May and June bring Mothers Day and Fathers Day. And memories.

And obligations. It was time again to accompany Aunt Helen to the family resting place to commune with her Mom and Dad—our paternal grandparents.

Quietly, visibly sobbing over the twin graves she shook her head. “I think of both of them every day…still…I can’t get used to it….”

He died in 1954 and she in 1990. Nearly 75 years between them. My sense is, though, that while it may be productive to look at the past, it cannot be healthy to continually stare at it. I was dying to share this wisdom with my aunt but the woman may have asked me about John Elway and “The Drive” and I’m not ready to talk about it. (And by the way, Karlis’s kick in overtime was absolutely wide to his left).

We recited Kaddish.

Then, in prolonged silence my brother and I each held one of her hands, navigated through the fairways of the cemetery, and escorted her to my car. (He had brought her; I would return her….OUR CODE).

“Do you still miss your mother?” she asked me as I exited the grounds.
An interesting query (I thought, considering Mom died in April).

“Yes, but in a positive way.”
“Well that’s ridiculous,” she shot back.

My turn: “Then why did you ask me?” And then I stopped. On a dime. Extending the dialogue at that point would have been frustrating and fruitless. Further, it ALWAYS ends the same way: I say “You’re right,” then walk her up her steps. (Recovery taught me long ago that it is better to be happy than right).

Still, heading back up Cedar with Her Pleasantness safely out of my car, I couldn’t help but muse on what I wanted to say. Sort of like Dennis The Menace, being punished, sitting, thinking on a stool in the corner: “I shouldda told her…….”

That I do miss people in a good way—by taking lessons from their lives.

That there was, to be sure, a synchronicity between my parents and in fact, my in-laws…that each had demonstrated his own level of acceptance with life; that, frankly, but for my mother’s days in the Old Folks Home, each of the quartet seemed relatively content, relatively at peace. I never heard them ask for themselves. Ever. If anything, the actions of each demonstrated an ability to take life on life’s terms and be grateful for what was.

It’s a lesson I learned later than necessary but one that many never digest.

My dad was amazed in the early 70’s: His best friend’s daughter was house hunting, but had turned down several right-priced homes in her area of choice; it seemed she needed a minimum of two full baths. He couldn’t fathom it. Two baths for two people? Couldn’t they take turns, he asked. Incredulously, he described her then as he would from time to time depict me: “She’s crying with a loaf of bread under each arm.”

Nuff said.

My mother-in-law could be tough, but it was always tough love. She would quell the escalating heat of a disagreement with one succinct observation: “….That’s why G/d made chocolate and vanilla….” It was OK to disagree.

She was disabled too soon, but zealously mobilized herself. I missed the last years of her life but I remember the pride and dignity with which she embraced her situation…and kept on truckin’.


My sponsor tells me that I need to accept Aunt Helen as she is. Sometimes I handle that assignment better than others.

He says I don’t HAVE to take her shopping, but I GET to take her shopping.
He says that I don’t have to understand her to accept her…with all her mishigos…He says that I am learning patience, and that is a blessing.

He says I am but a work in progress.

Last Sunday went well, but smooth sailing is not guaranteed. The right behavior (for me) remains a One Day At A Time thing.

But I’m trying. Hard.

So this weekend, when I take her shopping I have a game plan: Inevitably she will criticize. She will find fault in either the route I take, or perhaps the parking space I choose. Or, AND BANK ON THIS ONE: she will groan and chastise my choice of check-out line. And sulk.

Whatever it is, whatever she says, not matter how much she questions me…this week I will stay “on message.” I have the response. I’m waiting for her. Just waiting.

“Aunt, Helen,” I’ll say, “That’s why G/d made chocolate and vanilla.”

She may not understand the analogy, but it will matter not. I will know that it is a lesson learned from missing someone in a good way.

And I will be, at least for one moment in time, both happy and right.


  1. Aunt Helen says:

    I knew that your mother was hard of hearing…. Now we know that that is genetic. “I never heard them ask for themselves.” Even Helen Keller would disagree with that.

Leave a Reply