It began, of course, as a family joke. No one seemed to know exactly who started it, though the prevailing opinion was that one of the nieces, when just young, had heard someone talking about 'Auntie Mame' and associated that with her, Jenine Carlotta Bergstrom. But in any event, the name 'Aunt Maid' stuck and that's what Jennie Bergstrom was called by the family ever after.
Part of it might also have been taken as a kind of a slur, maybe. After all, Jennie, their Auntie Maid, was the one that everyone counted on to take care of whatever needed taking care of, to almost act in a serving capacity to the rest. That was there, though an unexplored thought for the most part. It was just that Momma was gone and their Auntie Maid stepped in to fill that vacuum. It was never suspected that Auntie Maid had or needed any other kind of life.
And, truth to tell, Jennie was up to it all. She was the one who mustered family forces, when something went awry and needed family attention. When there were gatherings, it was 'Auntie Maid' who contacted the others and made sure that details were seen to and carried out. She was, in addition, always in the center of those kinds of events, when they happened, with the entire family together, all her sisters, their husbands and families, working quietly to make sure that everything was done. It was a big group but 'Auntie Maid' was up to the tasks, quietly, efficiently and almost unnoticed in her goodness.
There was also a ring of truth about the 'slur' idea, since it was only Jennie Bergstrom who, despite being in her early 30's, was still unmarried. The other girls, all three of them, Andrea, Lily and Rhoda, had 'flown the coop', so to speak, a while ago and had their own families.
Jennie was left at home with Poppa, only her. She took care of the homestead for all of them, and took care of all of Poppa Joe's needs.
It was about that time too that he began to be ailing. He complained frequently about the grayness of life without his beauty, Lauralea. He often made the remark that he wanted to join her, wherever she'd gone, and that death had no fear for him at all.
At those times, Jennie simply let him talk and spoke with him about them all needing his love and strength for as long as he could still give it. Though she'd have to admit that Poppa Joe's strength was a thing of the past and he spent his time sitting and thinking, and reading, being taken well care of by the family's 'Auntie Maid'.
There was, of course, no accounting for why Jennie Bergstrom, Jenine Carlotta Bergstrom —- a name that her Momma loved, was still 'overlooked' at the age of 33. She was petite, like her Momma had been, but had a very pleasing shape, well proportioned and lovely. She was quiet though, almost too shy and had always been that way, since her childhood. The youngest of the girls, she wasn't outgoing with boys and sat on the sidelines pretty much, when her other, more vibrant sisters were gathering beaux.
There had been numerous offers by the sisters to 'fix her up' but Jennie was a determined young lady and that determination moved in the direction of 'doing it myself', as she so often said. But there were always other priorities, and always, when it came to men, it seemed, she had other things pressing in on her, other things that needed to be done.
By the time Jennie was 32, and her Poppa Joe started to need more and more attention, she was completely prepared to provide it. She assured her sisters that it was fine with her, and they expected nothing less of her. They, after all, had busy lives and children. Jennie was home with Poppa Joe and able to take care of what was needed. It's what she did. She was, after all, their 'Auntie Maid'.
As time went on, it seemed that care for Poppa Joe was taking more and more of Jennie's time and energy. She applied herself to the care with her usual attention to detail and her usual determination.
It seemed to be an almost classic American scene with one sister 'sacrificing herself', so to speak, to take care of the parent or parents. It became that sister's lot in life. It's only that in the Bergstrom family, one of the nieces at an early age had tacked on that name, Auntie Maid to Aunt Jennie the care giver, that stuck.
Jennie always giggled about it. She had that kind of temperament, and wasn't about to let the name bother her. She simply continued to do what was necessary in the situation with Poppa Joe.
They settled into a pattern at that point and the last year of Poppa Joe's life was one that was truly blessed by the kind of care that his daughter Jenine gave to him, unstintingly.
A VISIT FROM OLD TIMES:
Most of Poppa Joe's friends, had already gone and he had few to come to visit him, beside the members of the family. It was a kind of routine that he didn't complain about, though Jennie thought it was too bad. Someone to visit him might just make him feel so much better. She knew that.
It was therefore a real surprise that she answered the doorbell that Tuesday and found a tall, rather handsome looking man, with wavy gray hair, standing there.
"Yes?" she said, wondering who this might be and what he was selling or collecting for. She almost blurted her thinking out too.
"Hi," he said affably, "I'm John Coyn. I've heard via my grapevine that Joe Bergstrom is ill. He and I were pals at the plant, when I was learning the ropes and he was amazingly kind to me at the time. I've never forgotten that. I thought that I'd come to visit him a bit; I'm in town now for a number of days."
He gave her a dazzling smile and said: "Now let me see, from what I remember Joe talking about you must be Jenine!"
"Yes," she said blushing.
"He always called you 'his little flower'," John said and she blushed that much more.
"Oh," he said, "I apologize for making you ill at ease; I'm afraid that I tend to speak my mind."
"No," Jennie said, extending her hand, "I am Jennie, Jenine. Please, won't you come in. Poppa will be pleased to have a visitor. He's having a good day today."
(John Coyn was a very good looking man, at his age of 40. He'd inherited the business from his father and, at his father's insistence, had learned it all from the ground up. It was in that process that Joe Bergstrom had been such a big help, and a good friend. Others had kind of resented that the 'boss' kid' was working there but Joe was open and truly friendly in his attitude toward Johnnie Coyn. He helped him along, in the process of learning the business and all the ins and outs that he, Joe, knew so well. They never really lost touch until Joe retired and didn't get around to the shop any longer.
John Coyn had married early and disastrously. It was to a woman who wanted the future's grand successes right then, and had no patience to wait for that future to materialize.
The result was her leaving in disgust, after a number of affairs with men, to whom she complained about the way that her husband wasn't really taking care of her.
It was, by now, old history and best over and gone, as far as John Coyn was concerned.
The thing that she never realized was that John had a great head for the type of business that his father was preparing for him. The future was indeed going to be a bright one, and John had walked alone into that future.
He never heard from her, after the divorce proceedings. He knew only that she was married again at least once and off somewhere out of state.
As for John, he'd inherited the family home and the business. He'd had the home rehabbed and the business was booming under his care.
If she had only known, by the time he was 40, these days, Johnnie Coyn was set; the business was going great and she had forsaken, cheated on, and given up a man whom fate would treat very kindly. At 40, John Coyn was handsome and rich!)
Jennie wasn't feeling particularly ill at ease with this handsome man, either. That was most likely because he was a friend of Poppa Joe's, and she could readily deal with that.
She asked John in and told him that she'd go and make sure that Poppa Joe was awake.
"He's been reading and snoozing today," Jennie said, smiling at John.
She went off then and told her father that he had a visitor.
"Visitor?" he said, in his normally querulous voice.
"Yes, it's a Mr John Coyn," Jennie said.
"You mean Johnnie Coyn? That tall drink of water from C Industries?" Poppa Joe said, with a smile now creasing his face.
"Yes," Jennie said, smiling back.
"Bring him on!" Poppa Joe said, and Jennie went to get John.
When she led him into Poppa Joe's room, she was pleased to witness the reunion between the two of them. Poppa Joe got choked up to see a friend from his working days, and quickly had tears in his eyes.
"Oh, Johnnie," he said, "Isn't it grand to see you?"
"Joe Bergstrom, the man with the beautiful daughters!" John Coyn quipped, turning to Jennie and saying: "How many times I heard stories about Joe's lovely daughters!"
Jennie smiled at the scene that the two men were sharing.
"It's about time for Poppa's afternoon coffee, Mr Coyn," she said.
He held up a hand and said: "It's John, please; I almost feel like a member of Joe's family. Sorry to interrupt."
"Thank you," she said, appreciating the name thing, "I was just saying that I'm going to bring Poppa his afternoon coffee and a scone that I've made. Would you like something?"
"Sounds good to me!" John said, "I eat out so much these days that some home cooking will do me good."
.... There is more of this story ...