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  • Annmarie Throckmorton, M.A.

Who Was My Aunt Betty?

Before my mother passed it occurred to me that her sister, my maternal aunt Betty, might have been my actual mother because our dispositions seemed similar in so many ways. And my mother was so unlike me in every way. So in a quiet moment I asked my mother if her sister was my mother. She was untroubled by the question, perhaps she was even amused, but she mulled it over with uncharacteristic discretion, before turning away from me with a wry observation instead of a straight answer, "A birth certificate is hard to forge." But not really, because my Aunt Betty worked in the neonatal section of a hospital at the time that I was born and those were still years when people conspired actively to hide illicit births. And what was that little beaded baby bracelet that I found in Aunt Betty's personal effects after she passed, the one that spelled out her last name "McGrew"? Whose baby wore that? Why did my Aunt Betty's face always light up when she saw me? She never sought me out, but when I visited to pay my respects she was always happy to see me. She had nothing in particular to say to me but she was happy to see me.

I always knew that my father was enamored of my Aunt Betty, he tended to dote on her when my mother was out of the room, offering her refreshments, asking if she was comfortable. He kept her picture angled just so in the cabinet of family portraits so that he could always see it. I was surprised that my self-centered mother never noticed, but it was certainly not my place to interfere.

When I had a DNA analysis done to verify that my father was my father, I deliberately did not have a DNA analysis of my mother's relationship to me. It would have been too difficult to reconcile the lifetime of sustained abuse that I endured from her if she was not my mother. It was almost as if as she had a mother's "right" to abuse me in ways that I would be enraged to suffer at the hands of a lesser relationship. I realized that this is a deficient, imperfect logic but I am trying to describe a deficient, imperfect relationship.

My aunt Betty never learned to drive a car, she always walked to work at the hospital or took a taxi, and as far as I know she never dated, not once. She had no girlfriends, she had no hobbies, and she had no afterwork activities. She seemed unfailingly good-natured and content with her career, her house, and her family relationships. She was nominally Catholic but fell off from attendance as she matured. All of her life she worked as a registered nurse in a large hospital, staying with each hospital in succession for many years She had a quiet day-to-day existence, yet she traveled on group vacation tours to far away and exotic places like Egypt and Russia. Why did she never marry? But then I never married, and probably for the exact same reason, it seemed the better choice.

Caption: Hazel Elizabeth (Betty) McGrew, RN

Caption: Hazel Elizabeth (Betty) McGrew, RN riding a camel somewhere in the Middle East.

Caption: Hazel Elizabeth (Betty) McGrew, RN

DOB 08-31-25 to DOD 10-22-11 obituary

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