“Every teenager needs an adult friend.”
“It takes a village to raise a child.”
I believe that. I had a good Mom and Dad, but it is impossible for two people to teach a child everything about life. Other influences are needed. Some even teach us what not to do: an abusive uncle, a racist granddad, a mean neighbor.
My Uncle Tom Hipps died yesterday, in his mid-eighties, my mother’s last living brother. His wife, my Aunt Mildred, died a few years ago. They helped raise me. Our family took summer vacations to Alabama to see Mother’s people. When I was seven, and Edmund was nine, Mother and Dad left us with Uncle Tom (age 25?) and Aunt Mildred for two weeks. We rode the bus back from Birmingham to Augusta—by ourselves. It was a different era.
We repeated that pattern for a dozen years, by which time I stayed the entire summer. My first two summer jobs were in Birmingham. I loved, loved, loved Tom and Mildred and their children, Tommy, Von, Vickie, Terri, and Karen.
Tom and Mildred were very different than Mother and Dad, less strict, more fun-loving. They were more lenient. They prepared different food and had different cleaning routines. Of course, I washed dishes in North Augusta and Birmingham.
Aunt Mildred produced a new baby each year and, in turn, I helped raise their children.
In Birmingham, in addition to different authority figures, I had different next-door neighbors, a different preacher, a different Sunday school teacher, and a different boss on my summer job. I needed models in addition to what I was getting in North Augusta. I discovered aunts and uncles I didn’t like and others I loved dearly. It was good for me to have a choice of ways to be human.
I extend my sympathy to my cousins. I am sorry for your loss. You had two wonderful parents. I will miss them more than you know.