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Aunt Ola

Johnny Jones, January 1993

AuntOla.jpgNow that our dishwasher has died, I spend quality time in front of our sink dripping suds and rinsing plates. Every time I do, I think of Aunt Ola. That's because she got her dishwasher more recently than anyone I know, and because she and I have washed many sinks of dishes together. She is the person I always wanted to be like.

Aunt Ola's strength of character and love for people gave her a dignity most people don't have. She worked long and hard for those she loved; she bore pain without complaining. I remember her refusing pain medication after an auto accident that left her foot permanently disabled. She said she wanted to be able to think clearly, and to pray.

When we were growing up, I thought Aunt Ola and Uncle Brack were rich. They had indoor plumbing when we still washed in a galvanized tub and used an outhouse. She cooked wonderful meals, and kept an immaculate house. She and Uncle Brack welcomed people to their home, especially relatives. Most of their married lives they had others living with them. I was among this long procession of relatives, living with them one summer.

During this time, while I was seventeen, I saw Aunt Ola's imperfections for the first time. One of them was her blindness to any flaw of any of her kinfolks. When a cousin's marriage failed, Aunt Ola thought it was must have been his wife's fault. It couldn't be her nephew!

I also learned I could not outpraise her. I knew the minute she saw me she would say something like, "Johnny Carole, you look so pretty!" so I would try to beat her to it - "Aunt Ola, you look lovely today!" But I could never carry off the sincerity, the inflection, nor the sheer number of compliments Aunt Ola handed out. I was always the child, and she was the adult. That's the way she wanted it.

She affected everyone this way. Although she never had children of her own, she raised two stepchildren. Neighborhood children were always at her door, many of them children who had been in her Sunday school class. I'll bet she has the record for teaching second grade at Trinity Baptist Church for the greatest number of years.

That's because she was stubborn. Every day she read her Bible and prayed, and on Sunday she taught Sunday school and went to church. On Sunday Uncle Brack played golf. Every time she prayed, she asked the Lord to save her husband. When he was in his fifties, the Lord answered that prayer. After that, they sang together at church and nursing homes as well at the Hank Williams' Memorial they attended every year.

You see, Uncle Brack knew Hank, and sang with him in his early days. People still come to their home to hear stories about this country music pioneer. One of Uncle Brack's records is in the Country Music Hall of Fame. But now the song he wants to sing for everyone is not "Rockin' Chair Daddy," but "Surely Not Me," the story of his wonder at Jesus' wanting to save him.

Aunt Ola went into the hospital Christmas Eve; trouble with her blood pressure. But she insisted to going home to get Christmas dinner prepared for about 20 people. She was finishing cleaning up Monday after Christmas when she had a stroke.

I thought about her lying speechless and partially paralyzed the other day when I looked in the linen closet. I learned from Aunt Ola that if you put the sheets' folded part towards the front, it looks a lot neater than if all the layers show. I keep house more like Aunt Ola than like my mother. Amy says I even look like Aunt Ola. I guess that's why we sobbed together when we got the news. The Lord ended Aunt Ola's pain and hard work Sunday; she went home to be with Him.

It will be harder to go to Alabama now; Aunt Ola won't be there to greet me with "Johnny Carole, what a becoming hair style! And I love that sweater. The color goes so well with your complexion." She won't be there to go to the farm every day and take care of their chickens, their garden, and their cows. Aunt Ola was the least selfish, most responsible person I have ever known. I have a feeling I'm not alone when I say she is my ideal. Of all the people she loved so hard, lots of them loved her back. I'll think of that every time I wash dishes. I'll think about Aunt Ola.