This may turn into a long, rambling bore – feel free to bail if you like. I only have a vague idea where this is going…..

I’ve been thinking about my Aunt Cookie (aka Martha) a lot lately. She was my great-aunt, actually, and she was the sweetest, tiniest lady I’d ever known. She passed away about ten years ago. D and I were living out of state at the time, and I didn’t get to attend her funeral. She and her husband, Unk (aka Carl), were married for over fifty years. Their church threw them an anniversary party for their fiftieth, and it was a huge to-do. I remember them walking into the sanctuary, I suspect like they walked down the aisle when they were first married. Unk had Cookie on his arm, and covered her hands with his in such a protective way as they walked in. She had a gold bumblebee pinned on the shoulder of her cream jacket. He was her protector and she instilled in him (and subsequently my father) a love of poetry. They were always together. Both very gracious, both always had gentle smiles for everyone (though I’ve been told Unk had a mean streak in his youth). I didn’t see them often when I was growing up, but I liked them. She had the best candy stockpile ever, and always had homemade custard. Coca-cola was for special occasions, and only for company. When we would visit, Cookie would split one coke between my sister, my brother and I. My sister (the oldest) would finish hers in one gulp and give my father a look. He later said that he was just praying she’d keep her mouth shut. Funny the things you remember – I remember how her kitchen smelled like coffee and bacon and sugar and sunlight, and I remember they had a sweet old dog named Flip. Flip didn’t like me or my brother much – entirely too young and rambunctious for his dignified tastes. We must have been shattering to their world when we landed. I’ve no idea if they welcomed it or dreaded it, but in either case, we didn’t visit often.
Unk passed away about eight or nine months before Cookie – his health had been terrible. His vision was gone, I think he was diabetic, and then he broke his hip. He was somewhere in the neighborhood of eighty-seven when this happened. He didn’t make it out of the hospital. Cookie was five or so years younger, but he was her soul mate. Older couples tend to pass within a few months of each other, it seems. Her health was fine – she essentially grieved herself to death. She told my Aunt Dana that feeding the cat just wasn’t a good enough reason to get up in the morning anymore. Two months later, she was gone too. I later saw a picture of them, a couple of years after they’d first gotten married. Unk was in the Army in WWII, an anti-aircraft gunner stationed in Belgium. He was wearing his uniform and Cookie was, of course, ethereal – like everyone is at eighteen-ish, whether they believe it or not. Such a handsome, romantic couple.

They never had children. I think I remember my mother telling me Cookie had a hysterectomy, she didn’t know why. Mom said they’d tried for “a while”, but it just wasn’t meant to be. And of course, nobody has a clue why she had the surgery – it certainly wasn’t something that was talked about, ever.

Shit.

There but for the Grace of God go I. Wait a minute, whose grace? That fucking is me. 50 years ago, that’d be me. Except for the ethereal part, or the kind, dignified stuff. I try to imagine going through infertility in an era when women were mostly wives and mothers. Hardly ever only one or the other. And I can’t imagine being infertile during the time Aunt Cookie was going through it. Maybe she and Unk tried to just accepted it; there wasn’t really anything else they could do, after all. Science sure wasn’t helpful at that point – shit, it’s not particularly helpful now in some respects. The first successful donor egg IVF wasn’t until 1984. That wasn’t so long ago, my peeps, as far as science goes. Medicine has come so far; I wonder what she would think, if she could be here now…..

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