Sunday, August 24, 2008

My Auntie Anna has passed away.

OK, so she was 93. As I told my son; she had ran out her warranty. This passing, while sad and aggravating because I am so far away, brings back dozens of fond memories. She was a slight woman who always presented herself crisp and perfect. She had a thin, angular face and spoke with an old New England accent typical of her part of Rhode Island; something of a Boston Brahmin which, added to her appearance, always reminded me of Rose Kennedy.

She was my mother’s sister and they were very close. Many of my childhood memories are held within the walls of their house in Saunderstown. I loved their sprawling back yard (or at least it seemed sprawling to a 5 year old) and I can remember always wanting to go out in their garage. It had this double–sided three step landing with a railing and I would either jump from the top step or swing underneath the railing. Doesn’t sound like much but, again, to a five year old it was a jungle gym.

Then there was their basement. Half of it was fixed up as an apartment with part of the room was a parlor of sorts and, given my Aunt and Uncle were children of the 1920’s, was decorated with nick-knacks, bric-a-brac, chintzy wall hangings and antique looking furniture.

I almost burned down their house once.

It was on one of the antique end tables down in the basement where there sat a lamp. This piece also looked like a leftover set piece from “Bringing Up Father”; ceramic body, iron cast fixtures and a cloth lampshade stretched in a double layer over a wire frame. I might have been nine or ten and was at the “fascinated with fire” stage. I had been blowing up model kits with firecrackers and setting adrift model boats doused with WD-40. On one excursion to the basement I found a book of matches in an ashtray on the table. I lit one, blew it out and dropped it in the ashtray. I looked at the lampshade and a science experiment came to mind.

I lit another match and then passed it underneath the edge of the lampshade. It did nothing to the cloth. I pulled it back towards me and, still, nothing. Satisfied, I blew out the match. I lit yet another and repeated the experiment, only this time….slower. The first pass deposited a small tinge of brown to the fabric, but nothing else. “What an amazing fabric!” I thought and pulled the match back towards me. That was when the age of the fabric came into play and with a rush the flame lit to the edge of the shade and spread like a sprinting runner all along the bottom edge of the frame. I quickly tried blowing out the flame but that only spread it quicker.

I can still almost feel the wild rush of adrenalin and panic as I watched the flames move across the shade. I don’t know how fast I was moving or where the adults were at the time but I sill remember wondering how they had added so many steps to the basement stairs since I had gone down there because it seemed to take me forever to get up them to warn someone. When we all raced back down the fire had consumed the fabric which hung in charred, tattered strands from the blackened wire frame. I don’t remember what sort of punishment I received and I can vaguely recall my Auntie Anna almost laughing it off but I do know that I almost never went down in that basement ever again.

We spent every New Year’s Eve there; I sat in the living room watching Dick Clark while the adults played cards. There was this one item of “decoration” in that room I remember to this day. It was a simple little plate which looked like a clock but had nothing but “5’s” all around the face and in big letters said, “It’s 5:00 Somewhere”! To little a kid is was humorous because it was silly. There were cookouts and holiday dinners by the score. Even getting there was an adventure because many of the major highways were yet to be built and the route wound along Route 1 and then through a number of small towns and villages; to a little kid it took forever.

I traveled a lot with her. We went on trips to Alaska and Britain together. I can still hear her screaming in terror at the crazed London cabbie buzzed us through the crowded streets apparently making his own travel lanes and squeezing past other cars at high speeds.

I always knew to expect a birthday card from her and would call her on a regular schedule just to keep the contact. I spoke to her almost three weeks ago and the moment I said, “Hello” she knew it was me; she was sharp and her usually funny self right to the end.

This is the third aunt I have lost since being down here. I have a strong sense of family and it tore at me to hear of everyone gathering at the hospital to say their goodbyes. My sense of family duty is hurting knowing I should have been there to be a pall bearer. If there is something good that came of this I was able to reach out to my Uncle Elmer, her brother, and her granddaughter, my cousin, Melissa. I have had a strained relationship with him over the past 15 years or so and called him to share our grief. I took the opportunity to say to him that even through the times we might have not seen eye to eye that I loved him. We made promises to get together the next time he is in Florida. My cousin Melissa and I have just simply lost touch due to distance and time; a stupid excuse for two people who had been as close as siblings. She and I have a quiet competition to see who can hold the title the longest as Family Black Sheep and that has kept us close since we were kids. We are now back in regular contact.

When we were in London she bought me a cheap little souvenir which might have cost her $2 but I treasure. It is a simple piece of pressed wood painted and stained to look like an expensive piece of woodworking. Printed on it are words that mean more and more through the years and shows her sense of humor:

God gave us our family.
Thank God we can choose our friends.

Rest well, Auntie.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Believe it or not, there was a comical punchline to my post from yesterday about Julie.

After I calmed down I went to "The Other Person" to let her know what I had heard as she has been my own personal Dr. Phil though all of this.

A little back story on this; months ago I had loaned "The Other Person" a copy of "Animal House" once she had told me she had never watched it but continued to tell me about either not having anything to watch or the latest really bad so-called comedy the moment it was available on DVD. It's been so long since I loaned it to her I can't remember when that was and am sure it had dust settled on it. It has become a running joke. Anytime even the most passing reference is made to a DVD I will say something about "Animal House".

So, I told her what had happened and made the joke about "The Shawshank Redemption". She responded with, "You know, you could go Game Stop and get 5 DVD's for $10."

Seeing the opening for our running joke, "Next time you're there get "Animal House" if you see it."

"I already have a copy!" and then, without missing a beat, "Oh, did I tell you I was moving?!"

Ahhhh, friends!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The past 30 days have been a trip through hell and back again. Over the next few posts I will go through some of it with you. Some of it has been painful and I would just rather forget it. Some of it, just because I am 46; I have forgotten.

Of course, the first topic to tackle is....Julie.

A few days ago a friend came up to me at work and said she had met up with Julie and her kids in Wally World. She was there stocking up for her move back to Michigan that coming weekend.

My friend went on to tell me more about their conversation and I know that I responded as if I were still part of the conversation saying something like, "Well, I hope she's happy", but on the inside I was lost. It was like in the opening scene of "Saving Private Ryan" when the camera goes under the water; all sound is muffled and phased out as if heard from miles away and each sound is distorted. I know I was moving around the room and going through the motion of filling my coffee cup but it seemed as if I was reaching for a coffee maker which was miles out of my reach. Everything in my world was ripped apart as the sun imploded.

In the span of fifteen seconds I went through shock, remorse, anger, mourning and depression. Each of them jumped to the top of my heart at the same time each fighting to be the strongest and none of them staying for more than a second of two. The air was knocked out of my lungs and I staggered back to my desk. Eventually, I came back to clarity as I retied to calm myself. I was able to focus again but continued to be distracted by the news for the rest of the day.

I had just started to come to terms with the whole situation and was moving on. I resigned myself to the fact it was over and had a speech ready just in case she ever did manage to get up the nerve to call me.

Now, the cold reality that she was more than just gone but had left the state without as much as a good bye hit me like a ton of bricks. You will be happy to know that I did not fall into my usual pattern and well on the negative, self-blaming feelings I was going through but quickly went to completely blaming her. I had done everything right this time and yet she pulled away from what I had to offer and fell into her own pattern of co-dependency. She was part of an abusive relationship which fed upon itself an nothing I could have done, apparently, could have kept her out of the cannibalistic cycle of that life.

I am pissed off at her for leaving without saying goodbye. I am disappointed that she wouldn't give us a chance. I am mourning the loss of the relationship. I am sad that she is in a relationship that is only bound to hurt her again. I feel sorriest for and miss her girls. I am angry at myself for what how that relationship fed into the financial situation I am in right now.

The worst part of it......not only did she leave without paying back about $150 bucks I loaned her but she never returned some DVD's I let her borrow....including "Shawshank Redemption"!!!!!! SHE'S GOT MY FRAKKING COPY OF "SHAWSHANK"!....the bitch!