Stories of Gumption is a regular column that profiles individuals who admirably demonstrate Gumption as we define it. These are the stories of real people who exhibit gumption in overcoming personal challenges, and validate the spirit of Gumption during their journey. Let’s take inspiration from those who seize 100% personal responsibility and show us how to live a life that exhibits Gump-like character traits worthy of applause!
When you celebrate your 95th Birthday AND you are my Great-Aunt, you automatically qualify to be profiled in the Stories of Gumption blog series.
Rita McIntire was born on December 26, 1915 and is the younger sister of my Grandmom McKenna. She was born only 12+ years earlier than my mother. I’ve always known her simply as Aunt Gigi.
Today Aunt Gigi is revered by me and most in the family as the matriarch. It’s my honor and privilege to tell you a little about Aunt Gigi.
Gigi married the widower Mac who had a very young daughter. She raised Winnie as her own and was happily married to Mac for close to half a century. Today, Gigi is survived by her 2 grandchildren and 3 great-grandchildren and an extended family that numbers in the hundreds.
As a child, I didn’t really know Gigi as a person. She was Grandmom’s sister and I heard lots stories from my mother … but only infrequently did we ever meet in person. On the few occasions I remember speaking to Gigi when I was a child, I recall a woman who always knew a whole lot more about me than I knew about her. She’d ask me how I enjoyed playing baseball or basketball, and she knew I played the saxophone. These inquiries prompted questions in my mind like, “How does she know that about me?” Then Gigi would pay me a genuine, loving compliment and I’d depart thinking, “Aunt Gigi is really nice.”
About 25 years ago after my grandmother passed away, I remember my mother mentioning how Gigi started regularly joining Mom and her sisters for their monthly get-togethers. All of the McKenna girls had raised their families and were settling into the beginning of the twilight years; Gigi fit right in and was more like the older sister than my Aunt’s Aunt.
As the oldest living woman in the family, I started to actively think of Gigi as the family matriarch. Interestingly, matriarch is defined as a woman who rules or dominates a family, group, or state; specifically : a mother who is head and ruler of her family and descendants. In the extended family, I’ve never known Gigi to rule or dominate … it’s not her style. But she does lead powerfully by example and is clearly an inspiration to me. As the family’s eldest member she deserves the crown of matriarch.
Three times in the last 5 or so years I’ve visited Gigi in her home. She made the choice a few years ago to no longer travel outside the safe confines of her simple Philadelphia row home. Her knees have simply worn out, and her hearing requires volumes greater than normal for effective communication. I’m sure there are more aches and pains associated with almost a century of living, but ailments are only a statement of fact for Gigi, and not something on which she focuses.
During my last visit about one year ago, Gigi told me of her grandchildren (my 2nd cousins), great-grandchildren, how she met Mac, and how she became known as Gigi. Then a remarkable thing happened; she asked me about Montana, she wanted to know how Mr. Gump was proceeding with his career. She wanted to know more details and hear all about my story.
What was supposed to be a 1 hour visit lasted longer than 2 hours.
It’s remarkable because 45 years after she showed interest in my playing baseball and the saxophone, she still knew what I was doing with my life. She congratulated me on my accomplishments and wished me continued success. I left saying to myself, “Gigi is a nice person!”
Gigi is still curious. Gigi is still interested. Gigi is very much alive. Her mind is active, aware, and she is still very cheerful. Living is a joy!
In my 7 principles of Gumption, Gigi is the personification of presence. When I met her as a child, she made me feel special. She focused on me and gave me all of her attention and love. Half a century later Gigi is still doing the same thing … living life fully and in the moment … sharing her love.
Aunt Gigi is a treasure within our family. Happy 95th Birthday my beloved Aunt Gigi!
Next Blog Title: Why 2010 was a Great Year!
Next Blog Date: December 30, 2010