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My mother was the oldest of six children — three girls and three boys. The youngest, her sister Marie, is one of my many aunts. (In my family we are also very close to great-aunts and great-uncles. My maternal grandfather alone had 15 siblings, so that tells you something about the size of my family!)

I thought of Aunt Marie yesterday after about four straight hours of meetings where I needed to be on my game: professional, unflappable, alert, engaged, open, patient, aware of subtleties, and light on my feet. After that, back in my office, I needed to continue to be all that for another few hours! Taking a break to write my brief blog post yesterday was the equivalent of letting my hair down.

And I enjoyed the heck out of the day, from start to finish when it took me two minutes to fall asleep.

I’ve had some great role models in life. Aunt Marie has been one of them.

My early memories of her are still with me: a young, beautiful woman with an easy sense of humor. As my mother’s youngest sibling, she seemed closer to the age of her many nieces and nephews, but still old enough to be an adult whom we looked up to.

Later, when I started venturing out more in the world of big cities, I sometimes visited my Aunt Marie in her small corner office at the M&T Bank building in downtown Buffalo where she worked day in and day out, year after year for stockbrokers at Trubee, Collins & Co.

In my aunt’s day, Trubee, Collins appeared to me to be a constant hive of activity, with many men in constant motion handing Aunt Marie lots of paper that she always kept organized. I also remember her smiling when she received all that paper. There was a sense of “Marie will take care of it.”

Marie was also a reassuring presence to me as a terribly awkward teenager who struggled with being gay. She liked me for who I was and made me laugh. She protected all her nieces and nephews but never smothered us. We always knew we could go to her for anything. She was the first person I thought of as hip!

Like most of us, I’m sure Aunt Marie’s light touch has not been without effort. She and my Uncle Ron, her husband, are both cancer survivors. They, too, have navigated parenthood. I’m stunned, though, when for decades the first words that always come to mind about someone are “fun” and “someone I want to be around.” That’s hard to maintain, but I’m glad she has!