope you enjoyed my small portrait of two strong women that have influenced me. Who are the women in your life? Let me know–I would love to hear your stories.

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