Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Three Old Maids

It isn't a title that was bestowed upon them in a derogatory manner.  They were referred to lovingly as the 'Three Old Maids' and we always looked forward to their visits.  What a trio!  So many of my fondest childhood memories involve time spent with those three dear ladies. 

Daddy had 15 brothers and sisters and a few 'adopted' siblings who joined the family along the way. 

 A few of the Tucker siblings with their Mom.

Aunt Tuck (her given name was Arla but I didn't even know that until I was probably 7 or 8 years old...she was always Aunt Tuck to me) was Daddy's biological sister.  Margaret was a cousin and Ruby was a friend who became family.  None of the three ever married, earning them that beloved nickname.
 Not sure why, but the names are in the wrong order.
Margaret, Tuck, Ruby
As a child I never knew the difference between who was a blood relative and who was not.  They were simply my aunts, equally loved and equally adored.  Being from such a large family, you would expect that I was smothered with too many aunts and uncles, too many cousins, too much togetherness; but that truly was not the case.  Being the youngest of all the cousins has its drawbacks, one of them being that most of the aunts and uncles had moved away by the time I came around.  But the Old Maids lived within about 3 hours of us and would visit often. 
The couple responsible for the whole clan, Mama and Papa,
Jessie and Mitt Tucker.

My Uncle George (Daddy's brother) and Aunt June always had an open door policy at their house, and for that I'll forever be grateful.  Had it not been for their willingness to host guests, I probably would not have seen nearly as much of Daddy's family.  Aunt Matt (Daddy's sister) lived next door to them and she, too, always allowed her spare bedrooms to be filled with guests.  One of my favorite things to hear was "The Old Maids are in" or "Valerie and Robby came in with your Uncle Teeny" and off I'd go!  We lived just around the block from Uncle George so it didn't take long to get to that happy, loud, laughter-filled house.  : )
Some of the family after Tuck's funeral.

Nowadays things sure are changing.  There are only 3 of the Tucker siblings who remain, two of whom still live far from here.  All of the cousins are spread out far and wide, making it difficult to hold family get-togethers or reunions.  Life is so busy now and with the economy being what it is, it is nearly impossible for all of us to share in birthdays, weddings, special occasions and such, the way they did before everyone moved away...before I was born.  I've seen the pictures and even one treasured video of those family parties.  I know how very much I missed out on by coming along so late in the game and it breaks my heart. 
A few of the Tucker ladies.

The reason for this melancholy reminiscence?  On Monday we buried my Aunt Tuck.  For 90 years she graced this family with her love and laughter.  We had already lost Margaret in June 2010, so Ruby is the last remaining 'Old Maid' and her health is failing.  While the service on Monday was more a celebration of a life well lived than an occasion to mourn, hearing Ruby tell me "That's my buddy laying there, you know it?" broke my heart.  :(  Those ladies were the best of friends for 65 years.  How many of us will be able to make such a claim when our time here is over?  I honestly believe that it is the heartbreak of losing Margaret that caused Ruby and Tuck to age so in the last couple of years.  The medical community calls it 'FAILURE TO THRIVE'.  I call it a broken heart.  And I believe it is just as lethal as any disease. 
Tucker, me, Uncle George and Perri

I do have to sing the praises of my Uncle George.  What a guy.  He and Aunt June took in the Old Maids once they got up in years and were really better off not being 3 hours away from all of their family.  They have been the most loving and generous of caretakers.  Recently June had her own health issues and had to have surgery.  Uncle George had an awful lot on his shoulders but, as always, he bore it with great strength and good humor.  No matter when or where I see Uncle George, it is always the same.  There is a hug, a smile and the offer of a helping hand.  Like I said....what a guy.  : ) 

Hopefully, sometime in the very near future, there will be a Tucker reunion and I will get to meet all the cousins I've never met.  Facebook is a wonderful thing and I've gotten to 'know' a few of them via the Internet, but still....nothing can really beat a good old fashioned family reunion!  And somehow I just know that even though many of us haven't seen each other in many years (and some of us NEVER!) there would be so much love and laughter filling that place that there would be no questioning the fact that THIS IS FAMILY.  Because even if we don't know each other well, it is still that Tucker blood that flows through our veins.  And one thing I know for sure...when it comes to Tuckers, FAMILY is what matters most.