Remembering Aunt Janet

This weekend I went to MI for my Aunt Janet’s memorial. She was my dad’s sister, based in California. So, when she passed, her son held two services in her honor: one in CA, one in MI.

The loss of a relative is always sad, and this was no exception. However, the memorial service was the most unlike-a-funeral I’ve been to. This was pretty much a testament to my cousin’s effort in keeping the event a remembrance of her spirit and personality – which were amazingly singular and spectacular.

Aunt Janet was unlike anyone in my family. I would define her as a free spirit: the details of life didn’t really burden her. A beautiful woman, she had a brave sense of fashion and loved to wear amazingly ornate hats. Outside her front door rested a mat that stated, “Dull women keep immaculate homes.” Her knack for training dogs and love of animals, particularly her basset hound, Daphnie, was unparalleled. At Christmas, she was infamous for choosing the most remarkable gifts one could imagine. By my cousin’s account, she was a good, loving mother — albeit unconventional. She loved to travel, and when she wasn’t traveling, she was planning her next trip. She had many close friends who she remained in constant contact with via long, handwritten letters, of which she would often compose second and third drafts prior to mailing. Sadly, in her final years, she battled depression, which was hard on many people, but hardest on her.

However, these traits caused her some grief in the family – particularly with her mother. Grandma B, a teacher for most of her life, was detail-oriented to a fault, and a constant worrier. Their distinctly different, yet equally determined, personalities did not blend well. At the memorial, there were only two pictures of Aunt Janet and Grandma B together – the only photos my cousin could find.

On the other hand, she was extremely close with her father. They shared a love of nature, trees and acerbic wit. Grandpa Bob looked past the “eccentricities” and loved her for her. This was quite apparent from the photos and stories in abundance at the memorial. When he died, four years prior to my grandmother, Aunt Janet seemed lost.

Saturday, before the memorial service, we went to the tree farm in Mason, MI that my grandfather started over 50 years ago, and spread Aunt Janet’s ashes. This was the same spot Grandpa Bob’s ashes were spread 11 years earlier. It was a simple, quiet ceremony. I’m sure she would have approved. However, I wish I had worn a fancy hat.

I may have mentioned it here before, but my family often jokingly accuses me of inheriting the “Janet gene.” In my family, this means that I’m known for forgetting things – like leaving half-finished pop cans lying around the house after opening new ones, possessing a very poor sense of direction, and overall, just a touch of “airheadedness.” For years I thought this was highly insensitive and disrespectful of my family – both to me and Aunt Janet. However, I now wear this badge with honor. I think she was a great, flawed woman. As we all are. (Well – not the woman part, because some of us are dudes, but you know what I mean…)

I will miss you, Aunt Janet.

5 thoughts on “Remembering Aunt Janet

  1. Another fabulous Janet just passed away after a brave battle and she came from Chicago area as well. ….the amazing Janet Carroll whom I met as a producer on Little Women. She played Aunt March.
    Re the hats for your Aunt Janet…..someone might consider doing an Aunt Janet memorial party and every women there can pick an Aunt Janet hat.

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