Home > Life > Happy Birthday, Aunt Patty!

Happy Birthday, Aunt Patty!

The cake that held her first birthday candle on November 25, 1929 was probably a little smaller than it might have been due to the big stock market crash. Today, 79 years later, with the country’s economy in similar straits, the cake may be smaller too, but this time by choice rather than uncontrollable circumstance.

Today is the 80th birthday of my beloved Aunt Patty. I won’t give away her full identity — the school system she substitutes in still thinks she’s only about 50.

Aunt Patty is my real mother’s only sibling. My mother lived to be half Aunt Patty’s current age, and the rest of the family has been gone for many years. Aunt Patty stands as the matriarch, and the patriarch, of her side of my family.

Though I did not know her well for much of my life, the day came about 5 or 6 years ago when I became ready to know her. It was time. I had reached a crossroads similar to the one she had gone through at the same age. The time had come for me to reinvent myself and my life.

I showed up on her doorstep one day, unable and unready to proceed with the niceties of our reunion, and said, “Will you teach me about color?” At her own crossroads, Aunt Patty had picked up the pieces after a divorce that left her alone with two children and enrolled in art school. When she finished, she began what would be a true vocation, a real calling to be a teacher.

On that day in the spring of 2002, Aunt Patty sat me down with my oil pastels and taught me how to look for color, how to see it in the most unlikely places. As the shades of gray on the page began to fill with hue, it felt as though she had taken a clean cloth and gently started to wipe away the smudges on the lens through which I had come to view my life. And with that renewed vision, there appeared an angel in the person of my sweet Auntsie Patsy.

In this day when teachers are not held in the same regard as they once were, and our wise elders are merely thought of as elder-LY, Aunt Patty continues to heed her calling, making the trek up to the high school whenever they call, teaching such varied subjects as Latin and Wood Shop. On occasion she teaches them art, but she prefers the challenge of trying something she knows less about. She lives for those kids and in her constancy and willingness to adjust to their societal changes, she provides a compass and a promise that for as long as they will have her, she will give them all the best that she has to offer.

My own life as an artist continues to grow and she stands as my constant champion, never criticizing, always more enthusiastic than I could ever let myself be. She is teaching me what it truly means to be the artist of my own life.

There is no greater honor in my mind than to be thought of the way I think of my Aunt Patty. She is the epitome of the teacher and the reminder of the importance of taking the role of elder seriously. Though youth might make her level of dedication easier, it is actually her level of dedication that keeps her young.

Aunt Patty, on this wonderful anniversary of your entrance into this world, we honor you with all the reverence due someone who has lived her life so humbly and with such grace and dignity. I hope I grow up to be just like you….

Happy 80th Birthday, Sweet Auntsie!

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Categories: Life
  1. November 25, 2008 at 8:17 pm

    What a wonderful tribute to your aunt, and it was thoughtful of you to express these feelings and share them with her. Many wait until a memorial service to laud someone. It seems a little late then, doesn’t it? Happy Birthday, Patty! You sound like a truly remarkable woman.

  2. October 1, 2009 at 4:47 pm

    Ellen reading this so touched my heart. I second Betts comment in that sometimes we forget to tell the people we love how much we love them now. Happy Birthday Aunt Patty! And thank you for bring Ellen’s Blessings!

  3. Mark
    October 2, 2009 at 5:00 pm

    Well, I wish I could manage a response as eloquent as your tribute. No way. I’m not going to try… other than to report that I have it on very good knowledge that she admires you just as much as you do her. You’re a connection to her sister — and you keep your mom’s memory alive for her. A gift that probably only you can do.

    So, since #81 is coming up (hard to believe!) — have you shared this with her? It would make a heck of a gift if you haven’t already.

    Thanks for sharing something extra-special, and personal to both of us. (And for the benefit of other readers, Aunt Patty is “Mom” to me.)

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