I thought of my Aunt Nee today. She went to be with the Lord over twenty years ago. Aunt Nee raised my dad. Families have secrets which members keep to their graves. Aunt Nee’s sister Gladys who is my dad’s birth mother is also in heaven. We will never know why dad ended up being raised by Aunt Nee.
Aunt Nee was up for the task. Dad, now 84, has lived an extremely successful life as a Christian clergyman, Baltimore City’s first black Firefighter of the Year (two times), first black Paramedic, first black Chaplin and an author.
Aunt Nee was a big woman who loved food. She was the fiery pastor of a storefront church, knew her Bible, could sing equal to Mahalia Jackson and preached with great authority and power.
Rev. Anita Bethea (Aunt Nee) married Mary and I. Wedding guests said Aunt Nee “nailed” Mary and I together. “What God has joined together, let NO man put asunder!” It worked. Mary and I recently celebrated thirty-five years of marriage.
A smile came to my face reminiscing about the times Aunt Nee disciplined me as a child. Her words cut me to the bone. I would have preferred a spanking. “Lloyd Marcus, you should be ashamed of yourself!” Aunt Nee’s words which were seasoned with love, always put me back on the straight and narrow.
A gifted storyteller, Aunt Nee’s bedtime stories kept my four younger siblings and me hanging on her every word. Images of the adventures of black slave John still live in my brain. I see John cutting a hole in a tree and covering the hole with bark. At the appropriate time, John punched his fist through the hole fooling everyone including his white master.
Aunt Nee was extremely articulate and an educator. She sent me to the corner store for Uneeda Biscuits. She patiently and methodically pronounced each syllable, “U-nee-da” and spelled it for me. The lesson so impacted me that I still remember it fifty years later.
I later learned that Aunt Nee only finished the ninth grade. Dad told me Aunt Nee studied language and educated herself on numerous topics. Though Aunt Nee’s ministry never grew beyond a storefront church, her legacy via my Dad, myself and others lives on continuing to bear fruit.
Lloyd Marcus, Proud Unhyphenated American