Ed emailed me today to tell me that one of my few remaining aunts, Sr. Karen, died on Friday. I suppose that every family has that relative that they would rather not have show up at their front door. In our family, it was Sr. Karen – but she showed up anyway. She is also one of my top candidates for the person least likely to be a nun – but, again, she was. If the capacity to put on blinders to the feelings of others and plow ahead with what you want can be considered a virtue, then that virtue was Sr. Karen’s.
I think we all have our stories about Sr. Karen that illustrate what has caused us to form our particular opinions. I’ll just offer two brief ones and hope others will add their own. The first was when my son Pat, was an infant. We were in my parents’ living room and my wife Mary was nursing Pat. Sr. Karen walked into the room, grabbed Pat and started pulling him away from her in mid-nurse. The second instance happened when Lora and I were visiting in California, I think for Mom and Dad’s Golden Anniversary. It was getting late in the evening, the sky was dark and everyone was tired. We were sitting in the living room and Sr. Karen was there as well. People kept hinting that they were tired and wanted to go to bed, but Sr, Karen did not take the hint. One by one, people got up and headed back to bed. Finally, only Lora and I were left and finally, we said we were going to bed. We walked down the hall and turned out the lights. But Sr. Karen still didn’t leave. She just sat there until she felt like going. The ultimate indictment for me is that on one occasion Dad, who had the patience of Job and was rarely roused to anger, actually kicked her out of the house.
I’m sure that other family members have happier memories of her. I have the sense that she and my sister Mary were close at one time and that she helped Mary out. She would also send out a family newsletter every Christmas before blogs and email came into vogue and update everyone on her year and her various travels. Though it was mostly about her, it was a way of trying to keep the family connected. I suspect that Sr. Karen saw herself as a caring person and that by gracing people with her visits she was doing them a favor.
Ed says that, despite her flaws, she had potential, and perhaps he is right. She went into the convent at fourteen years old and while still young was sent to the Solomon Islands (near New Guinea) to work in the missions there for a period of ten years. I suspect some kind of cultures shock occurred – this wasn’t a time in history when farm girls went off to exotic islands. Even Mom, who gave Sr, Karen no ground for anything said that when she returned, she was never the same person.
Mom and Sr. Karen were like oil and water. Their relationship would have made for a TV situation comedy. Whenever I called Mom during the last few years of her life, I could always expect to hear about the tribulations she had suffered at the hands of Sr. Karen. At that point in their relationship, Sr. Karen could have been St. Karen and she still would not have had a chance. Even so, she was Mom’s sister and the original left. In fact, if she is still alive, my Aunt Geneice in Texas may be the only one.
As I was updating my information about Sr. Karen on the family tree, I also discovered that my Aunt Beryl had died in January of this year. Beryl was Mom’s next youngest sister and the polar opposite of Sr. Karen. She was the one Mom was closest too and had a tremendous amount of character. Her life, though, is a whole different saga.