Never grow up.

Never take yourself too seriously. Never accept the judgements of others who seek to change who you are, and never stay with someone who hurts you.

Be kind, but don’t be a sucker. Appreciate the littlest things with the biggest joy. Eat the donut. Believe in things you cannot see and when you find love, let it be just as it is.

These are life lessons taught to me by one of the most important women in my life, my auntie Dee Dee, who will celebrate 80 years of rebellion on Earth this week.

Bless her wild heart.

Dee Dee is my mother’s older sister. She has been a character in the story of my life, and I do mean a character; the kind fiction loves but reality often doesn’t quite know what to do with, which is why I love her so much. She is proud to be considered the nut in a family tree that rattles with squirrels and she makes no apologies for her authentic eccentricities.

Who doesn’t love a nut?

Dee Dee is the polar opposite of her younger sister, my mother, in every way possible, except their shared history affords them a kindness and generosity of spirit, despite some early odds against them. They may have come to their station in life on different trains, but I am grateful these two incredible women have imprinted values of integrity, self-reliance and selflessness when caring for those they love.

As a child, Dee Dee was the fun aunt. She had flexible rules. She took care of me when my parents travelled. I always loved Easter with her, because we’d watch The Ten Commandments and my goal was to stay awake until the parting of the Red Sea. I never made it that far, but just knowing I was breaking the rules was satisfying enough.

Scary movies would lead to a weekend of trying to scare one another until we laughed so hard it hurt. Dee Dee was synonymous with fun, mischief and silliness. She still is. That’s the truth.

I know all of her stories and more than a few of her secrets and let me tell you, they are worth knowing. As a teen, Dee Dee exhausted the truant officer until she was granted early dismissal. Her spirit couldn’t sit still. Some have judged her for youthful transgressions. A rebel without a cause before James Dean made it cool, she was a wild child for sure.

Here’s the best lesson in all of it: Dee Dee lives with no regrets. Her life is not measured in status or material wealth. She got by. She did no harm. She took no guff, not from men and not from a society who held her to ridiculous standards because she was a woman. She raised two boys on her own. It wasn’t easy. So be it.

Later in life, reunited with her first love, those two nuts made the most of every day together simply in love. Good enough was good enough. He smiles at her still, when the moon shines.

Nothing makes my aunt happier than a car ride, a little adventure with yours truly and the gift that costs nothing: quality time. And though sometimes, it’s a challenge to give her that time, when I do, the gift is mine.

Nobody loves me like Dee Dee. It’s mutual.

Happy birthday, ya nut.

WriteOut of Her Mind