I just got an e-mail from my favorite relative....
Some in the family still call her "Jean" -- mostly the older ones, and even now they don't do it so often.... most of us call her "Hilary" -- or just "Hil". She's my mom's aunt, or my maternal grandfather's older sister. I don't have the words to do her justic - -but I'll try, just a little.
Hil is single, never married and a former Episcopalian nun. She smokes, swears on occasion and loves to drink gin and tonic. She's 89 and holding -- and in good health. She lives in her own home in a great neighborhood in Madison, WI.
Hil isn't keen on little kids, she likes to watch them and finds them but didn't find her great nieces and nephews very interesting until they could talk to her with some level of intelligence. Her first great-great niece will be 5 this year, in a few years she'll warrant Hil's attention.
Hil spent her post-convent life as an English teacher at Madison Area Technical College -- someplace a lot like BNCC - in the shadow of the University of Wisconsin, Madison. She taught chefs, mechanics and EMTs English for 15 years... no majors in her classroom - no sir, that would be easy duty...
Hil ended up at MATC after being told she didn't pass a prelim exam because their department had passed too many people and she didn't have a wife and children depending on her career.... that would have been in about 1970 or so, when that kind of sexist BS was ok. She left UW in disgust and didn't go back.... taking her MA straight over to MATC. It was a couple of weeks before classes started and she bumped into the right dean, asked for a job and stayed until she retired.
Probably because of her experience at MATC, Hil is the person everyone in my generation wants to hang out with. When we visit her in porch weather, she'll make us a G & T and we'll sit on the porch and talk about life. She likes young people -- she challenges us and can give us a combination of encouragement, advise and repremand that our parents can't do... I'm not sure how she does it, but I know I'd have loved to be one of her students.
Hil's most recent idea is that after I finish my dissertation, I should get into administration. She thinks I'd be a great Chancellor... I'm kind of afraid she'd be right, but I don't think I'd like it... (that is another post all together).
One of the things that makes visiting Hil's so great is that she has some great friends. Her next door neighbors are like the children she hasn't had -- amazing people who check in with her, do the little things the family would do if we were around and generally make sure she's doing well. She has another good friend, Jim, who is a recently retired MATC English prof --- he comes over to help with parties and generally hang around our kind of obnoxious family. He's never been married and has no family -- so he's joined ours, and we are happy to have him.
I think that when I get my papers back for revision, and later when I have full dissertation chapters to read, I think I'll take them down to Madison for her sharp eye to read and comment on. I know she'll be happy to help the first of us to get a PhD... (we have several in-laws with PhDs, and we have a JD in the family -- but, I'll be the first of the core family to get one.. and probably the only one in my generation).
At any rate, I'll see her in August for my grandma's 90th -- and Hil's as well... it will be worth the trip to Iowa.