My mother’s baby sister died this week and her funeral was today. She could not have chosen a more beautiful day to have her relatives and friends gather under the trees in the memorial park to celebrate her wonderful life.
This beautiful woman was 86 years old with the physiology to last at least ten more years but for the scourge of Alzheimer’s. She was well cared for by her husband, along with the staff of the Continuing Care Retirement Community to which they moved to about six years ago. Their four children and seven grandchildren were a constant source of support. She passed in comfort.
What do I remember? I will call her Sue (a pseudonym) – not Aunt Sue.
She was only a few years older than I was and told me never to call her ‘aunt’ because it made her feel old. Sue was an accomplished pianist with the gift of perfect pitch. She graduated from High School at 16 and soon became a legal secretary. She was a practical person and realized that her musical abilities did not necessarily lead to a steady income. While working, she saved enough money to buy herself a magnificent grand piano, which still resides in their home. Although music never became her career, it was an avocation that she passed on to her children and grandchildren. She continued to play for pleasure up until a few weeks before her death.
My clearest memory of her was when I was perhaps 10 and she was a dating teenager. There was this petite, beautiful woman sitting in her slip, at her dressing table, fixing her hair and putting on make-up while I watched. “Here, Betty, try this.” I looked silly, but it was fun.
At this point, she usually decided which dress to wear. On this one evening, she declared, “Why do I have to wear dresses all the time while the men are comfortable in their trousers? I’m going to wear this instead.” Where upon, she extracted from her closet a petite grey flannel suit and a plain white shirt. Even Katherine Hepburn could not have looked more elegant.
It was not long before she returned to dresses and especially her elegant, long trained, satin wedding gown. The picture of Sue, in her gown, was on display today. It is the Aunt I will always remember, even if I don’t call her that.