Aunt Heidi

Ian and Jenny – Christmas 2013


I will never forget when I was first called “Aunt Heidi”. It seemed so very odd, wonderful, and endearing all at the same time. I was taking my niece Jenny out to see a movie and we stopped at McDonalds. As we were taking our food to sit down, I realized I forgot napkins, so I told Jenny to stay put and I went to grab them. She yelled across the restaurant “Don’t forget ketchup Aunt Heidi”. I think she was 4 or 5 maybe. I loved it!!

Next Saturday, that adorable little blonde is getting married at the age of 30 and I will be representing the Sipe side of her family. She has endured so much loss in her young life. Her father, Fred, was killed in a motorcycle accident only a month before she turned one year old. Devastating my sister Rhonda and everyone who adored him.

A few years later her Papa Bill and Papa Earl (my father) also passed. I’m so happy they were both blessed to know Jenny and they both adored her and doted on her as any grandfather would.

Then many years later, she lost her half-brother Adam to another motorcycle accident. Another devastating loss. It was my sister Dori who broke that sad, sad news to me.

While Dave and I were in England on our honeynoon, we got the horrible news my sister Dori, Jenny’s Aunt, had suffered a ruptured brain aneurysm. We flew back to be with the family, but there was nothing we could do. A wonderful, shining star in this world was snuffed out far too soon. Leaving behind a husband and her handsome 15-years old son, Ian. Another one who calls me Aunt Heidi.

If that wasn’t enough, only one year later, Jenny’s mother, my sister Rhonda, died suddenly of heart failure. The worst, and most devastating thing my niece has gone through. She found her mother and tried to resusitate her. I would give anything to have taken that pain away from her as well as my mother, who lost two daughters in a span of a year and a half.

Jenny, selfishly tended to my mom after Rhonda died and devoted much of her free time to caring for her and running errands. Then last Fall, my mother succombed to heart failure at the age of 88.  Jenny had lost her Nana. Another heart-wrenching blow to a young woman who has already seen so much loss.

My young nephew Ian, now 18 years old, has also endured more memorial services than one should have to attend at such a young age.

I live in Maine and both Ian and Jenny live in western NY state. If I lived closer, I’d be a better and more caring aunt than I am right now. I regret not calling both of them on a daily basis…I’m not a phone person…never have been…never will be. So, it’s completely my fault for not staying in touch and becoming more involved with their lives. At least Jenny and I talk on the phone now and then and we email and text on a weekly basis. Ian is an 18-year old boy…and I’m just not even sure he has processed all he has been through. I adore him and his sweetness…and I feel I am letting Dori and my mother down by not being there for him. But I can only be in Maine for him right now.

After such sorrow-filled years, Jenny’s wedding is a true cause for celebration and one I would not, and could not miss. Seeing how I am now the “matriarch” of that side of the family, it’s my duty and honor to there. Her fiancé Chad, is a wonderful young man and our family adores him. His family has also been so welcoming to Jenny and they had opened their arms and hearts to Rhonda over the last few years, bringing a new lease on life to Rhonda and I’m forever grateful to them for that.

I feel ill-equipped for handling all of the responsibility and emotions I’m feeling these days. I know it will hit me at some point during the days surrounding the wedding that my two sisters and mother aren’t there. They should be. It’s just not right Rhonda won’t see Jenny get married. She devoted her life to Jenny’s well-being and happiness. Why am I the only one left?? Why haven’t these damn brain aneurysms done me in as they have so many others? Just this morning I read a sad story of another victim of a ruptured brain aneurysm who had two small children and a thriving television news career. There is no answer to the question of “why”.

I have adored my niece Jenny Lynn since day one. I recall trying to rock her to sleep and pretending she was MY daugther. And since I have no children of my own…she’s the closest I’ll ever get. I feel the same way about Ian. I babysat him so many Saturday nights before moving to Maine. He’ll never know, or remember just how much I adored and cared for him back then. And probably as an 18-year old boy, he probably really won’t care. LOL Boys, will be boys.

Jenny and Ian are one of the main reasons I decided to start taking better care of myself recently. Even if they don’t want my care and concern, I want to make sure I AM HERE for them and I certainly don’t want them to have to attend another memorial service (for me) for a long, long time. I may still be having serious concerns about my own brain aneurysm issues, but if I take better care of myself, perhaps I can prevent a stroke or another aneurysm from forming in the near future.

I can only hope and pray Ian and Jenny grow up to be the fabulous people both their mother’s worked so hard for them to be. I always wanted to make MY mom proud, and I always knew she was proud of me, because she’d tell me. I will try to be a better Aunt Heidi and make sure I tell my “kids” how proud I am of them. They deserve happiness, not sadness. And…wasn’t I always the “fun” aunt anyway? 🙂

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