My fun, vivacious aunt who had no fewer than four spinach salad recipes, loved to run on the beach when she was 50, and always wore 3-inch heels, now at 84, still has cute legs. Walking down the hall of the nursing home, I saw them sticking out, half-hidden behind a curtain around her bed. Then I looked at the face and said, "That's her. Or it's someone else who looks exactly like my grandfather did at 97."
My Aunt Edie, who loved red wine and the color yellow and to laugh and play pool, lays in bed now and compulsively scratches her neck. She always used a tiny brush to put on her lipstick, seeing her now without make up is a harder adjustment than having her not know who I am. She has the same eyes she always did, the same high cheekbones, skin that shows she took care of it for years, and makes me rethink the need for sunscreen. I petted her arm and asked if that was okay with her. "Yes," she said, which is now her only word. Her biggest joy in life these days is chewing gum.
The necklace my aunt is wearing in this photo, my uncle bought for her in Clearwater Beach, Florida for their one year wedding anniversary. Soemthing like twenty one-carat diamonds form a heart-shape, with one larger diamond in the center. From the day she got it, she never took it off. She showered in it, wore it with gowns on New Years Eve and running on the beach. She wore with her bathing suit while working on her tan. Her smile and that necklace, Aunt Edie lit up our world.
After wearing the necklace every day since May 1967, around 1990, in the grocery store, my aunt felt around her neck and realized the necklace was missing. She searched everywhere, crying, put ads in the paper but never saw the necklace again. She believed she lost it while walking across a parking lot.
Wednesday my sister and I visited my aunt in the convelencent hospital and talked about how adorable she was. "If there was anything of hers I ever wanted, I would have loved to have had that necklace," my sister said. I knew exactly what necklace she was talking about, no one forgets bling like that.
While my sister and I have spent the last few days holding my dad's hand in hospice, my uncle has been searching his house for the combination to his safe. He invited my sister up to her house the other day and surprised--or absolutely freaked her out, given that we'd just been talking about the necklace--her with a gift. She walked into my dad's room and at his bedside, I looked up to see the diamond heart-shaped necklace around my sister's neck and screamed. My uncle says he found it in a jacket pocket of my aunt's, without the chain.
Of course, I'm only somewhat insanely jealous, but I am so happy to see the necklace, and I love seeing it on my sister.
Difficult as it is to believe it's her, her legs twisted in a blanket, unable to have a conversation, scratching and chewing gum, seeing my darling Aunt Edie in her dramatically altered state is still seeing her. I'm going to go see her again while I'm home. I think I'll take lipstick to put on her, and some lotion to smooth where she's been scratching.
Update: I spent most of the time during my second visit with Aunt Edie telling her about her wedding, I was her flower girl. I told her every detail I could remember, she seemed to enjoy hearing about her velvet and silk dress, the tiara she wore and the rose petals I put in everyone's champagne. I found out this morning, before I had a chance to publish what I wrote earlier, that my Aunt Edie died yesterday.