I lost someone unexpectedly this week who was almost as close to me as my own mother. My brother and I called her Aunt Sally, my mom practically called her a sister, and my dad... well, he has a lot of names for people which I can't print but he loved her just as much. The Abbotts are our family away from home. Since the 4 kids were in elementary school, my mom and Sally drove us everywhere, watched our baseball games, basketball games, took us to the movies, and everything else children do. Although, the biggest thing that Sally did for me along with the other 3 adults, was teach us how to laugh....specifically at ourselves. Our two families are weird. We've had more eyes rolled away from us than presidents with low approval ratings. We're loud. We laugh. We don't take life seriously. We make fun of people better than comedians doing a roast. When we sat and tossed back inside jokes that we had, the restaurants usually were closing and reopening before we were done. That is why I want to write this. I'm not able to go to the ceremony tomorrow. I know only a few of you who read this know who my Aunt Sally is, the others are extremely unfortunate for never being able to meet her.
Max and Ermas. I was about 7 yrs old and they used to have the old fashioned phones at each table. The style that you put one end up to your ear and hold the piece that you talk into. You could call other tables and it was a nice gimmick the restaurant had. Well, Sally told me to go to another table and she would call me. The phone rang and I picked the receiver up. My little brain was too fragile to understand what was going on so I held both pieces up to both ears and screamed, "HELLO?" Sally fell out of her chair laughing so hard and the beginning of the inside jokes began.
WWF. I was the biggest WWF wrestling fan in the 80's. I knew everyone, every match, every feud, and every title holder. It was Wrestlemania 3 and I couldn't even sit down. It was on pay per view and my parents were paying for it so I decided to collect money for them. Again, I was about 10. So I set up a folding table in the living room and when Sally showed up, I asked her for admission charges. She ended up paying, but 25 years later, she still would give me hell about that and say "I can't believe you charged me and I drove your little ass all over this city for years!"
She was a nurse. I was spending the night at their house when I was about 10 or so, and her sons, Andy, Tom, and I were playing war ball in Tom's room. I looked up, Tom threw one at me, it hit the wall behind me, I looked up, and the shelf came crashing down right above my eye. I was bleeding all over the place and Sally bandaged me up and called my parents. As I was leaving to go to the emergency room, I turned back to her and with a big pouty face I cried, "Can I come back?" She laughed so hard and still would use that phrase until this year.
Hair. I had to grow my hair out ridiculously long my senior year in college and she hated it. Absolutely hated my hair. So when I got it all cut off, I boxed it up and gave it to her for Christmas. That was 12 years ago. That box of hair has been re-gifted about 10 times since then. We tried to put it in different sized boxes to try to fool the other when they opened it.
Cookie Dough. Sally used to get so pissed at all of us boys because all we wanted for Christmas every year was a roll of cookie dough so we could eat it while we watched football. She would just hand out the log of delicious dough and we would gnaw on it like a dog and his bone. (Last night, I bought my first roll of cookie dough in ten years and helped myself)
Embarrassment. She would continuously tell me not to do stuff to embarrass her and usually that just told me to do it. I always was doing one man shows in Hilliard to raise money for the drama department and she begged me never to bring her on stage. Well, I did. My barbershop quartet was doing a medley and I brought her up so we could serenade her. I heard her whisper "I'm going to kill you" as we walked on the stage. So the next year, I promised I wouldn't bring her on stage, but instead I put up a HUMONGOUS picture of the two of us on the screen on stage and proceeded to sing to her in the audience. If looks and smiles could kill, I wouldn't have been able to walk out of that auditorium.
This is only about 4% of the stories I have about her. She came to all of my shows. She was my biggest fan. She threatened to kill my ex girlfriends if she ever saw them (which was actually the last thing she ever promised me before her passing). She checked in on me in NY. She was a wonderful parent and grandparent. She was respected by everyone in the school system, and if they didn't respect her, she didn't care because there must have been something wrong with them. We would make fun of absolutely anything we could find on a person that always reminded us that life was too short not to laugh.
She was my mom's best friend. That's what hurts me the most. Those two were a pair that no other two could match. They worked together, had I Love Lucy moments together, went to the theater together, gossiped together, raised their boys together, loved each others granddaughters, made fun of each other, made fun of each others husbands, and travelled together. Oh my God, did they travel together. The 4 of them just finished traveling down Route 66 together this fall. Previously, they went to Civil War fields, Washington DC, the West, Panama Canal, and Alaska. And each of those trips only made for 600 more inside jokes that we would listen to like kids at Christmas when we came home to visit. My mom told me that their motto every time they left would be "At least we're traveling now, cause we could be dead tomorrow". Wow.
I realize as I get older I'm going to lose more and more people in my life. It's just a fact of life. We can't fight it. I just wish she wasn't taken so soon. She will be sorely missed and thought about every day until we join her wherever she is now. Even though our time on this earth is short, when we get to spend eternity together as the family we worked so hard to become, we're going to annoy everyone in heaven just as much. I love you Aunt Sal. Thank you for every laugh you have ever produced out of me.