As my Aunt Deloris Johnson’s birthday approached, I wanted to get a different aspect of the woman who was my aunt, and who we lost so long ago to brain cancer. So, I contacted her oldest child, Ellen Bremner to ask her for her memories of her mom. Some of what she told me, I knew, of course, but some of the things she told me were new to me, because they were treasures from her daughter’s heart.
Aunt Deloris, like most of the Byer family to which she was born, was always late. That fact drove her kids crazy. Most of my grandparents George and Hattie Byer’s grandchildren could relate to that fact. The family had a running joke, that our parents operated on Byer Time, and they were always at least half an hour late. Nevertheless Aunt Dee, as we all called her, tried her hardest to be on time, even attaching a watch to her running shoes so she could keep track of time while working. Her second child, Elmer Johnson, always said that she was the true inventor of the “shoe watch.” Nevertheless, time was a concept that always eluded her, and the shoe watch did nothing to change that.
Aunt Dee loved red lipstick, a part of the time she grew up in I’m sure, because my mother, her sister, Collene Spencer wort red lipstick a lot too. Most of the kids of my generation went much lighter with our lipstick, although the darker colors are back now. Aunt Dee loved black coffee, and as I recall, drank it all day long. Black coffee is a little much for me, and I always use cream in mine. She also loved sweets, except candy, which she never ate. She grew up in a household of singing, and loved to sing all her life, her favorite songs being ballads, most of them sad songs that made her children cry.
Ellen told me that her mom was a real germaphobe when they were young, and I found myself thinking that she would have been on the cutting edge of situations like the Coronavirus Pandemic, already doing what needed to be done to fight the virus. Ellen said that she bleached and Lysoled everything, to make sure that the germs didn’t take hold in her home, and she used the many home remedies she knew to keep her family healthy. Aunt Dee was a caring, sensitive, loyal, and loving person. Her family and her husband, Uncle Elmer Johnson, whom she loved deeply, were her life, and she protected her children at all costs. She loved each of them equally. Her own fear of the water, caused her to decide that her children would not take swimming lessons…something she may have softened on after the two oldest children. Aunt Dee was a very good cook, even though it was not her favorite thing…I can relate to that. Nevertheless, she learned a lot about cooking from her mother-in-law, and added that to what her mom had taught her to make her an excellent cook.
She had an altruistic and caring heart, and hated injustice, a fact that inspired her daughter, Ellen to choose service oriented work. Aunt Dee was a dreamer, and a bit of an artist. She loved crafts, painting, and knitting, and indulged in these pastimes whenever money allowed. She was a collector, which went along well with the craft idea, but like most of us, who are collectors, thinking we will “find a use for such an item” down the road, it can create clutter. Still, I bet she had some very cool things in her stash.
Ellen tells me, “Mom had so many plans for her retirement years! So many things she wanted to do and try! She wasn’t afraid to challenge herself in her later years. It broke her heart when she realized that her dreams would not come to fruition. But she left this world knowing she was loved, and telling her family how much she loved them. We miss her quirky, generous, loving, dreamers heart and soul!” As do we, her extended family. She was a wonderful woman, and a very special aunt to all of us. Today would have been Aunt Dee’s 89th birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven Aunt Dee. We love and miss you very much, and can’t wait to see you again.