Annual trip to see aunt shortened by a day

As the month of October was passing by, and the weather forecasters were putting a chance of snow in their forecasts, my thoughts went to my 103-year-old Aunt Gertie and the desire to visit her in the fall, as I normally do. The first weeks of November seem to be penciled in, so I made the decision to make it a two-day trip, instead of the usual three days.

That trip down to southern Wisconsin has been a part of my life as far back as I can remember. While I grew up near Clintonville, on a farm, my dad grew up in Milwaukee. So we often made that trip south to visit his family. His parents and siblings were all down in the area; small towns like Tichigan, Wind Lake, Union Grove and Waterford were part of my lexicon.

One of his sisters lived in Milwaukee, but my dad wasn’t as comfortable driving there anymore, so we didn’t get there too often. He also often got lost going to see his sister in Waukesha because of all the one-way streets, but we ventured there now and then.

At times, the trips were joyous — weddings, anniversaries or just visits. Other times they were sad, such as funerals. Of course, in those days there were old cars and no freeways or roundabouts. But there was also probably less stress, other than my brother and I fighting in the back seat, and Ma and Pa arguing in the front seat.

My aunt made the move from Wind Lake to Waterford several years ago, to an apartment. She loved it there and had no plans to move. However, a lot has happened to my inspiring, loving aunt in this past year. A fall in June, just a couple weeks before her July birthday, led to her being in the hospital. It seems her balance has been compromised for some unknown reason.

From the hospital, she was transferred to a care center where she would get physical therapy, and also be cared for. She got to go home after a time, but falling was still an issue. So she is now in assisted living in Waterford, and she seems to be content there. She is still in an apartment, just smaller than the other one. There are meals, and she continues to get “exercise” to help with her balance.

She admits that there is something that changed. And while it is difficult for her, she enjoys that she has the privacy of her own rooms and doesn’t have to worry about cooking. When she needs help, all she needs to do is push a button and someone will come.

“When I first moved in here it was boring,” she noted. “I didn’t have a phone.”

Now that she has a phone, people can call her, and she can call out. Her church friends visit often, as do my cousins who live closer. Some of those cousins spent many hours cleaning up her apartment and deciding where things should go.

My cousin Arlene came to visit the same day I did. I had called her, as we were the closest through the years, and we were even pen pals. The afternoon went quickly, talking about old times and laughing at memories. Aunt Gertie insisted I take some of her jewelry, and I found a necklace she had made, as well as a pin with a sewing machine. Since we each make mission quilts at church, I thought it was a good connection and memory.

All too soon, the afternoon was gone, and it was time to share our goodbye hugs. Till we meet again, dear Aunt, take care!