My grandmother was about 10 years older than her younger sister. So, the mother served as a surrogate child of sorts for her aunt and uncle until my godmother – their own child – arrived. I’m not sure how or why, and I’m not sure Uncle Bill himself could have told you, but he started calling the mother “Stinky Sue.”
It was a title that transferred to his own daughter (my godmother). From her, it came to me. And when he got his own real granddaughter, my baby cousin, it went from me to her. (I had the joy of being their surrogate grandchild for the first seven years of my life, much the way the mother had been their surrogate child.)
I used to stay all night at their house – just across town, a 10-minute walk – from my childhood home. And, along with my grandmother, I was a regular “anytime” guest. We would walk over to visit her sister quite a bit. As a kid, I was always fascinated by my aunt's microwave (it was the early '70s and not everybody had one) and the play-by-number organ in their livingroom. They were among the first people I ever knew with a "finished" basement and they spent most of their time down there.
Back then, Uncle Bill was the city’s fire chief. When I was little, I can remember marveling at his firefighter boots which were nearly as tall as I was. They sat at the end of the hallway, next to the cove in the wall where the main upstairs telephone was.
An even greater sight to marvel at was of Uncle Bill, charging toward and jumping into those boots when the fire whistle went off. (At about 6’4 or 6’5, this was not a small man.) The grace with which he landed inside his targets could rival Fred Astaire.
Sadly, Uncle Bill will call none of us Stinky Sue, or any other name, ever again. He died late last night. The phone call came, oddly enough, while I was texting the MonkeyGirl about Saturday. Talk about timing. Those plans may have to change now. Proof positive that I can never plan anything.
The mother went over to the house, where luckily, my godmother hadn't been alone. I waited up for her. She came back about 1:30 a.m. A nearby funeral home had just left the scene as well. I had no idea that there was so much bureaucracy tied to dying, even if you were in a hospice program. (That meant that more than 2.5 hours passed between the time he died and the time the funeral home showed up.)
I wasn't surprised by his death -- I've known it was coming. I guess I thought it would be longer. I'm glad for his sake -- and for my godmother's -- it wasn't. Consider it a sick April Fool's joke. I'm still sticking by my theory that death is a design flaw. It should be easier.
Death has darkened my doorway quite a lot lately. Please go away now.