February 16, 2014

To Aunt Helene

My first memories of Aunt Helene were of the big, laughter filled woman whose red lipstick and need to kiss us made my brothers and I try to hide whenever she came into the house. It was no use, Mom and Dad would make us line up and accept our torment. And every Christmas we would always graciously accept our new ugly sweater…...

I was very young when I first got to see Helene and Rosemary together and I assumed my Dad was kidding when he said they were twins. I asked everyone if that was true and of course they all said it was…but this was my family….the Mooney family…. I couldn’t actually believe them, right? Well it is true of course, and I cherish the few days when I got to see all of those Mooney kids together, my Dad, Uncle Bill, Rosemary, and Helene; it let me know how a family is supposed to act when they get together.  Good natured ribbing, a generous portion of sarcasm, and a whole lot of laughter.

Through grade school I was fortunate enough to be able to visit with Aunt Helen often.  I would stop by her house on school days to visit with her and Granny Kate for lunch (peanut butter and GRAPE jelly only please) or cookies and milk after school.  I rarely stayed for dinner… I’m sure that Aunt Helene cooked some things well but I never did discover what it was that kept Uncle Frank’s belly full.

Years at The Club brought all of us the joy of watching those “whacky adults” as she referred to herself and her friends singing and having a great time at Clubhouse parties.  Aunt Helene loved to laugh, she loved to sing, and she loved being with friends and family.  And for some odd reason, she always loved beer in a can. Whenever I would go to visit her at Holy Redeemer I would always ask if there was anything I could bring and she more often than not would ask for a beer – in a can.  I can’t say that I always felt comfortable when the orderlies – the pushers as she called them, would notice the obvious 6 pack I was bringing for my visit.

I had a part time job through high school at Fluehr’s and you would think working at a Funeral Home might stifle some of the laughter in her.  No way…. Thanks to her laughter coming from the office throughout the day that was the happiest funeral home in the World.  I guess she and Mary got a lot of work done to keep that place running, but they sure seemed to have a good time doing so.

After I moved to Florida, I didn’t get to visit her as often but called every now and then to see how she was doing.  No matter how she was doing she would always tell me that she was good enough to keep laughing and as long as she could keep doing that she would stick around. Well a few weeks ago during our last conversation, the laughter was gone so I knew her time was near.

She is in a better place now, surrounded by more friends and family than many of us care to think about. And I’m sure that she is laughing once again.  I’m even willing to bet that a little bit of miraculous intervention has her actually playing the banjo, organ, ukulele, and whatever other instruments Uncle Frank bought for her – and playing them well enough that the angels might actually recognize the tune.  And those lucky angels, they have a willing new member of the Heavenly Sweet Adelines and I’m guessing they are rehearsing Heart of My Heart or some song that ends with broad smiles are a heartfelt laugh.

We miss you Aunt Helene, but we will keep laughing for you!