It was hard to re-visit my parents' former apartment yesterday, but I also had the pleasure of spending a couple of hours with my aunt and uncle, who have lived for many years in the same condo community where my father and mother spent the last year of my mother's life.
I've always had a special relationship with my aunt, who is my father's only sibling. We feel a real affinity for one another or, more simply put, we like each other a lot. As a child, I admired my aunt's slim figure and her beautiful face, with its high cheekbones and sensitive mouth. I wanted to look like her. I was thrilled when people pointed out a family resemblance. I found her easy to talk to and appreciated the interest she took in me. I felt she embodied refinement and taste.
My aunt adores her children and was devoted to her own mother, who spent many years in a nursing home walking distance from my aunt's house. She has a close and loving relationship with my uncle, whose quiet presence, leavened with his enormous repertoire of jokes, complements my aunt's more talkative nature. I always look forward to seeing them, but yesterday's visit felt different.
My uncle greeted Eric and me enthusiastically. More gregarious than usual, he regaled us with jokes and told a marvelously improbable story, which turned out to be true—he and my aunt entered a raffle at a car dealer and, a couple of weeks after they had purchased a new car from the dealer, were informed they'd won a second new car! As amazing as this story was, though, the levity it occasioned couldn't fully explain how happy I felt being with my aunt and uncle.
My aunt seemed delighted as always to see Eric and me. She expressed her usual interest in the doings of our children, and updated us about her children and grandchildren. She looked beautiful, even luminous. In her mid-eighties, she swims every day, enjoys music, reads, plays bridge, and keeps in touch with far-flung family and friends. I've always identified with my aunt, in many ways more than with my own mother. I believe that yesterday, despite my sadness over my mother's recent death, I allowed myself to fully appreciate the connection I feel with my aunt and how much that connection means to me.
As we were leaving, my aunt thanked Eric and me profusely for coming, as if we were doing her a favor. But really, it's the other way around. Thank you, my dearest aunt, for being there, still my role model after all these years.