|LeeAnn Ball 1955-2010|
Some people amble into our lives and leave subtle traces of themselves behind. We faintly hold these recollections in our hearts and minds. But as the years add up, we lose the details to the new waves of experiences setting up shop in our ever-growing memories. Then, there are those people who march in and leave a loud, lasting impression—one so strong our mind reserves a special place just for them. That is my Aunt LeeAnn. She was a blend of sassiness and grace dressed in blue jeans.
I can still hear the unique cadence of her voice, a sort of drawl and a laugh that was as infectious as her baked beans. Although she was as tiny as they come, she was tougher than most. When I was a kid, I sat in awe of the way she could swear and make it sound as ordinary as the most common of words. I wanted to do that—I still want to do that. She could toss a “shit” or a “damn” out without the Pope batting an eye. Maybe it was her passion behind the words, or maybe because her spirit was so kind and giving how she said the words didn’t matter as much as her intentions behind them.
Some of my fondest childhood memories are of times spent with my cousins, exploring the butte behind my aunt and uncle’s house. Such treasure to behold filled out eyes with wonder and amazement. When we strolled back into the house, my aunt was the first ot ask of our adventure. She looked us in the eye and marveled at our small achievements as if we were Lewis and Clark reincarnated. She made us feel important and didn’t placate us with a childish tone. She talked to us like grown-ups and encouraged our desires however big or small.
She and my uncle were so great with all of my cousins; I often wondered why they didn’t have their own children. I guess it just believed that if they could have kids they would have done just that, but sometimes life doesn’t work out as simply as it should. Instead, animals became their passion, and she and my uncle raised everything from a skunk named Pepe to the many horses that have come and gone from their lives. She was an avid rider and a ruthless volunteer for her community.
Even as arthritis stole the strength of her hands and body, LeeAnn lived her artistic imaginings. She transformed the drab rocks around the property into colorful ladybugs and bumblebees. She painted the image of my uncle’s favorite horse on a door with an amazing eye. The horse died, but thanks to my aunt, my uncle will be able to see him every day. My favorite masterpiece has to be the photo of my aunt and their white horse after she grabbed a tube of black paint and a brush and turned the horse into a zebra. That was definitely an “lol” moment and one of those that will forever cling to my brain.
As I grew older, the times I spent with my Aunt LeeAnn and Uncle Emer grew farther apart. Years stood between us, not that I would ever know because as her tiny arms wrapped around mine and asked what adventures I’d been on; it was as if I’d just barreled down the mountainside ready to boast of my many discoveries. She was a fun and vibrant spirit, a loving aunt, and one helluva lady. I miss her terribly and hope that as each day passes her loss won’t weigh as heavy in our hearts and that we can relish in the joys of her life and find gratitude that we were a part of it.
*originally posted on my previous blog Literary Intentions