This I Believe

Alexandra - Chicago, Illinois
Entered on February 14, 2008
Age Group: Under 18

No more than a few weeks after my birth, a kind elderly woman began to nurture me. Vivian, or “Auntie” as I affectionately called her, was a friend of my mother’s who had recently retired from a tedious desk job and become a fulltime babysitter. Her daughter was now grown and with her own family, but she had a natural aptitude with children that caused some type of strange gravitation towards them. She was trusting and patience and sought nothing more than my own happiness. She displayed, and therefore inspired me to imitate, an amazing sense of self-sacrifice.

It was from Auntie, with the cooperation of both of my working parents, that I learned how to walk, talk, read, ride a bike, peel potatoes, and do long division. I became a well-rounded individual and soon I was solving my own problems or acquiring new skills without Auntie’s guiding hand. Little did I know thing were getting harder for her. Her eyes had acquired cataracts, a lifelong cigarette habit had damaged her lungs, and she had developed diabetes.

In fourth grade, I stopped going to Auntie’s house after school, and instead attended the after school program. At first I was given no explanation to this sudden change, but I soon learned that Vivian’s eyesight had degenerated to such as degree that driving was now impossible. Her daughter committed suicide and left no explanation, vaulting her into a bout of depression. She sold her condominium and moved in with her ex-husband who was suffering from a serious case of dementia, because living alone was no longer an option for her. My mother began to do weekly check-ins and grocery runs for her. It very quickly became obvious that Auntie could no longer take care of others, as it was hard enough to care for herself.

I took the initiative to repay Vivian for the years of guidance she had given me. She had taught me to be respectful and kind, but above all, sacrificing. A bit of my time was a small price to pay for the look on her face during a lunch out or a shopping trip. I forced myself to visit her house often even though the cigarette smoke always sent me into coughing spells. I tried every one of her “culinary experiments,” no matter how unappetizing they appeared. But no matter how trivial the gesture, she would always become lively and excited during our visits. It gave me great pride to be able to say that I was the one responsible for her happiness.

Through these events I began to understand Vivian’s motivation. While she aspired to become the catalyst for my happiness and success, she became so much more. She has inspired me to put others before myself. She has taught me the satisfaction of making others pleased. But above all, she has taught me a way to repay the woman who made me the person I am proud to be today.