And when that fog horn blows I will be coming home
And when the fog horn blows I want to hear it
I don’t have to fear it
yesterday morning, i had two aunts. today, i have only one. my father’s sister, my aunt sandy, passed away yesterday. she had not been well, but i guess none of us had expected she would pass so suddenly. my dad had just spoken to her around lunch time, and while she didn’t sound like she felt so well, it was still a shock. my uncle billy, they said, had gone out on his boat fishing, a probably much-needed break from looking after a sick spouse. if he had gone fishing, then of course he must have thought she was in a safe place.
but aunt sandy was always full of surprises, all the way to the end.
my aunt sandy was a tough, tough lady. standing maybe 5 feet tall and weighing probably 90 pounds soaking wet, she was a real straight-shooter of a lady. you asked her a question; she’d tell you what she thought in her gravelly, smoke-laced voice. i suspect she may have had some issues with food, but i never dared ask her. my memory of her usually brings me to her long island home, where we would spend time with my uncle and their two kids, who happen to be the only first cousins i actually have.
people sometimes look askance at me when i talk about cousins i have who are really 2nd or third cousins. but when you have only two first cousins, you tend to look at any blood relatives all in the same breath — they are blood, so they are mine and i am theirs. and in my opinion, you can never have enough people to love and who might love you back in this life. but my memories of these two cousins include how hilariously funny my elder cousin was (and is) and how blonde my younger cousin was (and i suspect, still is.) i remember wondering why my younger cousin got the blonde genes until my mother explained that my cousins were adopted. then, i thought my aunt and uncle were pretty damn cool for picking us some really wonderful people to be cousins with. i haven’t seen my cousins in a long, long while, which is a shame.
but i carry some memories of them, and my uncle, and my aunt. if i was unlucky, i spent time with my younger cousin kicking my legs (or my mom’s legs until the day my mom kicked back) under the table. if i was lucky, my uncle billy would take us out on his boat and we’d explore the places where he went fishing. sometimes, the only cousins from my father’s side that i ever really knew — temmi, rozzie, and rozzie’s husband dave — would visit and bring their warmth and humor with them. those three are gone now, too.
this whole business of becoming the adult generation in my family is not fun.
anyway, i’m blessed that my parents are still here; and i’m further blessed because i prefer to think mostly of the happy, goofy side of our visits to my aunt. and so, to keep from being maudlin, i’ll share my favorite — and probably Middlebro’s favorite — aunt sandy story.
i preface this by saying that Middlebro, while good humored, doesn’t like being told what to do and what to eat. this was especially pronounced in his days as a young man. this, you need to know, is important information.
anyway, we journeyed out one summer afternoon to my aunt’s house. my aunt, bless her heart, had some of those aforementioned issues with food, so you never could tell what was in her pantry and whether it was still at a point of deliciousness. in visits past, we always tried to eat before we came in order to sidestep this particular challenge; but for reasons i don’t remember, we went to her house bringing some food. my elder cousin, knowing her mother all too well, took great pains to give us the lowdown: rozzie brought dish A, temmi brought dish B, and so on. this way, we knew how to politely avoid the foods which my aunt had prepared, despite our pleas that we would gladly bring food in so that she would not need to trouble herself.
but trouble herself she did; she baked a chocolate cake. now, my cousin, who is almost the exact same age as Middlebro, clued us in on the cake. so we surreptitiously passed around the information, like a game of telephone, that my dear aunt had prepared the chocolate cake. ::wink wink:: no one wanted to hurt her feelings, so we all just ate our fill of other things and then were too full for dessert.
except for Middlebro. Middlebro, seeing the delicious-looking cake, sliced himself a hunk. my mother, trying to spare him from impending, yucky doom, walked up to him quietly and said: don’t eat the cake.
my brother, feeling full of early-20-something male brass and bravado, thought my mother trying to tell him what to do, and in short, he was not amused. don’t tell me what i can and what i can’t eat, he hissed back at her. my brother, a single, successful guy, was not going to have his mother dictate his food choices.
so Middlebro took his fork, sliced off a piece from his hard-fought baked good, and put it indignantly in his mouth. the taste, he later said, was something cardboard-like and definitely not fresh. he chewed the bit slowly and forced himself to swallow it as my mother watched. then, he leaned in close to my mother so that she would definitely hear his sage words of victory.
and Middlebro said: don’t eat the chocolate cake.
i tell this story not to be rude and disrespectful of my aunt but, in fact, to somehow let her know that she was definitely loved by all of us. i didn’t know her as well as i would have liked; but i did know her. she was definitely one of a kind — a person who stands out in our family lore — and i know i will miss her.
Hark, now hear the sailors cry
Smell the sea and feel the sky
Let your soul and spirit fly into the mystic