On Friday, May 11, my great-aunt, Margaret Armstrong, passed away. I’m not really sure how I feel about this. I barely knew her. My memories of her pretty much boil down to playing the fish in a toy fishing game we played during a family reunion. I think I was about 11. She was the woman hooking presents to the fishing line on the other side of the sheet hung in my grandparent’s hallway.
The reason that this was the only memory I had of her is because, at some point, she came out to my family she was gay. And in the same letter, she told us she never wanted to speak to any one of us again. Being very young at the time, I didn’t understand it. I just knew she didn’t ever want to speak to me again for a reason that, to me, didn’t make sense. I already knew she was gay, though, I can’t remember how I learned this. Probably the same way I learned about the letter, by pretending to be asleep, when the adults were talking. (Sorry, secrets’ out, I never actually slept all that much).
There is much more to this, but really, in this context, it’s unimportant. The fact is this; I was told that she would never talk to me again. Years later when another family member sent me a letter saying the same thing the night before my wedding, I felt the same way. They assume things about me that were untrue. Whether 11 or 20, both times I felt angry. They never considered that I wanted to continue to talk to them again, regardless of who they were, because they were my aunts. They were family. Every time a family member does something stupid to this degree, I can only shake my head. I don’t give two shakes, who you fuck, who you worship, or what floats the boat for you. Just because you do something stupid doesn’t make you the antichrist, I’m still here. I don’t plan on going away. Why is it so hard for people to act human?
Either way, my great-aunt is gone. I marked it in my GEDCOM file today. I hope she was happy and that life was good for her. I hope wherever she ends up that it will only mean good things. Over the years, I thought about her from time to time. I would have loved to talk to her about her military career and some of the people she knew. I’ll never get to, nor understand her choice. I know her letter shocked my parents and they were hurt about the accusations it contained. I never saw it. All I know is that she assumed we were homophobic, without actually getting to know who we were or who we were going to be. I won’t speak for anyone else, but for me, then and now, I wish she’d asked. I wouldn’t have minded having her and her partner around.