“An Aunt and an Ort, 3

By the next and last time that Aunt Cary came to visit us in Oregon, something seemed different. I was about to enter high school and was pretty occupied with myself, but still felt an unwelcome sense of unease some of the time I spent with her. She stayed awake most of the night then slept late in the morning. She talked faster and seemed restless in a way I somehow unconsciously noticed. Only in looking back now can I clearly describe what I experienced then. At the time the only awareness I had was that she and my mother argued a lot about her sleeping pattern. In retrospect I don’t think my mother understood what was happening either.

For a break from the tension and a treat for my aunt, she, my mother and I went to the Oregon Coast for two nights. Above is a photo I love of Aunt Cary at Cannon Beach that September of 1961. Fortuitously enough, I “became a woman” the first evening. Who better than Aunt Cary who whooped, opened a bottle of sherry and toasted my maturation? My practical mother went to the store for supplies. I needed them both that time.

The next time I saw her was in Chicago on my way to college in 1965. She was a patient in the Illinois State Hospital, in a locked ward, deeply depressed and unkempt. I was heart sick to see her in such pain. Still she grinned at me and in true Aunt Cary fashion said “You look quite collegiate.” I felt blessed once again.

28 thoughts on ““An Aunt and an Ort, 3

  1. I felt concerned that it would throw readers and regret that it did. Sadly no. But we have learned so much since then about mental illness that strikes young adults. And we shared a deep love in a short time.

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  2. Hi Elizabeth, I assume that she was suffering from depression during her earlier visit already. Such a great tragedy and people didn’t really know about this illness at that time. It wasn’t something people spoke about.

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  3. It is so tough to have a mental illness or depression, and I am sure it was harder back in the 1960s. In that photo she looks a bit like me at that age. That is cute how she toasted you with sherry.

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  4. now if your Aunt was here today, the advances in mental health care would have been her saviour but at least you had her in your earlier life and on the day of your “womanhood”

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