It’s been a really, REALLY tough couple of months for me and my family. My grandmother passed away last month and then about 4 weeks later, we lost my Auntie Nutt (Kathie) as well. I’ll write more about my grandmother in a different post, but as hard as it was to lose her, it was devastating to lose my Aunt.
My fondest childhood memories have always been centered around two houses: My Aunt Kathie’s and my Grandma’s. My cousin Scott is just a couple years older than me and with me being a super tomboy, we were really close and would play for hours. My cousin Colleen is 6 years older than me and I had always looked up to her as the big sister I never had. Kathie’s youngest daughter, Erin, was just 2 days younger than my sister Carissa – so there were many shared birthday parties for those two. I remember spending Christmas nights at Auntie Nutt’s where Scott and I would sneak out in the middle of the night to see if we could “catch Santa”. I was brought up with the knowledge that Santa was not real, but it was still really exciting and hilarious to catch Aunt Kathie, Uncle Junior, and my Mom sitting around the tree wrapping presents and chatting the night away.
Auntie Nutt was my mom’s older sister – by two years, and she was also my mom’s best friend. They talked every day. When Kathie moved to Arizona in her 20’s, my mom followed and later had us kids. When Kathie decided it was time to move back to Niagara Falls, NY, we were packing and boarding a Greyhound not long after. Upon arriving in NY we lived with my Aunt until we found a place of our own. Those were great memories…living so close to my cousins was amazing. Plus they had a little more money so I got to do one of my favorite things: play video games!!
When I turned 16 I moved out on my own and eventually moved to Carson City, NV, where I stayed for a few years. When I finally moved back to Niagara Falls, my Aunt took me in to help me get on my feet. It was during this time I started calling her Auntie Nutt. At the time she was really active on AOL and flirting with the man who would eventually become her husband and the love of her life – and her screen name was socialnutt. It stuck. I had always wondered if it bothered her that I called her Auntie Nutt, but I was assured by her husband Rich at the funeral that she loved her nickname.
Over the years I’d moved away to various areas of the US: Georgia, Florida, Colorado, then eventually giving up on stationary living and hitting the road to full time RV across the country. My Aunt married Rich and moved to Kingston, NY. Even though I saw much less of my Aunt, we continued to stay in touch via text, facebook, facebook messenger, and the occasional gathering. I flew out to Kingston, NY, for my Aunt’s wedding and again for a “girls weekend” at my Aunt’s house with my cousins. Scarlett and I made a pit stop in Kingston and had dinner with Auntie Nutt and Uncle Rich while out in NYC for a business trip. Then there were the many times I went back to Niagara Falls to visit my mom, brother, grandparents and uncles, and Auntie Nutt would drive up to join in the visit.
Auntie Nutt followed my travels across the US so closely she was often the one to tell my mom where I was. She even made us this beautiful pillow and matching hand towel for our RV.
My Aunt struggled with health problems. It was almost like she was cursed, though personally I feel it all had something to do with her growing up in the Love Canal area of Niagara Falls, NY. She’s had cancer, tumors, CRPS, and many other ailments and unfortunate issues. At one point she had a kidney removed and that will be important for later. Through it all she was always stayed positive, and she was an incredible fighter. Nothing seemed to ever bring her down, even when she was in terrible pain and couldn’t take pain medications because she only had one kidney. She ended up hospitalized right around the time my Grandma passed away and she never left. During that month in the hospital she was diagnosed with Wegener’s disease, which I had never heard of. She was in ICU for a lung infection for a couple weeks and then she started getting better. She was moved out of ICU and I got to talk to her on the phone. I’m so grateful for that. She couldn’t talk back because she’d had tubes down her throat for so long it was painful to talk, but I could hear her smiles and happy noises. They were getting ready to move her to rehab when she came down with another lung infection. This time it was brought on by a Enterobacter cloacae CRE, an antibiotic resistant bacteria so bad that only one antibiotic could possibly cure it, but this antibiotic was a kidney killer even for people with healthy kidneys. Doctors tried everything they could, even attempting dialysis but nothing worked and she passed away a few days later.
My Aunt was warm, easy to talk to, and very social. She was crafty and creative and throughout my life was always making something. I remember she used to make dolls when I was little. In recent years she had her own craft room with everything needed to make pillows, prints, t-shirts, cards, and even printed coffee mugs. She was generous with her talents, always making little keep-sakes for everyone. I’ll keep mine forever. <3
Auntie Nutt (poem)
Roots were deep but not very strong
trunk scarred by past disease,
the wind would blow and build a song
by rustling her delicate leaves.
Twisted branches of pain– Amanda Riu
blooming blossoms filled with light,
even battered by torrential rain
she’d fight to stay upright.
Her bruised fruit was sometimes rotten
rolling far but managing to seed,
sprouting a’far while she’s forgotten
no love returned in that final hour of need.
As the storms rolled in her roots gave way
we waited in sadness and fear,
for those of us who loved her most
treasured her and held her dear.
Around her base is where I’d play
and grow throughout the years,
her presence and strength my mainstay
now replaced by loss and tears.
Why must a tree fight so long
only to be felled so soon,
now free from pain her memory lives on
while I struggle to attune.