I had a great aunt named Elizabeth. The only reason I knew that is that it was on her Christmas stocking. I always knew her as Aunt Beth. She was my grandmother’s sister. Never married, a chain smoker’s chain smoker, and staunch New Democrat. She adopted our family growing up as hers and so every Christmas she would come down from Regina (she lived in the senior’s complex that looks like a giant suitcase – you know the one I am talking about) to stay in Saskatoon for a couple of weeks. She also came down for her birthday and all of our birthdays. Often for part of the summer and almost always for Labour Day weekend although for that I don’t know why. Probably to see us off for school.
She travelled the world in between those trips so when I say she lived in Regina, that may have been an overstatement. Since she did live alone, she never really got the family dynamic down. She used to drive me crazy when on a Friday night and I was getting read to watch Miami Vice, she would come into our living room and and turn to Dallas. I would just sit there and quietly put my socks back on.
Of course her entire extended family other than myself and my mom were New Democrats. Strong New Democrats and union organizers. Being part of a family where debating politics was a passion, having Aunt Beth here was great as there was a true to life New Democrat in our house who was both as obnoxious as my mom and I were as really funny as well.
The best debate was over Christmas and it was never spoken. Being Progressive Conservatives, we would have a Christmas card from Grant Devine and Brian Mulroney over our mantle. That wasn’t going to cut it for Aunt Beth. So after one year of enduring this, the next one there was a card from Ed Broadbent and Al Blakeney on our mantle, placed just in front of the Devine/Mulroney cards. The best part was that we never saw Aunt Beth put her cards in front of the other ones and she never saw me put the conservative cards back out front. It would discretely change several times a day over well over 100 times over the holidays. I never acknowledged by any of us publically other than a little snicker whenever someone was really discrete with it. This went on from 1987-1991 when she passed away.
It’s funny but as partisan as all of us were back then, I don’t think a single harsh word was ever spoken about each other’s politics (lots of jokes though), we kept the intense arguments for what was important (I remember getting off the phone with her and she was livid and wanted to speak to my mom. She had just gone to the Roughriders game and it was a blowout and she wanted to yell about it). That was the only time I remember her getting angry over anything.
I still miss her. She was a lot of fun to be around but the biggest lesson she taught me was the family and respect was far more important than making a political point to someone. We had great talks about all sorts of policies and different world views but it was never personal (well the jokes were) but having your Christmas card in front of the other guys was really important.