My Favorite Aunt

Aunt Dorothy was my favorite aunt…you know those cool older women who had one foot in the contemporary scene & the other in the traditional past…able to cross over whenever the occasion dictated.

I first met Auntie Dorothy in the late 50’s…I was an awkward shy little girl, always observing but too afraid to act on my instincts. Dorothy married my uncle, who was a formidable personality, but strangely not very ambitious…he owned & operated the family farm and grew oranges & grapes. Dorothy was the oldest of 3 children, whose family owned a small farm in the next town. Their marriage was arranged by what the Japanese call, a “go-between”…sort of like a matchmaker.

As soon as Dorothy married into our expansive family, she was a force to be reckoned with. She coordinated family gatherings that were memorable for their celebration & elaborate feasts…she soon became a beloved fixture…caring, loving, well organized, gently demanding, and indispensable.

When my uncle died suddenly, she was there ready & willing to take over the farm & take care of my grandmother, AND have a full-time bookkeeping job. If she was stressed, she never showed it. She continued to make improvements to the farm & the land. ..her memorable family gatherings were lessened, but were always attended to during the major holidays.

Years after Uncle Shig had died & left her everything, she married a prominent rancher many times her senior. There was talk she married him for his money, but to be honest, she really didn’t need his money. Though I have no proof, I think many of us thought it was a mutual beneficial business arrangement…Dorothy brought to the table some prime farming land and herself as future nurse & companion…her husband brought power & an even larger farm & properties to her, as his new bride.

And just like she had done with our large family, she had won over his family with her cooking & entertainment skills & her loyal , loving care of him…when he died, she was left with a sizeable inheritance which she invested in her own company. I know there were some problems, but knowing Dorothy, she was very financially savy…at the time of her death she was very “well off” as the gossipers would say…BUT as I said before, I don’t think money was the goal here…power & ambition, maybe, a little…BUT I think it was the ‘game’…the thrill of getting everything lined up in a row so she could make her idea come to life.

I really don’t know the true depth of this wonderful woman. I do know she planned to the last detail her own funeral, to the point her brother who was ordered to do the eulogy was so nervous he would ‘screw up’ and she might jump out of the casket correcting him….she also was the only woman I know who had kept the same 50’s hairdo for 60+ years, and somehow made all us children feel important & heard…I will always be grateful for that.