Thursday, April 28, 2016

Smile Over Sadness: Aunt Judy

My Aunt Judy passed away a few weeks ago. She is the one who illustrated all of my children's book covers (except for Hey, Little Baby). We shared a blog of free stories for children; I wrote, she drew. We spoke or emailed weekly. So guess what? She was a big part of my life.

In writing about her now, I seek to avoid sadness. Yes, she was an incredible aunt and person. But she would laugh and tell me I was being a dramatic writer if I wrote something like that. So I'm going to tell you stuff that will make us both smile.

Okay, so I am the world's slowest eater. Why am I the slowest? Because I no longer have any competition. By the time I get through my salad, others are finishing dessert. Judy had me totally completely beat in our uncompetitive race. She was twice as unfast.

This is due to her addiction to listening. Yes, you heard me. She was one of those wackos who listened when you talked. She told me, "Why would I want to talk about myself? I all ready know about me."

Who says crazy stuff like that? I mean, what is the point of a conversation if you are not fighting for your chance to show off your fine choice of words, brilliant ideas, and exhilarating highlights of every thing that ever happened to you.

Don't let it be thought here that she never spoke. In one conversation, we could solve all of the world's problems. Trouble was, nobody ever asked us. If the Big Shots in power ever followed the Judy and Heather World Advice Discussions, we would have World Peace by this weekend. But I suppose the world was just not ready to listen like Judy did.

She was one of those wackos who 'followed her bliss' by becoming a professional illustrator. Imagine how bizarre this world would be if everyone were  in a career that they loved. I shutter just thinking about it. And, of course, just like all those motivational books preach, she made money by waltzing along in life, doing as she pleased, drawing dogs, people as cartoons, animals. She even had the audacity to make pictures that were designed for kids through adults. Realistic to cartoon. Her talent was, sheesh, what is that big word I'm looking for? Oh, yeah...unlimited.

Except that, boy was she ever picky. Could not let anything with her name on it go out into the public that was not to the best of her ability. She even researched her stuff as well. Made sure the dog breeds were just right, surfers were on the waves correctly, elephants had their ears shaped true to form. Wow, you'd have thought she really, truly cared about what was put out into the world.

When my boys were small, I went to her constantly for advice. While every one else was telling me to be more strict, punishing, and to make demands at the drop of a dirty diaper, she talked of a different path. Wild tips like listening, compromise, guidance and love. Learning through example, natural consequences, being firm yet gentle.

And me, being the Judy fan that I have always been, I followed her parenting style. And what do I have to show for my loyalty? Nothing but two thoughtful, caring boys who learned to listen, be polite, discuss ideas, and be wonderful. Just like her son.

Once again, can you imagine a world in which we all listened to our children? Too much for me to handle in one sitting.

She also had to go and have a supportive, kind, respectful marriage to a great guy. Where does that leave the rest of us? Are we supposed to follow in her footsteps and turn marriage into a joyful partnership? Where is the fun in having no abuse, drama, or temper tantrum arguments? Those are some pretty high goals to set for two people.

Now that she is gone, there is a big, gaping hole in my life. Every day, for the rest of my life, I will be attempting to fill it with appreciation of the time I got to spend with her. If I go on any more about this kind of talk, however, I will be crying for another night.

Aunt Judy was splendiferous and will be missed for the rest of my life.

If there is a way for you to get this message in your body-less form: I love you, Aunt Judy. But then, you already knew that.

Oh, if anyone out there passes on before I do and can give her this message, please pass it on: I tried so, so hard, but I can't get into mystery novels. I know you loved them, but I will just never share your favorite book genre. Sorry.

Heather Leigh
Niece of Judy, Aunt Extraordinaire

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