It’s been several years since I have read anything published in The Readers’ Digest. It is still published isn’t it? One of the stories I always enjoyed most was called, “My Most Unforgettable Character”. And somewhere, deep inside me, I hoped one of my grandchildren would write about me as an essay assignment. That never happened.
Thinking about such a character brings to my mind one of my great aunts. Her name was Rhoda, but everyone called her, Aunt Rhody. By the time I was old enough to really know her she had been widowed three times. She seemed to have plenty of money, nice clothes, and a nice house to live in, but she had no children. Nieces and nephews became her family and despite her crankiness she helped them a lot by giving them work. When Daddy worked for her we could usually expect him to bring home a piece of furniture she no longer wanted or a bag of clothes. Mama was able to turn the used dresses into something useful for me and my sister.
There were lots of ceramic knick-knacks in her home, which were not to be touched by curious little hands, and she let us know it. I can still see a white ceramic dog sitting in her living room; oh how I wanted to run my fingers over it!
I don’t know how much money she had; however, whatever amount it was surely exceeded what most people had. She valued that money and in a way tried to buy our love and loyalty to her with the promise of being included in her will. When a relative was on her “good” side, he was put on the will, but if he did something to anger her, his name was removed and another added. Now I was never included in the will.
Something I never understood, until years later, was what she meant when she came to visit us and she always asked Mama about me, “Has she crossed Jordan yet?” As if it were any of her business anyway! And my brother-in-law was giving her a ride into town once and she told him, “Drive slow; I forgot to wear my step-ins!”
With all these characteristics, as odd as they are, the thing that comes to my mind most when I remember Aunt Rhody, happened one Sunday afternoon. Daddy, Mama, and I had gone to visit her. By now something had happened to her money; people thought one of her gentlemen friends had got her a little tipsy on some occasion and coaxed her into signing it over to him. Anyway, she no longer lived so plentifully and the threat of the will was less.
As the visit progressed she asked if we would like to have a drink of ice water and we agreed to having one. She went to her kitchen, ran water into the glasses, then went to the refrigerator for ice. She removed a tray from the freezer and in it was the frost slabs from a recent defrosting. Pieces of the slabs went into the glasses. Knowing how frost absorbs food odors, our thirst went away immediately.
Aunt Rhody suffered a stroke a few years later and lay in the hospital a long time before she passed away.