Saying Good Night to Aunt Irene

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Irene goodnight, Irene goodnight
Goodnight Irene, Goodnight Irene
I’ll see you in my dreams

Huttie “Lead Belly” Ledbetter


Since I first heard this song as a child, I have never listened to it without thinking of Aunt Irene, one of my late mother’s younger sisters. Irene Kinosh was a constant presence in my childhood, growing up in New Hampshire. She was kind and funny, someone who delighted in her family, and loved the Red Sox. Later in life, after moving to Bristol, Connecticut, she became an avid fan of the UConn Huskies women’s basketball team as well.

My mother had five siblings, all of which but one lived in New Hampshire when I was growing up. That meant there was a passel of cousins at family gatherings, which were frequent and usually held at our grandparents’ house outside of Hopkinton. My grandfather, a gifted woodworker who built the home in which they lived, also built a toboggan, a long, curved wooden sled, designed to carry about a dozen of us down a hill in the snow. I am fairly sure Aunt Irene participated in some of those toboggan trips.

In recent years, Aunt Irene and I kept up with each other through Facebook, where her posts were primarily Happy Birthday wishes to someone in her extended family, many of whom lived nearby. Her page is filled with photos of Aunt Irene with her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. In the photos, Aunt Irene is always smiling.

However, early last year, she took after someone who apparently was critical of her beloved Huskies, suggesting the offending party “shut the (expletive) up and support the team, win or lose.” She was 88 at the time. Her family posted messages of encouragement such as, “You go, Mom!” That was Aunt Irene, all right.

During the last two general elections, she began a daily countdown on Facebook, such as: 46 days until the election. Don’t forget to vote. You go, Aunt Irene.

She flew to Texas to visit my parents around 1998, and came down to Nacogdoches for a visit, along with Aunt Jeannette, my mom’s other sister. That was the last time I saw her in person, best I can recall. I wish it had not been so long. Time passes too quickly.

Through my brother Gregg, I learned a few weeks back that Aunt Irene had gone into hospice. Fortunately, she was able to remain at home. I called her about two weeks ago on a Saturday afternoon. She was taking a nap and fussed in jest at me for waking her up. We talked about the Red Sox’s prospects this season (slim) and other small talk. As always, she sounded mentally sharp if a little weak.

“You know, I’m going to be 90 in July,” she told me. I promised her I would come to her birthday party and genuinely intended to do so.

Aunt Irene passed away in her sleep on April 11 just three months short of turning 90. My cousin Suzie, one of her daughters, wrote: Our mother Irene Kinosh floated away on a cloud early this morning, peacefully in her sleep at the age of 89. One of the last things she said to me was that she always tried to be kind to everyone that she met, and anyone who ever met her would probably agree that she succeeded. She was a wonderful human being, and we were beyond fortunate to have had her for a mother. She loved all of her family, but she especially got great joy from her grandchildren and great grandchildren.

I borrowed a photo from Aunt Irene’s Facebook page that accompanies this piece. It is from 2013 and pictures her with then-Red Sox pitcher Jon Lester in Fenway Park. She barely reaches his shoulder. On my mom’s side, there is a long line of short people. I come by my lack of physical stature honestly.

I was not surprised to learn there will be no funeral service. Aunt Irene did not seek or want attention, so long as you refrained about talking trash about her beloved Huskies. I think the Red Sox were always fair game.

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