Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Sunday Morning Chats with Aunt Pat

My Aunt called me Sunday morning, early Sunday morning. She likes to call early, I think she feels it gives her the advantage, catch me when I’m sleepy and I might say something that will provoke the response.

“You really should show some respect …”

So the phone rings – did I mention it was early.

“Charlton Heston died”

“Hello? Aunt Pat? Is everything OK!? Who died?”

“I told you, Charlton Heston died” she sounds annoyed yet strangely amused. My spider senses are awakening.

“Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t hear about that”

“Don’t you watch the news?”

“Yes I watch the news but not yet today, it’s very early you know”

“Well I thought I’d call before I went to church”. I’m awake now. Anytime Auntie can get death and church into the first 30 seconds of a conversation I know it’s time for a full alert. When I was a teen we argued over everything – clothes, politics, music, movies, and most of all religion. When my multi-racial son was born we added race to the line-up.

Aunt Pat is in her 80s. I think. There is much mystery surrounding my Mother and her siblings. I didn’t know until my Mom died that she had actually been born two years earlier than we had been told, and on a different day. To this day no one has come up with an explanation for that. To honor their Mother, my beloved Nana, I learned as I got older to not sweat the details. “Born, schmorn” Nana would have said. “You’re here aren’t you!?”

Another one of Nana’s pearls was – “What a shame to get older and not be any wiser”. She would say that as we sat in the old neighborhood park where she was routinely snubbed by the other ladies because she was Jewish and had married a Christian. I think free-spirited living skips a generation in my family. Nana – open to all, embracing the world in all its colors and religions and opinions. Her children – closed and cautious and suspicious of the world. Then came me – the only grandchild she lived to know, the one she called “Schmutz Face” and the one she swore she had known in a previous life. And now I watch my son become somewhat prudish and I see him roll his eyes at some of my opinions, much the way my aunts and uncles did with Nana. My grandchildren are going to be a blast!

“You always hated Charlton Heston”.

“Are you talking about when I was a kid? That was 40 years ago, how do you remember that?”. “Plus I never hated him, he scared me, he gave me the creeps and you always made me watch his movies”.

“The man was a saint”. I am frantically trying to recall whether Aunt Pat and I have ever had a discussion (argument) about guns and the NRA. Damn the early hour. I need coffee for this.

“I’m going to light a candle for him this morning”. “Do you know the candles are $10 now! That new pastor raised the price, he’s a thief”. I want to remind her that I have always said that the church is far too materialistic but I want to avoid – “you really should show some respect”. That never leads to any place good.

I tell her that I think it’s lovely that she will be lighting the candle for Heston.

“He’s in heaven now” she assures me. “Where he belongs”. “I know you don’t believe in heaven but I do”, her tone gets a little cranky and my nerve endings are screaming for coffee and a way out. I try, for the umpteenth time, to tell her that it’s not a problem that we don’t believe the same things.

“So, you still believe in reincarnation? Like the Buddhists and the Communists?”

I fight the urge to mention the Hindus and I let the Communist label slide. “I don’t know if you can call it reincarnation exactly. I believe that all forms of life have energy attached to them and that energy never dies, it takes new forms”.

I entertain myself by imagining Charlton Heston’s energy come back as a small bird at an elite hunting club or maybe as a terrorized child hiding under a desk while gunshots scream around him.

“Are you listening to me!”

“I am, I am, just a little sleepy, where were we?”

“Charlton Heston and you being scared of him, I watched his movies all night. I have all of them on DVD, in a beautiful gift box” she speaks so lovingly of her collection.

“I know you do” and I don’t bother telling her the DVD’s were a Mother’s Day gift from me. I put them in a giant hat box covered in tulips. It was the closest thing I could find to the hat box Nana treasured for years and years.

“Took you forever to find that hat box didn’t it?” – Aunt Pat has an incredible knack for being in my head at times. I laugh and tell her it did but it was worth it. I can hear her smiling.

“What’s that noise” she barks, never one to leave a nice moment alone.

“It’s the new cat” I tell her, “she’s crying for breakfast”. “It is very early you know”.

“Another rescue huh?” “You were always like that, finding things and animals and riff-raff , you had to save everything and everyone”. “Your Grandmother was like that”.

Memories are flowing back and forth across the phone lines, across the miles and across the generations.

“Nana was special” I say quietly and Auntie agrees. She tells me she needs to get going for church, she has to make the earliest mass otherwise she gets confused and might end up in the Spanish mass again.

“It’s full of those Mexicans” she tells me. Let it slide, let it slide.

“OK, enjoy mass and light the candle; it will make you feel better”.

“How do you know I need to feel better?” – she sounds surprised and annoyed. I didn’t know I knew she needed to feel better until I did so of course I can’t explain.

“Just figured you were upset about Charlton Heston” – it sounded lame even to me.

“Well he was Moses you know” she laughs, pleased with her sarcasm. “I just got to thinking about your Grandmother and that made me think of you and I was feeling old and out of touch”.

“You are old and out of touch” I laugh back, “I’m old so you’d have to be very, very old wouldn’t you?”

“You really should show some respect” and we both laugh. And I tell her I love her and she tells me I am a good girl, a pain in the “tush”, but a good girl.

“I’m going to be late for church”.

“OK, I’ll call you next Sunday, early!. Have fun at church and tell God I said hello”

“You really should show some … I Love You, Bye”.

Love You Too Auntie.

I’m so glad this was one of the posts I started and then dropped. Originally it was all about Heston and guns and the NRA and my old arguments with my Aunt. I became exhausted by writing it and it didn’t feel right.

If it doesn’t feel right don’t do it – that’s what I always say. Actually I have never said that but I’m going to start.

So I left it alone and then I had a dream about Nana. Nothing spectacular or earth shattering, just a sense of Nana’s smile, I heard her voice – thick with her Russian/Yiddish accent, I could smell her – she always smelled like flowers and cookies. She didn’t garden or bake so go figure. I felt her feeling at peace. And I heard her say my aunt’s Russian name.

Nana would be so pleased that I didn’t argue with Aunt Pat. I think it was Nana who made me know that Auntie needed to feel better.

I’m going to call Aunt Pat every Sunday morning – early!

Note: the image is of a painting by ‘Harriet Wiseman’ that I found here
It looks a bit like us.


Mahala said...

It's funny how Nana's always seem to be around when we need them :) I'm reminded of mine whenever I see little old Greek ladies on the travel channel. Too bad the closest explanation I ever got was "theys some indian blood and (giggling) a little black in there too." My aunt would always shoosh her and change the subject then. How could Mamaw be so open and accepting of everyone, and her children be so prejudiced and afraid?

Am I rambling? I should cook dinner lol.


Dianne said...

You're not rambling Mahala and it's wonderful when you do.

"How could Mamaw be so open and accepting of everyone, and her children be so prejudiced and afraid?" Exactly and I see it's not just my family. Maybe there is something to my 'skip a generation' theory!? Or maybe we were both just blessed with wondrous Nana/Mamaw.

Enjoy your dinner :)

Anndi said...

That was such a lovely post. There's such a strong bond between the womenfolk...

Was your Nana a good story teller too?

Schmutz Face... *smile* I like that.

cathy said...

great post!

Raven said...

Wonderful as always. I can feel the love... and I love your ideas for Heston's return as a bird. Sounds like a good reincarnation plan for Dick Cheney too. This was beautiful and made me feel happy. The painting is beautiful. I have to check out the artist. That if it doesn't feel right don't do it voice does usually seem to come out right when I listen to it.

Lu' said...

Hi Dianne. Thanks for stopping over. Did you notice my two girls on the side bar. Isabelle is 7yrs old. We took her from a woman about to walk into the Humane Society with her, she was 12 weeks old. We Purchased Angelina from a pet store after our 18 year old passed. We're toying with getting a dog but I don't want to upset the girls. They are very spoiled.

Law Student Hot Mama said...

What a great post!

My mom is like that. Heh - last time she came to visit she wanted Chinese take-out so It ook her to my favorite Chinese place. The woman asked Mom for her order, and she was totally confused and just smiled and nodded until the woman arbitrarily chose something for her. When I asked her why she didn't order, she said, "I don't know anything about those kinds of places." HAHAHA - what kind of places? Where they ask you for your order in English? Poor Mom. And yet it makes her loveable somehow, too.

Michael Manning said...

Dianne: What an interesting Blog. Your Aunt is the last of a generation that believes in many unfortunate myths. I know it must be painful. My Mother puts the gun issue this way: "If you live your life right, you don't need guns". I find that so simple and true. There are SO many guns in this country. I have one or two friends who have them and hunt. I just can't do it. You sound like a FUN person, Dianne! :)

fermicat said...

I really enjoyed this post. You found a good way to deal with your aunt in a tough situation. I wish I could be that tactful with some of my family conversations.

Shelly said...

I loved this post. While I was reading it and scrolling down I was hoping it wasn't going to end soon.
Heston as a bird...ohhhh myyyy, I have a visual.
BTW...I think your Auntie and my mother-in-law were twins separated at birth. Looooove those early calls.

Jay said...

My family has different kind of split. Part of the family is left-leaning Democrats and the other part are far right conservatives. It's easy to figure out which is which though. The ones that have never left that really small town (pop. 1,200) and don't travel much are the most conservative.

We don't have arguments over politics though. We don't that much contact. LOL

It's always fun when my Nana Creta calls though. She's more liberal than I am and it's funny to listen to her get wound up over Republicans. She turns 90 this year and she's still pretty feisty.

Quiet Rage said...

Do we have the same aunt?

Diane Mandy said...

Great post! It is funny how generations seem to swing back and forth from left to right. Your relationship with your aunt sounds like the one between my mom and I--only you all are in a much better place.

the walking man said...

Even though I never had an aunt or great aunt, grandmother or mother anything like this Aunt Pat of your's, this post made me laugh and happy that you waited and sorted things out in your mind AND that I only get about three hours sleep a day and am highly caffeinated by 2AM.



Leighann said...

My grandmother was a bird lover/watcher. Every so often I see a Cardinal perched near me. I know it's her checking in so I tell her we're okay. :)

Nettie said...

I have a great Aunt Pat that sounds just like your Aunt Pat. Absolute Spit Fire. Thanks for sharing that, it really is a beautiful post.

Odat said...

What a lovely post! It felt right!

Dianne said...

anndi - Nana was a great storyteller! and even when she didn't intend to she was hilarious. she would weave these tales in Russian, English and Yiddish and the words would all blend! thanks for stopping by - and congrats on your award. I went by your blog but could not come up with a comment worthy of your last post.

thank you cathy!

Dianne said...

raven - I didn't think of Cheney coming back as a bird too! I think I might want him to come back as a soldier being sent back for another tour. definitely check out the artist, her other stuff is lovely too.

Dianne said...

lu - I did notice your girls! and I'm envious that they sit together so sweetly. Mia and Siren are not feeling the love - yet! I love your blog and I'm glad that I found you. that leighann just keeps giving and giving, she's a giver ;)

law student - yep, you gotta find the loveable and let the rest slide.

michael - I remember you quoting your Mom on your blog - she sounds wonderful!

fermicat - it helps that Auntie is older now and I feel she needs a more gentle approach. you should hear me with some of the other family members ;)

shelly - it is quite a visual isn't it!!

Dianne said...

jay - Nana Creta sound wonderful. You're so lucky to have her to talk to.

quiet rage - yes! we probably do :)
we can seek comfort in that.

diane m - I have to write sometime about me and my Mom. we never did find a better place. I think it's easier with aunts. keep trying, it's worth it.

mark - only 3 hours!! doesn't that catch up to ya? I'm glad I waited and sorted it out too, this post has a much more healing feel to it and I thank you because your comment had a lot to do with me sorting it all out. So see - you did bring about some peace.

Dianne said...

leighann - what a beautiful sentiment. I have no doubt that your Grandmother is checking in and I surely have no doubt that you're all good cause you are.

nettie - thank you! I think Aunt Pat likes that I don't talk down to her or treat like her she's lost any of her fire. I know her kids sometimes do and it makes her feel bad.

odat - took a while to get to "feels right" but I'm so glad I waited. thank you so much!

Minnesotablue said...

Nana sounds like the kind of Gradma I would have loved. Your Aunt Pat sounds like my Mother, minus the religion. So I came from a conservative Mother and a liberal union loving Pop.Thank goodness I followed my Dad's philosphy. As for Charlton Heston, I can imagine him coming back as big crow.

Knight said...

What a beautiful story about generations and acceptance. I'm so glad I came here today.

Doc said...

I like the post a lot... and also wanted to ask if you saw Annie Lennox sing last night on Idol gives Back... Phenominal!

Clowncar said...

That was a very sweet post. I like how you ept tamping down your urge to disagree with her. And I loved this little tidbit:
"I entertain myself by imagining Charlton Heston’s energy come back as a small bird at an elite hunting club or maybe as a terrorized child hiding under a desk while gunshots scream around him."

Thanks for visiting the Oort Cloud. You are right about Jo. She rocks.

Jeni said...

Loved the banter back and forth between you and your Aunt Pat. Some sections of it reminded me a lot of talking with my Dad's baby sister -who will be 91 on the 22nd of this month. She was notorious for the guilt-tripping she would try to put me and my cousins on from time to time, as well as my older daughter, who she could suck down those guilt tubes in a heart beat. I learned over the years to let it fly over my head but it took a long time till I reached that point. Some of our conversations with my aunt though could be really funny too.
By the way - did I mention I loved this post, cause I did!

artisbliss said...

Thanks for commenting on my blog.

I think everyone must have certain relatives whom we love deep down, but who are difficult to deal with.

Mary said...


I loved reading this post and learning more about your family. Your aunt sounds very much like one of mine, but we love each other and she is my favorite aunt. She has advanced cancer and know that within a year I will lose her. Cherish your aunt while you can.

Thank you for dropping by and commenting on my post. I look forward to getting to know you better.


Jo said...

That was beautiful, your Nana sounds so special. Your conversation with Auntie made me chuckle--your grace always impresses me but this one, without coffee, damn you're good!

I love the way past-present-future seem to exist all at once when I'm talking to family members. My Aunt will still say, Be careful you don't bite off too much, remember that time you insisted on carrying the watermelon & dropped it on the porch. I was 6.

Akelamalu said...

:) sometimes it's so much easier to just agree! Great post.

Sparkling Red said...

She's a funny bunny. Calling you to get some attention and affection, but she just can't resist picking a fight. Some people are so prickly! But she does sound quite loveable. :-)

Rich said...

Ok, that does it. You are going on by Blogroll at the Opinion Post. I had you on the rtmims writer site but you are just too damned funny to not be everywhere.

Thanks for stopping by today too. No, my head doesn't hurt. It's usually my heart that aches when doing any thinking about Bush, that's why I resort to comedy for some temporary healing.


CG said...

your post really captured the joys and difficulties of relations between relations as well as generations! I bet you'll get along great with your grandchildren!!

Dianne said...

minnesota - there were big crows all over my lawn last night. now I know it's because of the rain and the insects but ...

knight - thank you! I'm learning that to be accepted I have to practice acceptance. and who says you can't teach an old dog, or is that an old bitch!? ;)

doc - I can't believe I missed Idol Gives Back, it's the only time I watch anything Idol related. I adore Annie. Hope it will repeated this weekend. thanks for the visit.

clowncar - thanks for visiting here too! jo brings so many good folks together. I must admit I loved my own Heston imaginings and I too am so happy with the way the chat with Pat turned out.

Dianne said...

jeni - you did mention you loved it and I thank you. I try to focus on the funny and the love and I chant "let it slide" a lot.

artbliss - I think you're right. have to focus on the love part and let the difficult slide.

mary - blessings to you too. so sorry about your aunt. life is so short and most arguements aren't worth having.

jo - the not having coffee part was killing me! I was rocking back and forth at one point. I can't believe I didn't realize I could just carry the phone with me and go make a pot. I just don't get me sometimes!

akelamalu - it is! but often Aunt Pat will hear it in my voice and then snap at me - "don't you humor me!" I really do think she enjoys a bit of harmless argueing and she respects that I don't treat her as though she has in any way lost her stride.

sparkling red - "prickly" that's a great description. of course if I mention that to Auntie she'll tell me to watch my language.

Dianne said...

rich - Wow! thank you, you make me feel like a rock star - albeit an aged, out of shape rock star but still!!
and I'm thrilled you think I'm funny considering how brilliantly funny your post was.
he makes my heart ache as well, I'm actually thankful to him for being a moron so at least I have comedic relief. now dick ... as I type dick a dark cloud passes over my home, hope it's not the copters.

cg - thanks. I hope to be Nana all over again.

Casdok said...

Super post!

Tammy said...

As I was reading this post i realized that I was smiling. Wonderful story!

kenju said...

".....imagining Charlton Heston’s energy come back as a small bird at an elite hunting club."

PRICELESS line, Dianne, just priceless. I love it.

Your aunt Pat sounds like my mother's sister. LOL

Dianne said...

thank you casdock :)

tammy - I love it when I can make people laugh or smile. thanks for the visit.

kenju - thanks LOL, wouldn't it be lovely. I think we all have an aunt Pat.

Jen said...

It's such a different era our elders are from/grew up in from how we were brought up. . . . In the same breath, it amazes me how things are so different yet stay so much the same.

I've learned too, that you just can't argue them all. It's too exhausting. And, all before church and coffee - the dead aren't even awake then!

P.S. Thanks for visiting my site. I hope to see you back there; I'll definitely pop back in here.

Karen said...

This totally reminded me of when my grandpa called me - in a panic - to tell me Natalie Wood was dead. But that was just because she drowned and I was on the swim team and water was clearly no longer safe.

Ah, got to love old people. WTG for not getting baited. I would not have been so strong.

Farmer*swife said...

Whoooo, took me awhile to scroll through your reader/commentorship.

I sware I've been here...but, I don't think I commented. Mighta' still been such a newbie when I fell in here.

Great post. Gosh, so many of my dreams somehow end up in the house My Gramm lived in "forever" before we had to move her as her heart was failing her, slowly yet quickly.

She could type 100+ words a minute (90+ she'd always correct me, without errors. Either way? Great.) She was a human dictionary. She was a human punctuator, grammatic, and all of that.

She was reeeaally somethin' special. I loved her then? But, I sure love her now and realize all "I didn't take time" to learn from her then.

Thanks for bringing all that back to me again...

Reb said...

Good post, I think all seven of mom's sisters were like that and I thank god that she moved out West to marry dad. Otherwise, it would have been an endless round of "when are you getting married" just like they gave their own children.

Of course living out west meant I didn't get to know my only surviving Grandparent very well, I think I only met her about 6 times. Dad had 6 brothers though, all close enough that I never actually missed having grandparents.

Good for you for being patient with her.

Dianne said...

jen - I will definitely be back to your site! love "the dead aren't even awake then"

karen - I get better and better at not being baited, comes with age so you've got plenty of time :)
How sweet that Grandpa was worried about you in the water.

farmers wife - so many people responded to this post, I think because it's such a kindred experience. I think you've been here and commented on my PFC. And if you realize what you didn't learn from Grandma then you learned it. Isn't that something :)

wow reb - big family. I'm really glad I was patient too :) thanks.

Sandpiper said...

What a wonderful post!

Lisa said...

A weekly entry about your early morning telephone call with Auntie Pat would be so funny. I'd read it every week.

I'm glad you had a Nana like you did. I didn't, but I hope to be just like yours when I do become one.

Casdok said...

Thank you! And yes i will.
Take care x

magnetbabe said...

Buddhists and Communists and Mexicans! Oh my!

I loved this post. Aunt Pat sounds like a gem. A friends and I were just discussing the older people we know that we just have to kind of swallow our opinions around because they are too set in their ways.

Meanwhile, Nana sounds kickass. I can see where your kindness and tolerance comes from.

Dianne said...

thank you sandpiper!

lisa - you've given me an idea, weekly Chats with Pat posts. She'd love being blog famous as soon as I explain what a blog is. I have no doublt you will be a fantastic Nana.

casdock - will think of you and C each day. Hugs.

Aunt Magnetbabe is back! Or should I say Dr. Aunt Magnetbabe. Mia and Siren are very impressed. And Nana would have loved being called kick-ass.

Bob-kat said...

I read this yesterday and have been trying to find the time to come back and comment! I could so relate to this. It sounds like just the sort of conversations I have with my mother. I loved how, in this conversation, your nana was some common ground that bought you together for a moment at least. Charlton Heston notwithstanding (whom I share your view about).

This was so wonderfully written that If I ever had a perfect post award, I would want to give it to you. Just so you know.

Thanks also for your kind comments on my dysfuntional family post. Of all of the people who commented I felt that you understood. Thanks.

tt said...

Yep, as usual, I came here after a very looonnggggg day and what did i find?? My daily dose of humor and family. You're very clever you know that?
Um, do you have any books published that I could get? ;)

the walking man said...






Dianne said...

I really appreciate that bob-kat, I truly felt for you, I've been there. We all help each other :)

tt - I'm trying to write some stuff, a local publication is considering me for some 'taste of daily life' type stuff. I told them I wanted a column LOL

mark - long as you're not shouting at me ;)

Andrée said...

Good morning, Dianne. Thank you for stopping by. I read this beautiful piece and I am in awe. You are a wonderful writer. This tugged at me, made me chuckle (you are so accurate with characters) and gave me a tear at the end. I'm glad you didn't write about the guns/NRA; so many people do. But so few are able to write a narrative like this. thank you. I am so glad I stopped by.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

What a perfectly delightful post! And I thought you showed a tremendous amount of respect by all the thoughts you didn't share with Aunt Pat, but with us.

I'm so glad you had a role model like your Nana. She was the one to emulate.

And I can't tell you how much I love the thought of Charlton Heston coming back as a bird at an elite hunting club!