*This is a work of nonfiction based on actual events I experienced firsthand; used with permission.
He was dead before forty, and she was a widow at twenty-five.
In my earliest memory of my aunt, she is wearing high heels and carrying a shoebox with a puppy inside it. My aunt wore a face full of makeup and dangling earrings.
I can remember my aunt telling my mother about her nights of drinking and dancing. She seemed excited and happy.
She was a widow, and she was only twenty-five years old.
My aunt married her first husband when she was just sixteen years old. Her husband was thirty. Their marriage was perfectly legal despite their age difference. Although the legal age requirement to get married was eighteen without parental consent, it was sixteen with parental consent.
Her parents were supportive and even excited when they found out my aunt was engaged to be married at sixteen, but when she told them her groom-to-be was thirty years old, their excitement turned into confusion.
They gave her their consent, if not their blessing.
On her wedding day, my aunt wore a white party dress instead of the traditional bridal gown. She was a sixteen-year-old bride, so she felt more like a child at play than an adult woman getting married.
My mother was the maid of honor at the wedding. She told me that the family and friends were beaming with smiles when they saw my aunt in her white dress, except for her parents. They were in shock and terrified by how young she looked when she walked down the aisle to meet her husband.
Although most people were outwardly supportive of my aunt's decision, there was plenty of gossip behind her back. I was a young child when she was already a widow, and I can still remember how other family members would speak about her when she wasn't around. By then, she was a fully grown woman, a widow, and the mother of three children. Yet the only thing anyone ever wanted to talk about was her premature wedding.
You don't get married at sixteen without setting tongues wagging.
My aunt's first husband suffered from heart trouble, and he succumbed to complications of that condition when he was just shy of his fortieth birthday. That's how my aunt became a widow at twenty-five.
At least she was a merry widow.
Her marriage had been difficult. It was hard to take care of a sickly husband who suffered from both diabetes and alcoholism. He was prone to attacks of violence and anger.
My aunt's first marriage was far from easy. Having three small children running around the house made it even harder. She regretted getting married so young.
She regretted getting married at all.
It took decades before my aunt remarried. When she did, she married a much younger man. In fact, their age difference was larger than the one between her and her first husband. The only difference was that they were both old enough to make life-changing decisions about matters of marriage, and they didn't need anyone's consent except their own.