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I got a phone call the other day from my Aunt Lucy in Florida. Aunt Lucy is 97 years old and the last of her generation in our family. Happily, she is in fairly good health considering her age. She still dyes her hair, wears red lipstick and nail polish, and, until a few years ago, wore high heels. She has to use walker and take various heart pills but her mind is still working on all four cylinders.

Her hearing is something of a problem, especially when she calls, because she takes off her hearing aid which she claims whistles into the receiver. After I pick up the phone and say ‘hello’ my part of the conversation is pretty well over. Although I am practically shouting, she cannot hear me and forges ahead over my ‘what about…,” “how is ….,” and “have you heard….”

Her voice is kind of quavery but still full of good humor as it has always been. Lucy, along with my cousin Mary, were the cheerful optimists in our family of depressives, victims and complainers. Problems and disasters of various sizes and complexions were handled with a shrug, or perhaps a good cry, and soon followed by an acceptance that life happens so let’s get on with it.

She has always had something good to say about everyone and has been more interested in her own life than in passing judgment on someone else’s. As a result, Aunt Lucy has always had lots of friends and is loved by all members of the family. In fact she was invited to spend her final years at the home of her grandson and his wife. She has told everyone that when she gets sick to send her to a nursing home because she doesn’t want to be a burden.

When her sister, my mother, died a few years ago, Aunt Lucy said, “Now that your mother is gone, I’ll be your mother.” Oddly enough, my cousin Mary said the same thing to me – the two cheerful ones best understanding sorrow. And when my own son was dying of cancer two years ago it was Aunt Lucy and Mary who said rosaries for him, who called me long distance and listened to me cry.

So this Thanksgiving I will be grateful for this dear aunt of mine who remains a model and mentor to me. I will pray that she goes gently into that good night when the time comes – as soon it must – and that if there is a gathering of the clan at the end of the day, she will be there to greet me upon my arrival.

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