When I came back from Mass this morning, I found a message my younger sister had left on my Skype page, informing me that our oldest aunt, our Dad's sister, had passed away this morning (their Sunday evening).
My Dad has/had three sisters. Dad is the youngest of six. His two older brothers had been deceased, long before my siblings and I had a chance to meet them. My oldest uncle died before the 1949 Communist Liberation, second uncle died after years of beating and humiliation at the hands of the new People's regime for being from a family of land owners who employed and "exploited" poor tenants prior to the Revolution. My three aunts had better times, largely due, I think, to their younger age. My second and third aunts (that's how we address our aunts and uncles in China, by their age ranks,) were involved during their college years in anti-government demonstrations and movements when the Kuomintang (National Party led by Chiang Kai-shek) was in charge of China, therefore showed their sympathy toward the opposing Communist Party. Their involvement proved to be highly beneficial to their later social status and survival under the five-starred red flag.
My two younger aunts went to college, taught in colleges all their lives, and are among the "intellectuals" in the clan. The oldest Aunt, being the oldest of the girls, was not given the opportunity to education. In stead, she helped with household work and nurtured younger siblings. She married early, to the same man till the end, who was also college-educated and a life-long teacher. She had six children with him, and remained a housewife all her life. She was less resented by us, mainly because she was too busy with her own brood and hardships of survival to be minding the "baby-brother's" affairs. My two sisters are closer to her than I ever was, because both spent part of their high school years living with her, as a result of a convoluted series of circumstances wherein close relatives are obligated to "lift and carry" one another according to traditional Chinese filial ethics.
I don't want to give the impression that we have bad relationships with my two other aunts. Just the opposite, through thick and thin, we have stayed close and managed to never let the blood be diluted by bitterness. It helps that I have a mother whose capacity for forgiveness is truly inspiring, more thanks to her simplicity than her goodness. The thoughts of these two aunts evoke nothing short of love and affection in me and my brother and two sisters.
My oldest aunt, the one who just passed away, began to show signs of dementia shortly after her husband's death. Fortunately, she had six children who didn't find it hard to share responsibility in taking care of her. As I've said I didn't know her very well, but my limited memories of her are always of a serene, mild, smiling woman, even during her mentally reduced years. Her consistent devotion to her husband and children seemed not to have been affected by modern Feminism which was part of the Revolution. (For make no mistake, despite what you've heard about the sex discrimination and abandoned female babies, Communism embraced various ideologies which declared war to the "Old Society," including Feminism). Although she hardly ever appeared domineering, or even very talkative, she enjoyed a quiet authority and respect among her children.
To appreciate her serenity and un-assumedness, you have to know that difficult personality runs deep and wide in my family lineage, that is, on my father's side. God bless all who care and deal with my two surviving aunts, and my Dad (legendary tempers of my two dead uncles, whom I never met, lived on for years through the memories of their respective children, my cousins). For some reason, this trait seldom manifested in my oldest aunt.
(To be continued. Have company to go fly kites.)