Oh, Man!

Ronnie Mincey

Mincey’s Musings
Year One, Week Thirty-Four

I have been blessed with a wonderful family. I was born late in both my parents’ lives, so a great many of my relatives I only know about from stories as they died before I was born.

One of my favorite relatives was my father’s youngest sister, Aunt Fleetie. None of us ever called her “Aunt Fleetie.” Aunt Lidia was another matter. She was my great-aunt and was elderly when I was born. Even Fleetie called her Aunt Lidia. People who weren’t our relatives called her Aunt Lidia out of respect and for her great wisdom and knowledge of the Bible.

I adored Aunt Lidia, and I always said until my mother died that if God were going to send someone to guide me through the Valley of the Shadow of Death over Jordan I would want it to be Aunt Lidia.

But I loved Fleetie, too. It just somehow didn’t seem right to call Fleetie “Aunt” as she wasn’t nearly as old as Aunt Lidia.

Fleetie lived at 2110 Hoitt Avenue in Knoxville. Her husband Lester B. (Jack) Thomas passed away from leukemia in 1968 when I was three. I don’t remember him at all. My mother once told me that Jack Thomas ate a whole box of candy every night after he went to bed before going to sleep. Mother said that was why he contracted leukemia. This did not deter me from eating candy, as much as I could get, but I never ate it in the bed!

Interestingly, Fleetie and my dad married brother and sister. Fleetie and Jack never had children—it would have certainly added interest in the family tree had this happened, for I would then have had a (or some) half double first cousin.

Fleetie adored Jack. She kept his Bible on her end table in the living room. Jack’s blood was on one of the pages. Fleetie was like Aunt Lidia when it came to respect for the Scriptures. She would never allow anything to be placed on top of a Bible in her house.

Above the end table with Jack’s Bible was a picture from an old calendar. This picture had a picture of Christ with a halo around His head. Fleetie once told me that the spot on the wall behind that halo got whiter than the rest of the wall after Jack died. I can remember at the tender age of seven to nine being scared of that picture for that reason.

Jack had worked for the railroad, and I’m sure Fleetie received a pension, though money was one thing she never discussed. Whatever might have been her monetary situation, Fleetie supplemented her income by babysitting. On many Friday nights while my half- brothers and sisters and their husbands had their weekly times together, Fleetie babysat all of their children, my nieces and nephews, though most of them were older than me.

Some of them did not like going to Fleetie’s house. Even then, most of them would rather have been at home or playing with their friends.

But I could not wait until school ended each year to go to spend two weeks with Fleetie. Since we were loners, we got along tremendously well. Our favorite game was Sorry. The only problem was that I got mad if I lost, and Fleetie didn’t let me win. Of course, it didn’t bother me a bit if she lost!

Fleetie also had a huge box of toys in the corner of her dining room. I remember there was a wind-up fake radio that played Jack and Jill. At least that’s what I think it was, for that was what was pictured on the front. It was one of the saddest tunes I ever heard. Even now thinking of it makes me mournful.

But also in that toy box was a set of plastic bricks, the forerunner of Legos. Many of the bricks were missing, and I tended to build the same thing over and over, the façade of either a church or school. Fleetie told me I should be an architect.

But one of the most interesting things about Fleetie was her aversion to men. Little as I was and as much as I loved her, Fleetie kept me and all the other kids at arms’ length. Even in church, she didn’t like to shake the men’s hands. Did Fleetie suffer from anthropophobia (fear of people), autophobia, (fear of abandonment), philophobia (fear of love), or Androphobia (fear of men)? Possibly all or none of the above?

I don’t know, but my brother J. C. thought it was just a waste. He told me he once told Fleetie, “Fleetie, Jack is dead as ----! You’re a good looking, young woman. Why don’t you marry again and live your life?”

But for Fleetie there was only Jack. When she passed away in 2004, after several light strokes that caused her to spend years in the nursing home, she had prearranged for a spray identical to the one that graced her own casket be made for Jack, so that when she was buried they would each have matching floral arrangements to adorn their graves. Such a sweet but simple gesture, a token of a love never forgotten.

Next week I’ll share with you another tale of love not forgotten. Until then, remember:

Woman to her husband: “Would you like to repeat your vows?”
“A, E, I, O, U,” he replied.

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