Auntie Linda told me she loved me each and every time she saw me. She’s the only person in the whole wide world who’s ever done that. She told me I was beautiful when I had braces; that I was strong when I was shaking; and that I made her proud, even when I struggled. She lit up every time she saw me, making me feel like I was somehow special.
I was never “too bad” for her. She chided me for my mistakes but was never cruel. She painted and drank too much and lived her life exactly how she wanted. She laughed a smoker’s laugh and shared every bit of emotion she felt, fearless. She taught me to mix vodka and beer, and that everyone has a story to tell–sometimes tucked away in a box of letters from long ago.
Some of our last conversations were the greatest ones. She learned Trenton’s story and shared some of her letters with me. We mixed vodka and beer into tall glasses and drank, laughing and crying, way into the afternoon. She brought me a bird painting that she painted and told me to keep it and asked me if I had a fine china set. She encouraged me to write a book and to tell the stories of others who struggle. She told me she loved me and was proud of me. She squeezed me and kissed me and her long boney fingers held mine for a long time that night.
As long as Auntie Linda was in a room, I was never alone. I had MY human. The one who was always in my corner. The one who believed in me no matter what mistakes I made. The one who would always be just a little more badass than I could ever dream to be. The one who was always excited to see little old me. Auntie Linda made me feel invincible every time I was around her.
When we first found out Auntie Linda was sick, I did a lot of crying and reflecting about what I learned from her and what I would take away from knowing her. And this is it: With her I was loved and I was enough. And I will miss that so very very much.