My Aunt Toby was always the Aunt that you could not wait to see. She lived in Florida, and many of you may recognize the name from an earlier article I wrote about my Uncle Jack. Aunt Toby was Jack’s bride and mother of my cousins, Tracy, Amy, Tad and Angie. Every summer, we would visit Florida and I would get to go to their home and spend time with them. Aunt Toby was the mischeivous sort, though she would never admit it. She loved to get things started, and would then just sit back and watch the fun unfold.
The best thing about Aunt Toby is that she always knew how to make you laugh. The most serious of things could be happening and she would find humor in it. I always loved that about her. Regardless of what was going on in our lives, I knew that if Aunt Toby were around, things would be okay. She just had that magical way about her.
I have always had a special connection with my Aunt Toby, and though the years and distance have kept us apart, nothing has changed. I recently got to speak with her and my Uncle Jack for the first time in a while, and it felt as though we had just spoken last week. I still felt like that little boy looking up at her with the wonder and joy of a Florida visit to their wonderful home twinkling in my eyes. Isn’t it funny how regardless of our age, people can still have that profound effect on you?
What truly amazed me about my Aunt Toby over the years was the way I always felt as though we were closer than the surface showed. She always seemed more of a mother to me than an Aunt, and I imagine that her likeness to my Mother had something to do with that. She always seemed to be very close to my Mother, and later in life something happened that let me know for sure.
Most of you know that my Mother died prematurely at the young age of 56 a few years back, and that we were as close as a mother and son could be. She was everything to me, and I will forever be looking to the day when we are together again someday along with all of our loved ones. My mother loved Aunt Toby with all of her heart, and we had a conversation about it one day before she died.
My Mother and I talked about how she felt as though Aunt Toby would always be there for her, and how I should be ashamed of myself for not staying in touch. I remember her telling me that if anything ever happened to her to make sure that I stayed in touch with Aunt Toby. She never really explained to me why, nor did I push for an answer. It just seemed that it was one of life’s little truths that I should follow. Little did I know that I would, in fact, lose my Mom not long after.
Though I did not stick to my Mother’s words as well as I should have in the months following her death, I did finally come back into contact with my Aunt Toby and Uncle Jack. Maybe the wound was too fresh, or I was just not aware of my own shortcomings. Whatever the case, I did finally heed my Mother’s advice and get in touch with them. What followed was a conversation that revitalized me in the same way that our visits to Florida used to do.
We talked for quite some time, and the conversation was like I had gotten into a time machine and travelled back to that place in my life. My Aunt Toby was gracious and funny as ever, and welcomed me back into her life with open arms as I knew she would. The best part about talking with my Aunt Toby was the memories, and the wonderful feeling of putting me back in touch with my Mother.
Talking to her was like talking to my Mother again. It was one of those weird things that you could never put your finger on, but knew it to be true. My Mother is alive in the spirit and heart of my Aunt Toby. At least to my ears, I am able to see her spirit live through my Aunt Toby. There is little doubt that my Mother knew as much when she spoke those words to me on the front porch.
My Mother always loved my Aunt Toby so much, and I now know as an adult why. We loved her as children, but the love I feel for my Aunt Toby and Uncle Jack is different. It is a deeper, more substantive love. I know why I love them, and I know that it is a love that transcends location, time, or any occasion. My Aunt Toby is an extension of my bloodline, and through the miracle of life, a part of me. She is just like my Mother in all the ways that matters; unconditional love for me, a dogged determination to keep our family alive, and a spirit that is unique and incomparable outside of our family.
Though my adult years have been largely spent on an island, I am committed to changing that in the years to come. My family is the most important thing in the world to me, and I want each and every one of them to know it. This is the motivation for my family articles, and the memoirs that I love so much to write.
This is surely not to be the last of my memory series, and I hope that you enjoy reading them as much as I love to write them.
And PS – I love you Aunt Toby! (Even if you did feed us funky colored French toast)