long time coming

When my mama was pregnant with me, she met my Aunt Lynn. They've been best friends ever since, and she's been kin to me since before I took my first breath. Her laughter and presence colors half the stories from my childhood - tortilla masks at El Chicos, very short walks around a puddle, going to see the space shuttle take off when Hurricane Kate kept us out of school for weeks. Sometimes she lived on a sailboat, and sometimes she lived in houses on the water, and sometimes she lived in trailers near the woods, but we were as welcome wherever she lived as we were in our own beds.

She loved to dance and drink rum and diet coke. She loved the Neville Brothers and James Taylor and Elton John and the rest of those guys, but her favorites were Bob Dylan and the Beatles. She got to see the Beatles play once, when she was young, in New York City. She loved to show us the pictures she took, tiny little figures standing on a stage far away. She joked, "I may have crappy pictures of them playing, but you don't have any at all." She laughed all the time, and I never knew her to be cruel or mean.

Aunt Lynn worked all the time. She would usually have a regular job, maybe something to do with computers and something on the side that was just her own. In the 80s she decorated and sold brightly colored sunglasses. In the early 90s she sewed scrunchies by the hundreds and spent her weekends selling them at the flea market. I'd go with her sometimes to man the booth. She once looked at me and my friends, all of us with shaved heads or cropped hair, and just shook her head. "You guys are no use to me."

Bright colors and dancing and big hugs and the ocean at night and us, these were things she loved. A few years ago, in her mid50s, she started forgetting things. It turned out to be a brain problem that stole her sense more quickly than anyone expected. We crowded around her Tuesday night when the word first came down, my mama and my sisters and her brother and sister and son and niece and mama. She's always been a big woman, but she was so small in that care home bed, while we burned a rose candle and people drank coffee, the scents combining to hold back the stink of cleaning supplies and old folks. Her poor roommate probably thought we were some sort of cult. We sang some songs, those that could hold it together long enough to put together words and tune.

People stayed by her side until the end came, early yesterday morning. What I have written here is dry and worth little compared to the woman she was, but that's okay. I don't have to try to do her life justice, because she did it herself.


Ms. Moon said...

Oh baby. That was beautiful. You got it right. She would be so proud.

juancho said...

she was lucky, so were you.

A V I C E N N A said...

great Malcolm X-like incipit!

A V I C E N N A said...

By the way, I love your anti-phoney attitude.

downtown guy said...

Thanks. That's half the fun of having a blog, being able to say what you need to say and let the devil take the hindmost.

Dave said...

That was a wonderful post. Thanks for sharing it.