As much as Stephie's Dad, Steve loves having his picture taken, that is how much Aunt Kay did not want her picture taken. "You just want to photograph all of my wrinkles." Which of course was the truth.
I was not the kind of person Aunt Kay would normally love. Alittle too big for my britches. Alittle too big city. Talking about feelings all the time. She liked taking her time letting strangers in, if she let them in at all. At 89 she was allowed to be alittle discrete. Aunt Kay tolerated me at first, but I had two things going for me. One is I was totally in love with Stephie and that got me a whole cup full of chips. The second was appreciating what a total nut Uncle John was. Uncle John and I instantly hit it off. Talking politics from either side of the fence, although President Bush's antics made it a bit easier for us to agree. Making each other laugh with the most arid of dry humor. Counting our carrots at the Fire Mountain buffet.
I loved everything about John and Kay from the moment I first met them. I loved their pantry full of cans perfectly lined up. I loved the eight boxes of cereal set out for breakfast. I loved the square donuts and the freezer totally packed with ice cream. I loved the new television piled on top of the old television. I loved the old phone you could barely understand what they were saying on. I loved how Aunt Kay used to give me just the sweetest hugs and a kiss on the cheek. For a tough 'ol gal, she was all love on the inside. When she let you in, it made it extra sweet knowing you were a member of her own personal fan club that she was President and CEO of. Uncle John was the treasurer and secretary of that very exclusive, membership only club.
When Jackson was born, it was like we hit bingo with Aunt Kay. She loved Jackson so much. Watching her hold him brought us all to tears. Jackson loved Aunt Kay,too. When we were planning to come out to Terre Haute, he would reach up to the computer and click on the "infant in lap" button to make sure we didn't leave him behind. (He does not like staying home alone!)
As much as Aunt Kay didn't like posing for pictures, Uncle John is my muse. One day, north of his 89th birthday, Uncle John gave us his private tour of Terre Haute's finer sites. He drove and drove. And drove and drove. ("Stephie, how long are we going to drive around?) And drove. As Forrest Gump would say, "We was DRIVIN'" Stephie and Aunt Kay held hands in the back seat the whole time. Finally as the sun was starting to set, there was this spectacular light hitting a corn field and I yelled out, "Quick Uncle John, pull over. Let's take a picture in that field." Yelling, "Quick Uncle John pull over" to an 89 year old after a five hour drive is alittle dicey...but this is our Uncle John. He pulled over, we both ran up into the field. Rather, he ran and I tried to keep up with him. The light was that magic late day in summer midwestern glow against a dark blue sky. As I was setting up, Uncle John pulled a dollar bill out of his wallet and carefully folded it like a hankerchief into his breast pocket. It is one of my favorite pictures ever.
It feels strange having any tears about Aunt Kay passing. Living such a full life to 93. Being in love and married to the great John Poland for over 70 years. Giving so much to her family. Running the Aunt Kay Fan Club all these years with an iron fist. And yet, we are all selfish. We wanted even more.
Now my big goal is to bring Uncle John to New York. I want to take him and Jackson and Stephie to Liberty State Park later this summer on a beautiful afternoon. I want us all to look out with him at the Statue of Liberty. I was to point out Ellis Island right there. I want Uncle John's eyes to see the great island of Manhattan spread out in front of us. Uncle John will probably squeeze Jackson's hand and say, "imagine that!" I will take a picture. Uncle John will do something alittle bit crazy. We will wish Aunt Kay was with us, and of course she will be all around us. She had to take a trip, too...she just really didn't like airplanes.