You were more than an aunt, you were a mother of 6 children. You spent your whole life caring for others’ kids and treated them as your own. I remember how I used to ask you questions and you only shrugged in reply. I remember when I used to mimic how you walked with your feet toeing-out. You always wore jogging pants and I remember when I saw your legs for the first time, amazed that they were so white. I remember wondering why you’re called “Lele” when your name was Caroline.
You washed our clothes, cooked our food, and fetched water from neighbors when our water line got cut out. When I moved out I have always missed your home cooking. Mama left and never returned, but you stayed and kept us going. I never told you but you were the person I missed the most the day I left Geronimo.
I remember when I was young and you fell in love with a young lady in our neighborhood. I was a child but I knew it was pure and so I supported this young love. I helped you send her your messages, risking the wrath of her grandmother. I wanted you two to have a happy ending and ignored people who told me it should never be. What did they know? What do they care? Love is love, that’s all that matters.
I watched you sitting in one corner the day she went away. You were silent and I wanted to ask if you were okay. Yes, I was young, but I knew how much it must have hurt you. So I just looked at you from afar and respected your silence.
I know how much you love perfumes that I make sure to buy you those when Christmas comes around.
You were set to leave the house and I was happy because you listened to my advice. I thought a change of environment would help you get better. I was thinking for days how much more can I help you. I even scolded your sister for asking me to go there so that I could see you. I told her to not talk to me like you were about to go. Deep inside I feared that if I ever see you, I would burst out crying like I always do.
You and mother fought, months before my younger sister was born. You stayed in a different house and I felt mama’s resentment for your absence. Even when I missed you, I thought that maybe it was good for you. You spent most of your life caring for us; maybe it was time that you live your life the way you wanted it.
But the babies have always been your weak spot; there’s something in them that melts your heart. When the baby was born, I saw your restrained excitement when you asked me how she is. My younger sister, innocent as she may be that time, has brought you back in.
I want you to know I did what I could to fight for you. I want you to know that I appreciate everything that you’ve done for me and my siblings. I want you to know I never looked at you as merely my aunt but my mother. I am sorry that I wasn’t expressive, I’m sorry I couldn’t show you how much I cared. I wasn’t raised to show the beatings of my heart.
You were supposed to celebrate your birthday in the next few days. It breaks my heart that this is one birthday you could never see.
I could never hate you for leaving this early.
After all these years, I still don’t understand why they called you Lele, when your name is Caroline.