Monday, July 17, 2006

Goodbye to Aunt Margie

I had an Aunt Margie - "Big Aunt Margie". Big Aunt Margie because her and my Mom's brother - my uncle, was also married to a Margie who was shorter, hence "Big Aunt Margie". She was tall, sort of statuesque. Aunt Margie spent her life with undiagnosed mental illness(es) until recent years. She just passed away about a week shy of her 83rd birthday which would have been today. The facts about Aunt Margie's illnesses are somewhat nebulous. Fact seems a bit ironic a word when used in describing Aunt Margie. Facts were not important - dreams were. Here's what I remember about her.

She would come to visit us at our home. She would arrive by bus to our town and get off and ask children playing in the street "Do you know where the "Lampshade" family lives?" One would think she would come armed with our address, one would be wrong. Not to worry, she was always led to us. She would arrive looking to my child's eyes like a movie star from another era - almost the silent era. Here it was the 1960's/early 70's, and Aunt Margie would still wear her hair longish with "bologna curls" and a silk headband. Simply dressed but just so. Her nails were always done nicely. Not too long and she polished them with a white pearlish polish. She would tell me the proper way to cut and file my nails, still remember that to this day. Also remember her sparkling blue eyes with her dark hair. The thing that was best about her was that she actually sat and listened to and talked with us children. When relatives came to visit in my house, the kids were sent packing after being able to have a little of the sweet treats while hanging on the words of the elders and trying to get one in edgewise. With Aunt Margie, I could be wrong, but I believe she preferred the time talking with us kids - we indulged her stories, actually encouraged them. She would laugh and say "Oh Gina-belle tell me what monkeyshines you've been up to!" We would laugh - a little at her, but mostly with her.

Yes what drew us to her most were those stories - or the promises. I'm going to take you on the bus to New York and we'll visit museums! Something about life sized dolls and FAO Schwarz. Well, I am sure she meant that she dreamed of taking us. Truth is those dreams worked nicely for us as we didn't really care to separate the fact from the fiction. Yes, she would recount her trips to museums and fill my sister and I with awe at the visuals of their contents. I remember her being enamored of The Fricke Collection housed in a mansion formerly owned by one Mr. Fricke, a mansion that was built "to make Carnegie's place look like a miner's shack". Truth is she lived in one room of a boarding house and spent periods where she wouldn't answer the door or talk to anyone. She didn't have a telephone. She was the 2nd oldest of my mom's big Irish family (actually the third counting a sister Elizabeth who died as an infant). It didn't seem that they always had much patience for Aunt Margie's monkeyshines throughout their lives, but they tried, particularly my Uncle. Finally her "golden years" saw her at long last getting her own apartment in a senior center with views of the very city in which she may or may not have visited every museum along Fifth Avenue. No matter, this was a fine backdrop for those dreams.

My sister and I once shared an apartment and one Thanksgiving played host to Aunt Margie and our youngest sister and her husband, Fran (or Frank as he became known that day). Aunt Margie was very astute, sharp as a tack - remembered everybody's birthday, but kept calling him Frank. As I look back, I believe she may have seen through "Frank's" monkeyshines and was calling him this on purpose. Aunt Margie loved to take in your whole essence. That day, she sat on my bed looking at my jewelry as the turkey cooked in the oven and suddenly but gently rolled off onto the flokati rug on the floor. We were all laughing (as it had happened so unexpectedly and well, gracefully), but this time definitely with her. "Oh Gina-belle, time for a new mattress!"

Anyway, I look back on their generation - my Aunt Margie had she been properly medicated may have had a chance for a life lived a bit more purposefully. A hard knock life for sure as it were. She lived her days out on disability and I'm sure disappointed by the current batch of movie star mags that she was purportedly obsessed with in her youth. Those were the days of movie stars!

I did not attend the funeral - it was done all in one shot (so to speak). Viewing and mass of Christian Burial to follow then off to the cemetery. Being Jewish now, the whole thing is rather uncomfortable for me - it is verboten to view a dead person and I agree whole heartedly with this. I prefer to pay my respects to Aunt Margie this way. Let the person be buried and sit around for the week after and tell great stories and eat cake. And talk about museums and dreams.

...maybe finally visit the Fricke Collection.

30 comments:

cj said...

I am so sorry to hear of her passing, she sounds like a marvelous person. There are people who can make you feel a part of a community, a person who matters, a VIP so to speak with ease. It sounds like this was a quality that came easily to her - and has made quite an impression on you. I thank God for people like Margie - without their touch our lives would certainly be a lot more empty. :)
Ps. I had a "Big Gramma" *LOL* she was taller than my other grandma.

Psychobabble said...

She sounds wonderful

Joel said...

a beautiful tribute.

G said...

Thanks all. She was a unique individual. Truth is I have not seen her much in my "adult years", but she made quite an indelible impression.

neva said...

i LOVE your Aunt Margie now, too! and i don't doubt for a minute that she'd be thrilled to know you remember her with such humor and love.

this was truly lovely, Gina-belle (may i call you that? or do you prefer "Lampshade-belle"?) i hope to God someone writes a tribute to me like this some day (not because i've passed away, mind you, i just want to know someone thinks of me in such terms).

in all seriousness, i know this was a loss for you, and i'm sorry. but i'm very happy to know you had an Aunt Margie, because i suspect her influences are alive and well and living it up inside that lampshade of yours even as we speak! xoxox

G said...

Thanks Neva-belle. May I say that she was a fellow Cancerian and we both may march to a slightly off beat drummer. Although, the fantasy thing tends to be more in the head for me and more of a reality for Aunt Margie.

Funny since I hadn't seen Aunt Margie much in recent times, I hadn't exactly considered it a "loss"...until writing this post that is.

Patrick the Elder said...

thanks, G. It was really the only thing missing (other than you, Tommy and Peg) from Aunt Margie's funeral - an honest, accurate, and funny eulogy - I feel bad that my memories are half of yours - I do remember how regal and put together Marge looked when descending the Heald Street Hill with shopping bag of goodies (or was it her pj's) but I don't recall much of the conversation - probably cause I was too busy escaping for a wiffle ball tournament. - It was horrible to see her lifeless body in the box - burn me and spread my ashes, pleae, as Sue-Sue said, but it was sad/wonderful/energizing to return to the place we were born, and walk around the ole' neigborhood. Thanks, G - good job - I love u!

G said...

patrick the elder: That may be one of your tragedies - that there never was a professional wiffle ball league - ah, glory days.

Yeah, sorry that Catholics in particular say goodbye in this way - it's the stories that start to gather steam in the weeks after. Don't worry, we'll have to have a code of ethics regarding our funerals - no crying unless immdiately balanced by laughter. Hey why should death be any different than life in that respect?

I have a terrible memory in many regards, but funny how these stood out. Glad it brought you back - love you too.

~ good girl ~ said...

Hi G,

Sorry to hear about Aunt Margie. She sounds a fairy tale character, the lady that floated barefoot with flowers in her hair, glitter in her hand and ten thousand kinds of dreams in her eyes.

This is a nice way to honour her memory. So nicely done.

GG x

Patrick the Elder said...

Confessions froma mis-spent youth - I wasn't as good as I thought I was - remember Cdr. McBragg?, so I wouldn't have made the pros anyway.

Don't woory about that cryin' thing at my funeral - I've sealed that certainty A LONG TIME AGO - LOL

pia said...

A beautiful tribute. She came to life so beautifully.

It was almost a bit scary--as her bithday is so close to mine, and I can see my niece (singular) telling stories like that about me--except for the curls and instructions on manicures and love of movie stars, and...

And now that I have scared myself, I'm glad that your memories of her are so good.

Somehow I think that your aunt would like a word I found in my word verification below "jazzy"--and it didn't take :-)

And your comment on my post gave me an idea for a LI V Jersey bar band blog off

G said...

GG: Thanks - in many ways she was, just that blasted reality getting in the way.

P the E: Forgot about "The World of Commander McBragg"! Well you can count on us at least laughing til we cry. How's that? For instance - remember playing hide and seek and you hiding in that chestnut tree, to be found only when we heard the snap, crack, crash and you falling to the ground branch and all? Now that's a good starting point for us. Funnny.

Pia: Thanks. You know your fears are not unfounded and may be the basis for another syndrome "The Wacky Aunt" syndrome that many single no kid aunts fear including my best friend. Not to worry - you're probably considered the cool aunt.

Jazzy indeed - perfect. I'm up for the battle of the bar bands sister :)

kathy529 said...

I remember Aunt Margie! And her blue eyes and the fact she was so friendly to all the crazy kids on Heald Street. I'm sorry she passed away

Pavel said...

Thank you for sharing your aunt with us. She seemed wonderful, complicated, and exciting.

G said...

Kitty: Of course you do! Thanks. Yes, come to think of it we had some good character studies in her and your Uncle Frank. They were good folks.

Pavel: Thanks Pavel - she was.

Doug said...

Sorry for the loss. Aunt Margie sounds like quite the gift

G said...

Thanks Doug ~ she was.

ShooShoo said...

Hey G - we definately missed you! Indeed it was a tragic thought for me to see Big Aunt Margie without the classic red lipstick and dark hair. I do believe it was still very dark up until recently. I remember her so well when I broke my collarbone.....I waited for her one particular day as she promised to bring me a surprise because I was in bed recuperating...as it turned out it was a bag of those beads that you popped together to make a necklace or a bracelet, I was in heaven...which could have been due to the pain medication, but that's a story for another day.
She had the most glamorous voice and her laugh just reminded me of the soft silk scarves she always wore on her hair...she was a pure treasure. I also remember the stories..."Oh Susabellle, you will love my apartment. It has red gingham (sp?) curtains and a life-sized Raggedy Ann and Andy....the bed is FULL of stuffed animals, I can't wait for you to come". Of course, we were never allowed to go and I just will always have those wonderful images of her lovely apartment, even if they were only in her head......she lives on in our hearts. Happy Birthday Big Aunt Margie. Happy Birthday.

G said...

Shooshoo ~ See you made your way around the word verifier, very proud. That's one thing I couldn't get from my head to paper - her lilting voice, I don't think I'll ever forget it - the softness yet the fullness of it. She was a gem.

ariel said...

I'm now sorry I never met your Aunt Margie!

First Nations said...

what a marvellous post. that was excellent. i could see her.
i collect paper ephemera and have a stack of old, old movie mags. the image that came to mind was Mary Pickford.
i agree about the funeral situation. (are you cohen?)
damn, that was excellent.

ariel said...

oh and you said "kifli" in your previous post, yeah, we know kifli, we love kifli, little ones we eat with things, big ones we fill with things, kifli is a good thing. what is homemade that is kifli-like, the real kifli you have to buy at the baker's! another good thing is zsömle which is a rounded kifli.

First Nations said...

....woo. just read your comment.
would you like to email me?
redace1960@yahoo.com
sweetie, feel free to do so. we seem to have a lot to talk about.
re this post: go here
http://hendrix-cat.blogspot.com/
to read something very similar and wonderful too.

actonbell said...

Beautiful, intriguing tribute, G!

G said...

Yes Ariel, she had that effect. I think I'll have to post a picture of the "kifli" one of these days for you to critique.

FN: thanks FN. I believe Mary Pickford would have been right up her alley.

No Israel, but very good. Jewish law prohibits the viewing of dead bodies in the "wake" fashion. Cohens are further restricted from viewing or attending (ie, undertakers) to dead bodies.

Thanks Actonbell.

Kyahgirl said...

what a nice tribute. I really like the way you write g.
People can't always be the way we expect them to be but its lovely to see the way you enjoyed Aunt Margie, even though she was a bit unexpected.

Your comment about mental health and treatment is interesting to me right now. I just finished a book set about 150 years ago. A man suffered a stroke and experienced a loss of speech and some physical abilities. They ended up putting him in an insane asylum! It was awful. Eventually his speech and most of his faculties returned, as so often happpens in stroke victims. By then, his life was practically destroyed.

RedNeckGirl said...

I am so glad I read your blog....what a beautiful way to remember someone....I am sorry for your loss but it sounds as if your Aunt Margie's spirit will be kept alive by your memories.

G said...

Kyah: Thank you Kyah, that means a lot to me on all counts. We still have a long way to go on the stigma attached to and the treatment of mental ilness, but thank G-d, we've come a long way (as your book attests to).

redneckgirl: I am so glad you did too - it's nice to meet new people. Thank you for your kinds words.

weirsdo said...

That's a great memorial and honors your aunt way better than her lifeless corpse on display, I think. The dead body is not the person, although every now and then when I hear really bad music or teach a super out of tune student, I do imagine Dad's ashes rising in an angry little black cloud out of the pond in the back . . .

G said...

Weirsdo - Now that's a visual that is staying with me and that I shall think of in Tali's group violin class. Very true.