I believe that people have the power to change. When my aunt died this summer, she had been an alcoholic for over forty years. Her addiction was already in progress during her late teens when she met her future husband. Soon after their marriage, my aunt found out the type of man my uncle really was. My uncle was a selfish and mean man. Always putting her down, she remained with him even after multiple affairs. I don’t think my aunt stayed with him out of love. Perhaps in the beginning she did, but as the years passed, she stayed with him because he had shattered her self-confidence so badly that she felt too worthless to ever make it on her own. My uncle’s unkindness did not end with my aunt. He treated my grandmother, with whom they shared a duplex, like dirt. He took every opportunity that arose to disrespect her. He once went so far as to push her into a bush while trying to get by.
My aunt’s heart stopped beating one day while she was walking along a river near her home. Doctors concluded that the years of alcohol abuse had enlarged her heart to the point where it was beating too fast for her body to keep up with. With my aunt gone, my uncle was forced to make serious adjustments to life. She wasn’t there any more to do his laundry or cook his meals. Suddenly he had to learn to do these things on his own.
It started quite subtly, but nonetheless, we all noticed a change beginning. My uncle began treating my grandmother differently, now saying hello when he saw her (they still were sharing the duplex). One day he came over asking for help with the laundry. As little as these things may have seemed, my grandmother, and the rest of my family began to see a new side of my uncle emerge. This Christmas my uncle and grandmother had Christmas dinner together, something that had not been done in years. These days when my mom talks to my grandmother, she hears of all the things my uncle has been doing for her, driving her to the store, mowing her lawn, things that none of us could have ever imagined him doing.
It is hard to admit, to write down on paper, that my aunt dying actually lead to something good. It is sad that it took the death of his wife for him to change, but he did change, and he changed for the better. My grandmother lost a daughter, but in doing so, she is starting to gain a son.
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