In my new Christmas Mouse Pajamas, I whispered “Thank you Aunt Norma.”
She wanted to give me a hug and kiss on the cheek. A bright eyed three year old me was hesitant.
Aunt Norma’s kisses were sloppy. Her hugs were like a suffocating squeeze. Sometimes Aunt Norma closed her eyes in mid-sentence and wandered off into some kind of dream. She rocked and rocked in a Lazy Boy Chair listening to the same “Jesus Loves Me” music over and over. She wound yarn around a spool equipped for crafting something, but wound into hopeless nothing.
She was an image of old and young. The “old” drank coffee and sat around talking about the routine things of life. Some things said “young”. She repeatedly wrote her name in uppercase letters on smooth notebook paper. She would sit for hours looking at family pictures, saying each name as though they were her first words. Crowned with gray, she addressed my grandparents as “Daddy and Mommy.” My Grandma hushed her so that we could pray just as my Mom hushed me. This is how I knew Aunt Norma.
When I was grown, Grandma did some explaining: ” She was born with forceps. Back then, that was the way they did it when their was complication. Grandpa was so disappointed in the doctors. Had it not been for the way she was born, things might been different. She would have been ‘normal’. She would have had a real life. ”
On one of the saddest days of my Grandma’s life, Aunt Norma moved to a group home. She would be cared for by trained people, under the care of “The State”. Aunt Norma was a forever guest in the white house with the picket fence. (literally that was Grandma’s house) . This was her life long “wrong”. Her life was so much a story far away from mine.
Norma gained weight because of chocolate, cheeseburgers, and snitched second helpings. She needed help in the restroom. She needed help walking. She wore only clothes that promised comfort. She couldn’t read past a few simple words of Dick and Jane. Her conversation was less than tennis volley.
But there was not a wrinkle on her skin. Sometimes her spoken words sang. I asked her once “How old are you?” She answered with a “just a number” attitude. She was 62 at that time. But according to Norma, she may have well been just brand new to the world.
Aunt Norma traveled many places like Disney World, and big cities. She knew the feeling of home sweet home with family around the dinner table. She knew the beauty of a perfect rose. She knew the heart the truth of “Jesus Loves Me” -beyond my too grown up mind, but not beyond the child minded Norma.
Grandma called her every night. “I pray for you Mommy, ” Norma was the first to say. And every night Grandma said “I pray for you too.” Aunt Norma knew the delightful secret. One that whispered, ” You are being made new.” Perhaps that made her smile and sing sweeter. During pains and trials, she knew the new and glorious that would someday be hers. She knew she was loved and she knew the Greatest of all Loves. So there wasn’t a wrinkle on her skin or rarely a tear in her eye. “I’ll pray for you, Mommy.” she said.
This past fall, Aunt Norma left this world. It seems like its been as long as that Minnie Mouse Pajamas day, since I’ve seen her. My knowings of Aunt Norma still remain. But her story has now been spool knitted to mine. For, my knowings of her now walk alongside the picture reality of raising autistic Goldi.
One of the saddest days of my life was when Goldi was diagnosed. It’s been a “walking on egg shells life ” at times. It’s a life of questioning what might have been if only….It’s a life of sometimes straining to hear that delightful secret “Goldi is being made new.”
But then I remember Aunt Norma despite her life long trials, sitting in the Lazy Boy chair listening to Jesus Loves me. I hear her voice saying : “I’ll pray for you.” And my knowings of Aunt Norma are changing to the wonderment of knowing Norma New. That is now walking alongside the hope-filled days of raising Goldi. For every wish of “might have been” on earth, is God’s firm and forever real plan of the Glorious New.