(The title of this entry is a reference to the contest my dad and his girlfriend are having regarding the popularity of David Bowie. This may sound like nothing to you, but, if my Dad is competitive, his girlfriend is supremely so. It’s why she fits in so well with my family. And that will be the most light-hearted moment in this post.)
My great-aunt Mary died last week. I can’t say I’m sad, exactly, because she has wanted this for a long time, and it just feels like her body finally cooperated with that wish. So good for her, I guess.
My great-aunt lived for her entire adult life with her two sisters, Filomena (whom we called Aunt Phil) and Jessie. Aunt Phil used to pick me up after school sometimes – always with either a Butterscotch Krimpet or a Kandy Kake from Tastykake – and then she and Aunt Mary would take me to Bowcraft Amusement Park in Scotch Plains, or the Pearl art supply store by them, where we’d buy something for me to create at their house. One time, after I had taken a Home Ec class, I had them help me make the minestrone soup we’d made in class, and they showed me how they made fried potatoes. And very frequently we would watch the talk shows that came on in the afternoon, and if I stayed late, we watched whatever sitcoms on – I particularly remember watching a lot of “Roseanne” and some “Coach” with them.
Aunt Mary was frequently working – even when I was a kid, and she was well into her sixties, she was still waitressing, which was just one of the jobs she held down during her younger days.
I didn’t find out until after Aunt Phil’s death, when I was fifteen, that she and Aunt Mary were taking care of Aunt Jessie because Aunt Jessie was mentally challenged. “What did you think was the matter with her?” my mother asked when I expressed shock at what was, to me, a revelation. “I thought she was an old lady!” I replied.
Aunt Jessie died when I was in college. Now Aunt Mary is gone. There is so much to say about Aunt Mary, but other people (namely, my sister) have said it better. I am going to focus on me, me, me instead and say that it feels like a huge chunk of my childhood is gone.
Added to that, my grandfather is selling his house. It’s a good thing, I’m sure. I think they have it worked out so that my grandfather will move into my father’s house and my father will move in with his girlfriend. My grandfather will be closer and more convenient to both of his sons, to a lot of his friends, etc., etc., etc. Certain issues will no longer be his concern because my father lives in a town house, so someone else shovels snow and rakes leaves, and the building is fairly new and in good shape. And I was wondering myself how he could stand to stay in that house without my grandmother there. But this is about me, me, me, right? That house has been a constant for me. They moved there in the early sixties. All of my early Jewish holidays were spent there. A lot of my weekends were spent there. When Lauren and I got too big to share the twin bed in the guest room (which had formerly been either my uncle’s or my father’s room; I don’t remember), my grandmother put two twins in the attic and made up a little room for us. They didn’t have central air, so we learned how an open window and attic fan can feel even more pleasant. Another chunk of my childhood is gone.
And this is on top of losing my stepfather, who is more than a mere chunk of my childhood. But never mind. We’ve already written about that.
And Zoe is finally weaned. We decided that me going by myself to NJ for Aunt Mary’s funeral would be the breaking point. It’s gone okay, really. Except the other morning when she was barely awake at 4:30, crying out, “Mommy said ‘No.'” I feel so guilty. I wanted this; I know I wanted this. I more or less hated breastfeeding. But she loved it so much! What kind of a shitty mother am I to take it away from her?
So this is all too much for me (me, me, me). I think I’d like to take a nap. For about a week.