Vakkotaur (vakkotaur) wrote,

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Aunt Brenda (08 Dec 1964 - 04 Jul 2015)

On the night of July 4, I was at work and quite busy. When I finally got a break, I noticed a missed call (my cell is set to be silent, and have all non-telephone systems off or as power-conserving as I can set them when working) from earlier, but still late in the evening. My mother and a friend who is, shall we say, no spring chicken (or rooster) were in town or had been planning on it. I feared something had happened to him. Naturally, things ran late and the planned breakfast gathering on the morning of the 5th was far later than hoped. When I got home, jmaynard said something like, "I assume you know about your aunt..." and I cut him off, "I do not know what you are talking about." And then I got the first indication things were Not Good as the reply was of the order, "I'll let your mother tell the story." or such.

Aunt Brenda, the youngest of five children of my maternal grandparents was about two and a half years older than me. So we were close in age, which meant I had more opportunity (and perhaps she more tolerance) to talk with her as I was growing up. I won't say we were terribly close, but she was perhaps closer than my other aunts and my uncle. When I found she was doing some work as a clown (kids parties, etc.) I wanted to talk to her about how some people are creeped out by clowns/mimes/mascots/fursuiters. I don't recall if she agreed with my suspicion that such people were heavily reliant on facial expression and nonverbal cues and when denied that channel, panicked - and were perhaps more likely to be taken in by pathological liars. But she did relate how she'd have fun with them, slowly and quietly maneuvering to be nearby and then doing some sort of reveal. It was only much later that I found (I think, else I really did forget) that she used the name Picadilly, as a clown.

As a child, there was a problem. Her childhood started as normally as any, I suppose, but sometime in the 1970's something went wrong. There was problem with her hip. I am unsure if it was a matter of growth too fast, too slow, or an infection (it was a while ago and I was quite young then). Perhaps it was more correlation than causation, but the only physical incident before this was a cat scratch - and I recall it being dismissed as being relevant, and my father not really believing that. The upshot was that Brenda spent a serious chunk of time in a hospital bed - and then more time not being as active as kid wants to be even at home. There was a lot of reading. And, eventually, swimming as that was something she could do without issues, real or imagined by others.

She eventually became a swim coach, for competitive swimming. She was a coach for "Team Foxjet" in Eden Prairie, MN. And that made the story odd as first relayed, and even stranger later on. Her family went boating every year on the 4th of July holiday. This year was no exception. She and her husband were, for whatever reason, on different boats when Something Happened. There was a wake and a wave or something that resulted in an unusually large wave and the boat she was on rolled enough to throw three of the four people on it into the water. Witness say they saw Brenda swimming - or so was initially relayed. The person operating the boat was in the water, making noise (yelling?) and a kid was floating thanks to the wearing of a life vest. The person not thrown from the boat managed to get control enough to shut things down and call for help. People being attracted to noise, went for the operator first, then the kid when they saw him. And then Brenda was by then not swimming, if she ever had been. I was told that the initial presumption was a heart attack or such from the sudden shock and exertion. After all, she was perhaps the least likely person to drown, unless something else interfered with her ability to swim.

It took a while, and there was a visitation and funeral before the autopsy report was released. And that indicated that there was no heart attack, or any other sign of trauma that might have knocked Brenda out. And that despite what was expected, a capable swimmer did indeed drown in a boating accident. None of the family blames the person operating the boat.

Perhaps the operator got lucky in being able to make sound. The kid was the only one wearing a life preserver[1] - which did its job. I don't know if Brenda would have had a chance if the rescuers had gotten to her earlier or not. I do know I miss her, even if we only saw each rarely of late.

[1] My paternal grandfather had a small boat and nobody got into it without wearing a life preserver. I recall my paternal grandmother seeming to be cautious if not paranoid about many things, but this was his say. His boat, his rules - and safety devices were to be used, period.

Tags: aunt, brenda, death, drowning
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