Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Auntie bellum

She was a lady of the mid-twentieth century whose demise was reported the way we get the news in these days of the early twenty-first century.  The Resident Fan Boy got a text via his cousin's husband and relayed the message to me by email.  I pulled up a photo from my laptop and posted it on Facebook: an elegant woman with a chignon and a choker of pearls, sitting next to elder daughter when she was two, twenty years ago.  That was just before she and her husband, my husband's paternal uncle, made the move from Seattle to San Diego.

I haven't seen her since, although we corresponded by the old-fashioned means of letters.  I used to hand-write them until she made a sly joke about the "elegant spider that uses your note-paper".  After that, I typed, then word-processed.  She always responded in writing, never taking on the tiresome nuisances of a computer.

Until three years ago, when she stopped answering, which is when I saw the writing on the wall, so to speak.  I continued to send a card every year, trying always to enclose a letter, because I think it's when she could no longer send them herself that she probably needed them most.

It's not that we were particularly close, but we were both in-laws in a family that didn't welcome outsiders, and although we never discussed the slights suffered under our respective mothers-in-law, I like to think the underlying understanding was there, unspoken as it was.

And now she's left, closing the gate behind her with a discreet metallic click, leaving no footprints and taking with her all the questions I never dared ask.  I suspect the answers would have been, like her, enigmatic.

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