Epistolary: “The Great Aunt Helen”

In the summer of 2016, I took a class at Queens College called Introduction to Writing Nonfiction. It was that class where I received my first A after four semesters in that institution. Yes – SAD – but I look at it as a testament of how much I enjoyed that particular class. It lasted only three or four weeks and was instructed by a Professor Kaplan who was about the same age as I was at the time (25). That was awesome and it gave me inspiration and a model to look up to. That was what I was supposed to be doing at that age!

Every day in those few weeks, the class followed the same routine. First: an in-class writing assignment that could be shared; second: a discussion about the previous night’s reading assignment; third: group work; fourth: a separate in-class writing assignment; fifth: I forget; but that was how the format was. I enjoyed Professor Kaplan’s teaching style. And he taught us how to use semicolons! His specialty may have been theater because some of his group work involved us writing dialogue and plays.

Anyway, “The Great Aunt Helen” came about in that class and was one of three drafts that was to be revised and submitted at the end of the term. It’s an epistolary where I, in the future, am writing a letter to my hypothetical son, warning him of an unexpected visit from his great-great-aunt Helen. The real-life Helen is, in relation to me, my great-aunt, and she is, indeed, a great person despite all her faults. And that’s where the title comes from! This epistolary paints an image of a maddening woman, but is intended to be humorous. Despite all the terrible things said, I do love her dearly.

As part of my revision, I wrote a second part which was a response from my hypothetical son to future me about the details of her arrival. However, I’m not going to include that here because I only wanted to speak from my own point of view. (A response to the first letter was the only expansion I could think of for the revision.)

By the way, this is my third post on WordPress! Success! I love WordPress! But I feel like I’m missing some of my lightheartedness that was present in my first two posts. Anxiety and fatigue are getting to me. Hopefully, they will not diminish my writing.

“The Great Aunt Helen”

Dear Edward,

My son! How is everything? Enjoying your classes? Hope you’re not getting bullied. There’s something I’ve got to tell you. Please…. forgive me.

Your great-great-aunt Helen – or your grandma’s aunt – I forget what you call it – is going to visit you in Washington D.C. this weekend. Seeing you is what’s most important of course, but she also has been planning to go there for quite some time now. However, she’s been complaining that you haven’t returned her phone calls. She called the house ten times already and all I have are her messages on the answering machine. Your mother is pissed off. This might be hard for you to deal with since you’re busy with school, work, and a girlfriend who I hope is nice, but you have to do it, son. Do it for me! You haven’t spent time with her since you were a kid anyway. She’s only going to be there for two days and needs a place to stay. She didn’t want to pay for a hotel and you know why (she’s cheap). She was over at the house last week and she forced me to go online for her to find the cheapest hotel. I went through Expedia, Travelocity, etc., for two hours, but nothing was cheap enough for her. So I told her you were in D.C. with room to spare. I’m sorry. I thought she’d forget about it. Call her back.

I should give you a heads up of what to expect. When she arrives at your apartment – a time that would be most inconvenient – you have to park her car for her because she hasn’t been able to parallel park for years. You have to inspect her luggage upon entering your apartment because you may remember a story about a roach infestation that happened at the house a few years ago. We suspect she was responsible because her apartment has roaches crawling all over. Extermination took us a year before they finally disappeared. Also, hide the toilet paper. If the toilet clogs, don’t be surprised.

While she’s staying with you, be careful with what she cooks. I know you’re trying to watch your weight, but she will sabotage that. If you don’t want to eat, you don’t have to. Sometimes she’ll force you to eat her food. Try not to let her cook because she can cost you a fortune with the gas bill, using all four flames on a stove all the same time… and no one even eats her food! Throw out old food right away because she’ll cycle it between the fridge and the microwave until it has been eaten. Also, don’t ever leave her alone in the kitchen while you’re cooking something because she adds a load of salt and MSG behind your back. Eat enough of her food and you’ll begin to look like her. You’ll always catch her rummaging through the fridge, but never when she takes your prized utensils home.

Keep your place clean, especially the kitchen where she spends most of her time, either eating or cooking. She’ll lecture you about how to live your life and you might get offended. It’s alright. Be adamant about how you live your life. I gave you that freedom. That’s why you’re in D.C. instead of here with your old man. Don’t listen when all she talks about is your uncle who became an engineer, and never about me, and what I have done – like teaching Health, or publishing a novel, or winning an award for best horror screenplay. That wouldn’t impress her, but we all live different lives. It’s none of her business.

I know this will be a major disruption for you. I’m sorry. However, I raised you to be a family guy. So make time for your aunt – or whatever she is in relation to you. Introduce her to your girlfriend. A great man once said, “a man who never spends time with his family can never be a real man.” Of all the things my parents pushed onto me, the only thing I ended up believing in was family. That’s something I hope you still hold on to. If your aunt doesn’t tell you how much she’s proud of you, then I’ll say it here in writing – I’m proud of you and what you’ve done so far with your life. I’m also proud that you’re going to accommodate your aunt for the weekend.

Now call her back.

Love,
Your Sorry Father

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