she bought me the little push-open coin purse that is hanging around my neck in this picture - i can, to this day, remember my excitement at receiving that small gift, the rubber smell of it, the way it opened and closed by squeezing the ends. it really captured my imagination.
i wore it around my neck the whole weekend we spent in Phoenix.
my dad owned a small cesena bi-wing airplane. he flew us everywhere - he even let me pilot it once it was on the air.
this particular weekend we all flew to phoenix, i remember hanging around the swimming pool at this motel. i didn't normally love these trips away from home, but i loved this one. i loved it because we were with my dear aunt lillian and her husband harvey. she made me feel like a princess - and you might be able to tell from the photo - i believed i was a princess.
all my life, growing up during every awkward stage and even the saddest of times, my aunt lillian was there - a steady rock to remind me that someone - an adult relative would listen to me and count me as important. of course my parents were there, but sometimes, they fought or had big grown up things to think about. but not aunt lillian, she talked to me face to face she laughed at my jokes and i would laugh with her about her jokes too. we shared a special relationship and understanding for one another. its hard to explain. she was my dad in feminine form - my dad who was not all that available - but who i loved deeply anyway.
then, later in life, she helped me understand my parents - their dynamics. my mother had her opinion about my dad (and my dad of my mom) that was jaded by the pathos of marriage. aunt lillian had a different view - a clearer view of my life, as it were, and helped me through it all.
aunt lillian's heart swelled with every one of my successes she witnessed in my life; my successes in swimming and going to college, jobs, lawschool, the men in my life and the birth of my children. she also helped me through my painful divorce, my new marriage in england, then the death of my second husband, my grief and the fights i had with my mom - everything. and finally she was there when my mother did not wake up one day in november 18 years ago, just before her 80th bday. she cried hard with uncontrolled hiccups all through the service for my mom, breaking my heart because i felt her loss, i knew she lost her very best friend. if only my mom knew how much her sister in-law loved her. aw, you know, maybe she did.
i saw aunt lillian last week, although she was on her final decline, barely about to swallow a few ounces of liquid food a day, alseep and unable to talk, i was there - i saw - i held her hand and i told her - she was beautiful and it is true, she was - all her long life, 95 years, she was beautiful. of course beautiful within, but also a rare beauty to behold. i bent down and whispered to her - aunt lillian , "you are still the most beautiful woman i know" and although unconscious, she smiled - the same impy smile she would have smiled anytime during her life.
she once told me her secret - she whispered - she used Pond's cream on her face every night. don't tell, it was her secret.
so goodbye my dear aunt (she passed peacefully yesterday morning).......my heart breaks, but also i am very happy i was able to share my life with you near me.
i will bet you are the prettiest woman of all in heaven.
and now, just so you know, i still have my little coin purse close to my heart.