I don’t write about my problems because you don’t want to hear them, I don’t think they’re your business and I don’t like whiners. This post isn’t really about my problems, it’s about dealing with a good person’s problems.
My mother’s parents came from Italy in the 20s. I always laugh as I think about it. My grandfather, Nono, came in the mid-20s alone and worked to make money to bring my grandmother, Nona. He went back to Italy in 28 or so and got back to America in 1930. It always makes me laugh because I see Nona acting all skeptical as Nono kept saying, “I swear the streets were paved with gold. I swear!”
Nona went into labor as their ship docked and was rushed to a hospital so she never made it to Ellis Island and Aunt Nanette was born in NYC. Nona eventually had 3 more daughters, including my mother.
Her sisters call her “Nee” and always say, “Hi Nee” when they greet her.
For years I noticed that they were all calling her a hiney (butt) when they greeted her, but I waited until I was in my 20s to say, “Hiney” at her and then burst out laughing.
I explained it and she thought it was funny that I had waited to say it. Ever after, while I still call her Aunt Nanette, I always greet her with a “Hiney”.
Aunt Nanette is like Mary Tyler Moore, except not at all assertive or self-confident.
Since she often went to Vegas, even travelling there with a girl-friend in 50s, I’m gonna assume she was not exactly a nun. She and her friend lived there for a while and came back via New Orleans, good for you Aunt Nanette.
She stayed single her whole life and worked as a secretary at IBM her whole career, I always figure she would have fit right in with the Mad Men crew.
Aunt Nanette was the one who babysat me, or perhaps I babysat her, it was a fine line.
Her sisters (my mother and aunts) could all cook, not so with Aunt Nanette. Her fridge was a sight to behold, a stark, white box with bare bulb lighting a jar of olives and a quart of expired milk. The freezer had ice and a bottle of Smirnoff.
When I was 6 or 7, I was at her apartment and we were having hot dogs for dinner. I put the water on, turned on the burner, dumped in the last few dogs and threw out the package. Aunt Nanette got all agitated, hands shaking, and said, “Don’t do that! That’s where the directions are!”
I’ll never forget my utter shock that she did not know how to boil hot dogs, a skill I had mastered by the time I was 5.
She bought pork chops once when I was closer to 10. I had to call my father to find out how to cook them, I hadn’t cooked pork chops before. You coat them with Gulden’s and then bread crumbs and bake. We had to go buy mustard and bread crumbs, but they were darn good.
Aunt Nanette never forgot a birthday or Christmas, her cards were always on time. I’ve been pretty broke lately so instead of a $50 gift card to Barnes and Noble, she sent me a check for $100 the last two birthdays.
She is the nicest person I know. There is not a mean bone in her body. I’m not saying she’s a saint but that all her sins were against herself. She’s just a truly good person, of which I’ve met a vanishingly small number in my 52 tears if life.
So the point.
A week ago she had to go the hospital with shortness of breath. They had to drain a quart of fluid from her lungs. She has small cell lung cancer, they gave her 4-6 weeks but my sister told me she was fading faster than that.
She lives in an in-law-apt. attached to my sister’s house. My sister has her own problems and since my last job just ended (tutoring kids who failed the Arizona AIMS test required for HS graduation, they canceled the test), I drove to NY over the weekend to be here with one of my favorite people as she dies.
When I first got here Sunday night, she was in decent shape. She took some meds and stayed in her hospital-type bed, but was still the Aunt Nanette I knew.
She ate her liverwurst sandwiches, drank Pepsi, watched Turner Classic Movies and jonesed for a cig. I think she watched that channel exclusively because every other channel has probably 5 commercials an hour for some cancer society or other and that just bothers her. Aunt Nanette is the master of denial but those commercials force her to face her impending death.
But now, she can’t deny it. She’s so weak it’s a chore to be helped out of bed to the commode we have set up next to the bed. She gets out of breath just chewing a liverwurst sandwich.
Starting yesterday, she freaks out when she’s awake and can’t breathe so we have to keep her doped up on opium and Lorazepan, now she just lays there, asleep looking small with the O2 machine chugging along behind her.
I don’t handle death well, I’ve never seen a dead body not in a casket, I just hope I can be strong enough to make it worse for her.
I’ll miss you.