Monday, July 4, 2011

Aunt Mary Jane

When I was a very little girl, I remember having a great aunt named Mary Jane. I'm not entirely sure how she was related to me--possibly she was married to a brother of one of my grandparents. This was on my father's side of the family. Aunt Mary Jane lived down in the hollers of Eastern Kentucky, where we would go to visit my grandmother. In fact, she lived the last couple of years of her life with my grandma. I'm not quite sure how old she was, but to 7 year old Mary, this lady seemed to be at least a hundred. She was a sweet old woman, with deep lines on her face. She may have been part Indian; her skin was very dark. She was toothless and wore her hair back in a tight grey bun. My strongest memory of Aunt Mary Jane was that she used snuff, and would ask me to go get her "can" from my grandma's front porch. This was an old coffee can she would use to spit in, and I hated going to fetch it worse than anything. I tried desperately not to look inside and see the dark brown goo in there, so I would grab it and get it to her as quickly as I could.

One summer night, I had run around catching lightning bugs in a mayonnaise jar until I was tired, so I sat down in one of the old creaky rocking chairs on my grandma's big wooden porch and listened to the crickets and stared at the millions of stars in the sky (I believe you could see every one of them from down there). My mother and Aunt Mary Jane started talking, and somehow the subject of growing old and dying came up. I still remember something my Aunt Mary Jane said to my mom that night. She said "No living thing wants to die. Not even a little bird."

My mother often quoted Aunt Mary Jane on that line, and I remember her repeating it to people many times in my life.

It's human nature to want to live. That's why I can't understand why someone who is very close to me and much, much younger than Aunt Mary Jane, would be willing to throw in the towel and say they didn't have much intention of living a whole lot longer. Is it an excuse to give in to addictions and temptations? "I may as well abuse my body as I please, because I'm not going to live much longer anyway?" Well to me it's a cop out, and for the last few days, I've been pissed off about it. And I'm damn well sure if my mother and Aunt Mary Jane were here, they'd be bloody pissed off about it too.

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