Softball and Switchblades

Softball and Switchblades

I’ve had to say goodbye to a hefty number of family members in my life, but bidding farewell to my auntie (pronounced aint-tee) Rita Kaye Robinson Purvis has been almost surreal to me. I can’t really believe she’s gone. If I ever believed anyone was invincible, it was her. I still haven’t really fully accepted that she didn’t tase the heck out of cancer. She stood 4’11”, but she was one of the feistiest people I’ve ever known. She was fun to be around, but she didn’t take no mess either. She was the only girl smack dab in the middle of a bunch of boys (like me! I’m the only girl and middle child too 🙂 #youcare), and she was tough yet nurturing. She was one of those people you definitely wanted on your team. She was fiercely protective of anyone she loved.

I love these pics. Her smile tells you most of what you need to know about her.
I love these pics. Her smile tells you most of what you need to know about her.

As I was reading her obituary, I realized that even though I’ve always known she was a single mother, I never labeled her that. One line in her obituary caught my attention more than anything else: “She was proud to be a single mom to her four children.” I began to wonder why I’m so ashamed of my status when I’ve admired her all of my life. I still don’t have an answer. It never even crossed my mind that it was anything but natural for her to be my cousins’ solo parent and protector. As a matter of fact, as I’ve been navigating my way through this single motherhood thing, I didn’t even think about Rita as a role model of single motherhood. Isn’t that crazy? She’s definitely been a role model for motherhood–as are my mom, my cousins, and others. But when I think of single mothers, she just didn’t come to mind even though she’s never not been in my life–so how could I overlook that? Of course I was a child so I wasn’t privy to some things, but she never seemed upset about her “plight” or resentful or any of that. It’s kind of been a lightbulb never-ending moment since I read that line. I’ve been thinking about this almost nonstop. I think the biggest way I can honor my aunt now is to figure out how to start being completely proud of my journey as a mother. And maybe, as well, to be willing to share with my village, which includes her children, when I’m feeling overwhelmed the way she and my mom shared with each other. It’s really hard for me to show my hand and let people know when I’m feeling really down, but I know I need to start, as they reminded me this weekend. (I’m listening Shun and Chelle, I promise!)

When I think of Rita, I will always remember her coming down from the scorekeeper’s box to give me a hug when I arrived at the softball field to watch a game. As I noted in my blog post about my granddaddy, baseball and softball are a family tradition, and of course, she played, and when she stopped playing you could still find her at a game. Keeping score, socializing, making everyone around her feel special, and talking much smack.

Still at the ballpark
Still at the ballpark

And yes, that second part of this blog title is how I will remember her as well. My aunt never left home without a boxcutter, switchblade, taser, SOMEthing. She gave me my first taser after I started living by myself. And when my neighbor was effing with me, I’m sure Rita wished she were in Atlanta to stick up for me. I hope I made her proud when I decided to start walking my dog with my softball bat in my hand. That definitely solved my problem! I didn’t hear another threat once I showed I wasn’t taking any mess off of him! I can thank Rita Kaye for her feistiness when it came to protecting myself. She would say “I don’t care how much bigger they are, how much stronger they are, I got something for em.” And she always had a way of making you feel so much better and more optimistic about a situation after she finished with her pep talk and but-I’m serious-though jokes.

I will absolutely miss my aunt. I’m happy she’s no longer in pain. I know her mom and children and grandchildren and brothers and nieces and nephews will carry her in our hearts forever more. Rest in love and power and happiness, my firecracker aunt.

When the Fighter Is Tired

When the Fighter Is Tired

A couple of nights ago, my mom told me that my aunt Rita wasn’t doing so well. I knew she was starting to prepare me for the worst, but somewhere in my brain I couldn’t believe that my aunt, who has always been the epitome of a fighter, whether for her kids, for her grandchildren, for her nieces and nephews, for her brothers, for her parents, out on the softball field, or for her life—this isn’t her first battle with cancer, would start giving up. Even though signs were pointing to her possibly being too tired to keep pushing through this one, no not my Rita Kaye, who carries tasers and pocket knives on her at all times. So although it’s been weighing on my mind, I couldn’t allow myself to get really upset about the possibility of losing yet another special family member so soon.

Earlier that day, my pastor had sent this text:

Eph 2:8 for by grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.

Then yesterday morning, I got this Bible verse of the day.

Psalm 46:1-3

46:1 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. 2 Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, 3 though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah…

Verse 2 really hit a nerve for me!

Then this morning, I got this one.

Isaiah 61:1

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound…

Then, when I had my daily commute convo with my mom this morning, she told me that my aunt is willing to try another route of treatment, which says to us that she is definitely not giving up. This fight is just a little more daunting than the other times. I didn’t cry when my ma told me she was worried about her, but I did cry this morning because I just want to keep being able to see her when I visit, and I want Frederick to see why I love her so much. And I want Frederick to show her his baseball skills too–add to the family tradition, you know. 🙂 So I am keeping faith that she’ll win again against the ugliness of cancer.

My family seems to be ground zero for cancer. I’ve lost several family members to different variations of the disease, and I have a couple of survivors that I keep in my brain any time I even think I may want to start worrying about whether or not I will fight it myself. And yes, it’s always a slight possibility in my brain–I have had a serious headache for over a week, and I kept steering myself from being afraid that it was more serious than maybe stress. (And, no, I am NOT a hypochondriac!) Turns out it’s a sinus infection. 🙂 But this just speaks to how much family (BOTH sides) has dealt with cancer. And even still, I usually don’t participate in Relay for Life, but how can I not this year with my dad’s only sister fighting for her life as we speak? So I am participating, and I hope you will either join my team, if you are in Atlanta, or support my fundraising efforts. Just remember–someone you know, maybe even you or me, may need the cure in the future.

relayforlife