My Aunt Dean
Born Jan. 10, 1955 – Died June 11, 2018
My Aunt Dean was an amazing woman. She possessed all of the great qualities of her mother, my Grandmother, Bettie Jo Bertram. She was headstrong, brave and lived life on her own terms. She also possessed all the great qualities of her father, my Grandfather, Dean Bertram, of whom a name she shared.
Aunt Dean moved to Little Rock in the 80’s, a bold step-away from her middle-class upbringing in Van Buren. She made amazing friends, had ups and downs, but lived her life the way she chose to live it, despite I’m sure the protest of my Nona. When she came to visit, she always had a smile on her face. She would take me in the summer for a week or two and showed me Little Rock, my first big city and always made sure it was a great week.
Three things my Aunt Dean did for me that I wish I could have thanked her for. The first was in the mid-80’s. She had brought one of her friends down for this visit and I remember they had something that would fascinate me for a long time after using it. One of the first laptop computers. I played Pong and some type of rudimentary version of a racing game and used the word processor to type a silly letter to her. She literally gave me the opportunity, a decade before I would own my own computer, to use something I would use for the rest of my life. The second thing my Aunt Dean gave me, unbeknownst to her, was the opportunity to have a first crush and a first kiss. One of her very good friends at the time had a daughter that was my age, I believe I was 10 or 11. We would go to Magic Springs together and then back to their house where Linsey and I would play. This girl was pretty wild for a 10-year-old, haha. She taught me how to make a blowtorch out of a hairspray can and smoked cigarettes. Aunt Dean would have lost her mind if she knew, haha. I remember kissing Linsey the first time in her room, the first of many over the years, while visiting Aunt Dean.
The third thing my Aunt Dean did for me was the most important. My mother developed breast cancer when I was 12. I was for the first time in my life truly aware of the concept of life and death. My Mom was one of the clinical trial volunteers for a particularly nasty version of chemotherapy, Red Devil. It is exactly as it sounds. I will never forget the conversation I had with my Aunt, as I cried on her shoulder, scared of what would happen to me. She grabbed my face, looked me dead in the eyes and said words I will never forget, “As long as I am here, you will always have a home with me, I will always love you and I will always be there for you and if the worst ever did happen, which it won’t, you will live with me and you will be OK”.
Her assertive and kind words comforted a very scared, very confused 12-year-old boy who was terrified beyond words. I knew then, no matter what, I would be OK. My Aunt gave me that peace at the most chaotic time of my life. For that and many other moments, I will always love her and she will always live in my heart.
Aunt Dean eventually reconnected with the love of her life and finally found her forever home. She and my Uncle Chuck loved each other deeply and it showed through in the way they interacted, spoke and treated each other. I hope to be so lucky and the fact that she met Chuck later in her life is the last gift my Aunt has given me, hope. Hope that if you hang in there long enough, you will meet someone who accepts you for who you are, good and the bad and doesn’t care about your past. Only the future they want to spend with you.
My Aunt could be stern and like her mother before her, had little qualms telling you if she wasn’t pleased with your actions. She also held no grudges and was always there to help when needed. Her absence will be missed greatly by all those she came into contact with who knew her and especially by her family. My Uncle and Mother lost a best friend, a piece of their childhood and their adulthood while closing a chapter on their lives. My sympathy and heart goes out to them both, as I feel an emptiness in knowing I will never hear her voice, gently scolding me or giving me advice.
So Aunt Dean, I don’t know if they let you read blogs in heaven, but if they do, know that I love you and will miss you until the day I join you and the rest of the gang up in heaven. I apologize for all the times in the future when you look down and say, “Joooey!”. I just wish you were here to say it in person.
Proverbs 31:25-27“She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future. When she speaks, her words are wise, and she gives instructions with kindness. She carefully watches everything in her household and suffers nothing from laziness.”