Remembering Aunt Edythe
My Great-aunt Edythe passed away early Sunday morning. She was ninety-six.
For as long as I’d been around to know and remember her, she lived a care-free life. Through her eyes, the world was a good place, and people were, for the most-part, well-intentioned.
No, she wasn’t delusional or oblivious. Until the very end, she was always well-aware of what goes on in the world: war, famine, disease, and so on. I’m sure that, years ago with three young children, the chaos in her home was a microcosm of the world around us. But she, like her four siblings, didn’t dwell on it and didn’t let it occupy her.
She chose to live in a simpler time; a time free of modern distractions; somewhat reminiscent of an early-era TV sitcom. After her children had grown and moved on, and after her husband had passed, she had borders living in her house – for financial support as well as companionship. Usually, they were college students who couldn’t afford a place of their own in the Connecticut city where she lived. Although stern with her old-fashioned rules, she was trusting. Enough so that it caused others in the family, those of us in a younger generation who grew up in a less idealist world, some concern.
When her telephone broke, she had to go to an antique shop to find an equal working replacement. The rotary dial and the actual bell ringer aren’t too notable, but that receiver weighed a ton!
She would get season tickets to the Metropolitan Opera and the Lincoln Center Ballet in Manhattan, and invite family members to go with her. None of us really wanted to go (that form of art just doesn’t appeal to younger generations), but there was something special about it when we did. There was something special about seeing the smile on Aunt Edythe’s face as she watched the show. She taught me to appreciate forms of art that didn’t necessarily appeal to me. The memory of the entire Opera House, in the rows facing the stage and scaling the perimeter walls in multiple tiers of balcony seats, stood up and loudly – but politely – applauding the performance, and the wonder of what it must be like to be on the receiving end of that applause, sticks with me to this day. That MTV had subsequently held awards shows in that same building still turns my stomach – the edginess and borderline-vulgarity of an MTV show isn’t appropriate for the prim and proper venue.
But back to the point, Aunt Edythe wasn’t intimidated. She and her four-foot-something frame would board the train to the city and make her way to Lincoln Center without a concern in the world. She was confident. She didn’t worry about what might happen, and consequently bad things didn’t happen.
She always wore a pink dress, and following a spirited family scavenger hunt one Fourth of July where we had to find something reminiscent of a particular movie title, Aunt Edythe was forever known as “Pretty in Pink”.
There were five siblings who held a strong bond through adulthood. My grandmother, who turns 95 next month, lives in much the same way, and she is now the only one of the five still surviving. Aware but not troubled, helpful but not judgmental, idealistic but not naive. When anyone walks in through her front door, life slows down to a manageable pace.
It’s been a few years since she moved away to be cared for by her daughter-in-law, and I haven’t seen her since then, but I suddenly really miss her. But my memories of her are clear, vivid, and vibrant.
I wish my life could be as long and simple as this family two generations before mine. However, it is most likely not meant to be.