Aunt Honey



She may have been called “Aunt Honey,” however, she was anything but sweet.

By the time I met her, she was a mean, bitter old lady. Supposedly, somewhat of a beauty in her younger days, she had frittered away her youth being the mistress of one married man after another, and now she was old, childless, and alone.

She complained about EVERYTHING! Over time, she drove away all her friends, except Mama, who possessed the patience of Job, and who could tolerate anybody (and on a good day, even me).

She’d stop by Mama’s house for an afternoon cup of coffee, and the two of them would sit and chat for hours. Aunt Honey complained about whatever minor irritation was under her skin at the moment, and Mama would gently console her, telling her it wasn’t that bad.

But through it all she was a tough old bird. She squeaked out a living cutting hair in a beauty salon she set up in the front of her house, and she certainly wasn’t afraid to work hard.

When we purchased an old, rundown house, and needed help cleaning it, she and Mama arrived one weekend, put on their babushkas, and spent both Saturday and Sunday scrubbing and washing and scrubbing and fixing and scrubbing and scrubbing and scrubbing. To be honest, I never saw two people work so darn hard.

Of course, Aunt Honey complained the whole time, saying things like, “I’ve never seen such a dirty house!” and “Didn’t you two look at this dump before you bought it?” Actually, this is a highly sanitized version of what she really said. Her vocabulary was quite vulgar, including many words I would not want to repeat here. I wanted to tell her to shut up, but just watching how hard she worked made me too tired to complain.

And by the way … she was in her mid-seventies at the time.

The years rolled along, and we sold the house. Aunt Honey told us, “I never liked that stupid house,” but then added, “How could you two sell that house after all the work your mother and I put into it?” Clearly, there was no pleasing her.

But time catches up with even the toughest of women. Years of cigarettes and heavy drinking were destroying her health. As we sat in her little house, giving her the news of our impending house sale, it was hard not to stare at the stump of her left leg, which had been amputated just above the knee.

I think she had developed type 2 diabetes, along with some other problems, but I never found out, because oddly enough, she didn’t like to talk about her physical ailments. On the contrary, she seemed proud of them.

She wasn’t shy or ashamed of her amputated leg in the least, but seemed to almost enjoy showing it off in public. If there is such a thing as “amputee flashing” then, she was a devotee. Like it or not, if she were around, you were eventually going to get a long, clear view of the remnants of her leg.

Once she passed away, we all realized how much we missed her, and how, despite her incessantly bitter words, she was actually a kind and sweet person, and would bend over backwards to help anyone in need.

Oh, to be sure, she’d whine and moan about it the whole time, but if you needed a helping hand, Aunt Honey could be depended on.

Aunt Honey, indeed!