My only aunt never married. That’s always the first thing I think of when I think of her. She’s still alive, mind you, so this is not written as an epitaph.
Eileen Mc Nulty was born in the Bronx, N.Y. in 1939. When she speaks, she has a very thick, New York accent which I find aurally appealing and comforting. For her employment, she was an executive assistant extraordinaire, (although she was always called a “secretary”). When I watched the “Mary Tyler Moore Show” on TV, I felt I could imagine Aunt Eileen in her office. My aunt looked stylish to me, and she wore beautiful rings; each one a souvenir of a trip that she took to Spain, Italy, France or one of many alluring destinations..
Aunt Eileen was present at every single thing that was important in my life. At my baptism, she was designated as my godmother. At my First Communion, she presented me with a sparkling cross necklace to wear with my white dress. During one visit, I got a bracelet with my name engraved in it, in cursive writing! At piano recitals, school concerts, musicals, my confirmation, graduations, our wedding and LOTS of things inbetween, Aunt Eileen was there.
Aunt Eileen and Nana came to visit our house every few months or so, during my growing up years. Nana would sit like royalty in her chair the whole time while Aunt Eileen would talk to us about what our interests were. She taught us to play “Rummy”, “Old Maid” and “Go Fish”. I can remember my brother Rich and I staring up at her face with shimmering eyes as she read the directions on the box lids of the games “Sorry”, “Candyland”, “Battle-Ship” and “Monopoly”. She spent time with us. So much time.
Aunt Eileen made me feel important. Her sitting with me, teaching me, being with me, asking about me, making eye contact with me…. implanted something deep inside of me.
Spending a few days with Aunt Eileen this week has made me realize how fragile she has become. She is quiet for long periods of time. Occasionally, she forgets where she is. When she pops out a “zinger” all of a sudden, I am relieved to find that she’s ‘still in there’. With some help from her sister, she is still showing up for everything we do. Lately, however, she is a bit “dreamy”. We need to hold her arm for that big step, remind her about paying her bill, wait patiently, as she eats her food.
Mind you, I’ve got time.