August 13th, 2007

Montecristo Captain Quixote

Contemplating falling stars.

Earlier this evening, I spoke with my mom. She informed me that my Great Aunt Eva had died. She was my maternal grandmother's sister and youngest sibling. Granny, had 11 siblings. Having grown up during the late sixties and seventies, I am in awe of such large families. My relatives are from a different world. Something changed in the mid twentieth century and it left the boomers and subsequent generations on the other side of a vast gulf. Eva had been dying for some time now. It was expected but still the news felt like a surprise. Cancer has claimed another of my relatives. I don't like the idea of mortality, in general, and it is silly to talk about hating a disease, but I hate that one. It is not merely a grief to lose my great aunt, which it is, even though we had been out of touch for years, but it is the sense of horizons closing in that loss of a relative provokes in me. It's disturbing. This coming from a man whose only family within a thousand miles or so consists only of his two daughters. Obviously much more than proximity is in play here. I feel my great aunt's absence from my world.

The earliest memories that I have of my Aunt Eva were of going to the bank with my mother to deposit paychecks. Eva worked at the bank where my parents had an account. She always kept bags of Chiclets gum and Dum-dum suckers at her desk at the drive through teller window for kids of customers. I've seen my aunt angry and upset before but for the most part, she always struck me as a happy woman. She smiled warm smiles, more often than not. She was always full of stories and interesting conversation if not downright show-and-tell with pictures or fascinating items. Her company was always a pleasure for as long as I had known her. She was not one of those adults who excludes children. Obviously she was an extrovert. She was very different from her elder sister. In the first place, she was more animated and a bit less reserved than Granny, and in the second, she was much more of a traveler. She admired my grandmother. Usually, the two of them got along quite well, from what I was able to observe. Sometimes though, Eva's habit of emulating my grandmother's style or purchasing habits would irk my grandmother, even though I'm certain that Granny realized that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

I remember a trip to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina with my family and Aunt Eva and her husband John. She had a movie camera with her and took lots of footage that week. She kept saying that we'd have to come over to her house and see it some time, but we never did find the time. I suppose that it will end up in some garbage can now. I wonder what her family will make of it, if they find it. Contemplating this often makes me wonder what someone would think encountering this writing and all of that e-mail, paper correspondence, journals, etc. I have saved or otherwise boxed up, should they still be around after I am gone. The people to whom I was writing would be unknown to most of those close to me, for the most part. I wonder what would be revealed about her or me, or about anyone, for that matter, by the effects and writings they leave behind. I wonder how well I really knew my great aunt. I wonder how well I myself am known. Sometimes, despite the volubility of my pen, I am tempted to conclude, "not very well known." The question is, does this matter? Is this common desire to be known, understood, perhaps desired for what we truly are all that important if we have a satisfying life regardless? Certainly it is a question which no longer disturbs my great aunt.