Published in the Rains County Leader on January 19, 2016:
Wednesday, January 20 was my Aunt Fay’s 92nd birthday. Anyone who has read much of my writing, especially my book, knows that Aunt Fay is my mother’s younger sister. Since she was married to my dad’s brother, and since we lived within a few miles of them for most of my childhood, she has been a big part of my life. This was especially true after I became a caregiver. I leaned heavily on her experience in caring for her mother and her husband and even more heavily on her strength and her faith.
One of the joys of moving back to Texas is that, instead of over a thousand miles, I now live about twenty-five miles south of her home. Instead of seeing her once every two or three years, I now see her on most holidays and many other times just because. Her table is always full, and even when those of us in the younger generation bring food, she adds a roast or a ham and pots of beans and vegetables, many of which are homegrown. Even when we just drop by to say hello, she always has a plate of cookies and a pot of coffee.
Once a year, though, her five children along with her many grandchildren and great grandchildren gather at A.J.’s for all the catfish they can eat and to celebrate her birthday. Now that we are closer, we are invited to join the fun. Aunt Fay enjoys the good food and allowing others serve her for a change, and she smiles with good humor when the traditional hog hat is placed on her head and the waitress invites the other patrons to join in singing “Happy Birthday.” Her good humor sometimes wavers a bit when one of her granddaughters produces a homemade cake complete with candles, but she tolerates our attention, even when we insist on singing again.
Our annual celebration was this past Saturday night, and as usual, there were lots of hugs, lots of laughter, and lots of cameras. Before we left the restaurant, many of our Facebook timelines, including mine, displayed pictures of the birthday girl. As I write this, my post has received over sixty likes and many comments offering congratulations and love and observing that she looks several decades younger than her actual age.
Aunt Fay has always served her family, her church, and her community. Like the Apostle Paul, she has learned to be content with a little or a lot, in hard times and good times. She has also learned to do whatever needs to be done. She can drive a tractor, use a chainsaw, and wield a shotgun, but she is still very much a lady. Last year she drew gasps of admiration when she participated in a senior beauty pageant in her county.
She was raised in a rural community where education was not considered important for girls, but after her children finished school, she earned her GED and took some college courses on-line. She has done extensive genealogical research on her family, and she wrote a history of her church for their one-hundred-year celebration. She reads the Bible through every year and, although she now prefers to sit back and listen, she is always ready to teach if she is needed.
I could write a book about Aunt Fay, and maybe I will one day, but for now let it suffice to say that she is the personification of the Proverbs 31 woman. One of the comments on my Facebook post about her was from my brother Jim. He said, “My Heroine! Love you, Aunt Fay!” She is my heroine, too, and I want to be just like her when I grow up.