Because I Didn’t Get to Say Goodbye

March 26, 2010

in random

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I never really look at it this way: I had an unusual a non-standard childhood. My family was poor. It just felt normal to me since I did not know any other way of living. I never gave it a second thought that I slept in the same room with my parents next to their bed on a comforter folded up on three dining room chairs lined up side by side. To this day, I require minimal space when I sleep; I never realized the cause and effect. I did not know to be embarrassed by the fact that my mother worked as a hotel “concierge” who happened to also clean the rooms and change the sheets. I was always well fed and nicely clothed, with lots of fancy stuffed animals and chocolate and candies from Japan. I later learned that my classmates in grade school thought my parents were college professors and we were wealthy.

What do you know? Kids are dumb.

It had never occurred to me how generous and kind it was for my aunt to take me in and to bring me up when my parents couldn’t take care of me themselves. They had to hold down jobs that did not allow raising a young child: odd hours, overnight schedules, long stint abroad, while their older boys though old enough to look after themselves, not old enough to care for another child.

It was the most natural thing. I had never once felt not being part of my aunt’s family, probably because I was not the only niece that she took in. There were always quite a few children living in her house. Some for a couple of years; one cousin was under my aunt’s care until she reached her adulthood. I stayed until I was in the second grade: I remember threatening my mother that I would walk back to my aunt’s house whenever she scolded me. I believe I did quite a few times much to her annoyance.

There was always a lot of food. Elaborate dishes. My aunt was an accomplished cook, capable of whipping up an entire banquet of twelve full courses on her own. Extravagant dishes worthy for a wedding party. My mother subsequently accused me for ruining her interest and drive for cooking because my taste buds were so well-trained (Spoiled!) during those years that there was simply no way my mother could ever match it.

Amongst all my aunts and their friends, my aunt was the prettiest. The most talented. She was not supposed to become the work horse of the family. One of my vivid childhood memories was the first time I saw the picture of her and her best friend, both members of some society for young ladies, all dolled up in classic dresses. It was taken at one of their musical performances. She was gorgeous. “Svelte”. That image of her is what comes to mind whenever I see this word. There were fourteen children in my father’s family. Being the oldest girl, as many of these stories went, my aunt was married to a wealthy businessman, twenty years her elder, which brought a lot of relief to the family.

Family lore has it that she spoiled me rotten: always making my favorite dishes, , taking me everywhere with her, showing me off to all her friends. I wanted to think that I was her favorite, but I know that she managed somehow to make all of us believe that we were her favorite. She was always joyful, and damn it if this woman was not loud. Loud and spunky. Her laughter brought life to all the family gatherings, especially at the numerous wedding banquets.

“Is she going?” We would ask each other, relieved after confirming that she would be present.

She was definitely the favorite amongst all the aunts and uncles.

Every time when I went to visit her, she bragged about how the pearl powder she paid with top dollars and fed me when I was living with her still shows its positive influence.

“You have good skin because of it.” She cooed. So we made my husband thank her that I did not turn out to be a complete dog. “But you really should put on some make-up and lose some weight.” What can I say? That’s the way we show love for each other in this family.

Three weeks ago I found out from Facebook that my aunt was taken to ICU. I immediately called home and learned that they had intubated her and she remained unconscious. Since her organs have been failing due to old age and a myriad of health issues, we knew that she would never fully recover. We were told to get ready for the inevitable, but when, the doctor could not say.

Could be months.

I told Mr. Monk about my aunt, and also my contingency plan of going home when the day comes.

“Why do you want to wait until she’s dead? Why don’t you go home now that she is still alive?”

I have been crying on and off ever since. It took a child to see and point out loud the absurdity of this. I fantasized about going home this June to visit my aunt and also to celebrate my dad’s 80th birthday with him, in person. The thought gave me some respite from crying.

Yesterday I got the phone call. Even though I was prepared, I was not prepared at all.

Yes, she has passed away. No, she never regained consciousness. The doctor had known her time was near and had informed the family to gather around to see her off.

The family. Not the “immediate” nuclear family in the U.S. sense. The entire, friggin’, family. There are no second cousins. We are all brothers and sisters. Nephews and nieces. And for some of us, like-daughters and like-mothers. We are ALL immediate family.

And they did. They were there with her when she went home.

On the phone, my mom kept on telling me that I wouldn’t have been able to do anything even if I had been there. That my aunt wouldn’t have known I was there.

Mom is supposed to say things like this. But I know. I will bear the burden of not being there in my conscience.

Forever I will wish that I got took the chance to say goodbye.

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{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Andrea March 27, 2010 at 4:50 am

Huge hugs for you, and tears too. Those pictures and memories are precious — I love reading about your past. Your aunt and your family sound incredible. Your mom is right, of course, but the guilt you feel is useful for a while, I know. The guilt will leave when you are ready for it to go, and in it’s place you will be left with fresh and clean memories of your aunt, unclouded by guilt. And I bet that’s how she would prefer to be remembered. How lucky you are to have had such an amazing woman influence your life!

And while all that may be true, it still SUCKS more than anything.

I’m so sorry, and I’m wishing you peace. {{HUGS}}
.-= Andrea´s last blog…"Sweet Child O’ Mine" =-.

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Merrilymarylee March 27, 2010 at 6:18 am

(—H——U——G—–S!—-)

Your mother IS right. The pictures are so sweet. . . I especially love that last one. What a pair of beauties! That must have been one really special outing. Hug those boys of yours until they squirm and be absolutely assured that the best parting gift you could give your aunt is to remember her with love, not guilt. She’d want that–truly. Cherish your memories of that beautiful lady. She must have been so proud of you! I love the pearl powder story.

(On a different note, I don’t think you’ve been exactly seaworthy–or fly-worthy–these last few weeks! Give yourself a break. No guilt. Your aunt loved you. Honor her by passing it on.)
.-= Merrilymarylee´s last blog…Whine Opener =-.

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Jana@Attitude Adjustment March 27, 2010 at 6:34 am

Wow, SubWOW. This made me emotional. It’s a beautiful tribute to your aunt and your childhood.

I’m sorry for your loss.
.-= Jana@Attitude Adjustment´s last blog…Spill It!: The Evolution of an Interfaith Family =-.

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Elly Lou March 27, 2010 at 6:57 am

Those words were dripping with love, my sweet. She knew and felt that, too. That kind of love and affection can’t be contained by continents or oceans. Rest easy, she knew how much you deeply appreciated all that she did for you. How could she possibly not? I’m so sorry for your loss.
.-= Elly Lou´s last blog…And The Concrete Phallus Goes To… =-.

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Diane March 27, 2010 at 7:04 am

This was just beautiful. I related to your statement that it never occurred to you that there was anything different about the way you grew up. I grew up somewhat poor, too, and slept in a crib in my mother’s room and then in her bed with her until I was way too old to not have my own bed. I had a perfect childhood, though. Sounds like you did too.

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Wicked Shawn March 27, 2010 at 12:18 pm

Love is not shown or given by standing watch at the end, it is shown and given during the quiet times, when you share the precious memories of her with your boys. When you remember her beauty and grace and the lessons she taught you and let them guide you through decisions you make in life.
I am so sorry for your loss, love. I will raise my glass to you and your Aunt tonight at exactly 10pm Eastern time. In celebration of a woman who was there for you when you needed, who helped to shape someone who is a bright spot in this world.
.-= Wicked Shawn´s last blog…Wicked Girls Would, Would You? =-.

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A Vapid Blonde March 27, 2010 at 2:00 pm

Losing someone like that is never easy and I am convinced we are never prepared…never. I hope you go easy on yourself and know that your aunt would not want you to feel even a moment of guilt. ((hugs))
.-= A Vapid Blonde´s last blog…I Have Sweaty Palms, And No It’s Not For Any Sexy Reasons =-.

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Amber March 27, 2010 at 2:52 pm
Jane March 27, 2010 at 7:54 pm

This is, without a doubt, the most beautiful tribute to someone that I have read on a blog. I am so, so, so sorry for your loss – in so many ways. You and your aunt and your family are in my heart. Prayers, comfort, hugs – none of it seems enough for you now – but it’s all I have. You have my number. Call if you need to. xoxo
.-= Jane´s last blog…Jane’s Secrets or The Things You’re Already Thinking But Are Afraid To Say Outloud =-.

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Linda at Bar Mitzvahzilla March 28, 2010 at 3:23 am

What a fascinating story and how lucky you are, and everyone in your family is, to have had the love of such a woman!

Sitting vigil might have been a communal thing that your family does but you know inside your heart that love is love, and your aunt felt your love. Distance doesn’t change that and physicality – hers or your ability to be here or there – has to be immaterial.

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rapjack March 28, 2010 at 6:59 am

yeah, dealing with the end is a tough one. I don’t think you can judge your love or connection to someone by one single, off snapshot of time…no matter how contrary it feels to your true sentiments. Andrea is correct about the guilt subsiding and the great memories remaining. Great tribute !
.-= rapjack´s last blog…The Whoopie Pie that tamed The Scorpion =-.

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Stephanie March 28, 2010 at 7:46 pm

What a beautiful tribute to your Aunt – who sounds like a truly amazing woman! I’m so sorry for you’re loss. Please don’t beat yourself up that you weren’t there. She knows how much you love her and you not being there couldn’t change that.

Take care of yourself!
.-= Stephanie´s last blog… =-.

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Velva March 28, 2010 at 10:04 pm

This was a wonderful tribute to your aunt.
My thoughts are with you. Your aunt would have been displeased if she knew you were feeling guilty-put that useless feeling away and celebrate her life!
.-= Velva´s last blog…David Lebovitz’s Chocolate Spice Bread =-.

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Robin March 29, 2010 at 6:51 am

What a beautiful and intense story, makes any of my childhood stories pale in comparison. Thank you for sharing and I’m so sorry about your aunt.
.-= Robin´s last blog…Fuck This =-.

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subWOW March 29, 2010 at 5:03 pm

I just want to thank you all for the kind words and support. I am doing ok, and I will be able to go home for the funeral so I am looking forward to paying my respect and to seeing my families. Thanks again. I am truly blessed to have found such a wonderful group of people through my blog. xxoo

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mrsblogalot March 29, 2010 at 5:07 pm

I am so sorry for your loss Lin and you know that she knew how much you loved her. I know that is another thing a mother is supposed to say but it is true. Let that stuff off your conscious now and fill it up with some of those beautiful memories that you just shared with us. Those are the only things that she’d want on your mind I’m sure. xoxooxxo and many many hugs!!!! M

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alejna March 29, 2010 at 10:33 pm

I’m so, so sorry. She sounds like a really amazing woman. Thank you for sharing a bit of her and your love for her with us.
.-= alejna´s last blog…talking tomatoes =-.

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Unknown Mami March 30, 2010 at 11:55 am

I am at work and crying. I am so sorry for your loss.

I had an aunt like that too and when she passed I felt like I lost my childhood. I am ashamed to say that when she got sick, very sick, I could not, would not see her. I couldn’t deal with it. I am weak. I acted like it wasn’t happening.

One day I was going through some papers and I found a hilarious letter that she had written me. I broke down in sobs. She was still alive, but very weak. I called and my cousin (her grandson) had to hold the phone to her ear. I told her I loved her more than I could express and that I was so sorry I couldn’t be there and that I hadn’t been there, but that I wanted her to know how much I loved her. She said, “I know.” That was the last time I spoke to her.

I have to stop now because I’m crying and it’s inappropriate at work. But I’m so sorry for your loss. You are in my thoughts.
.-= Unknown Mami´s last blog…I Comment Therefore I Am =-.

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A Vapid Blonde March 30, 2010 at 12:09 pm

Now you have me crying at work.
.-= A Vapid Blonde´s last blog…Welcome to Crapapalooza! =-.

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secret agent woman March 31, 2010 at 4:05 pm

What a lovely post about your aunt. But, kids are not dumb – you were not dumb. You knew. , as kids do, what was important – that you were loved and taken care of. Money, prestige – none of it matters if you aren’t loved.

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Jen @ NathanRising March 31, 2010 at 8:48 pm

I know my words cannot comfort you all that much, but I am so very deeply sorry for your loss. I, for one, know what it’s like to lose someone you love before having the chance to say goodbye. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. **HUGS**
-Jen
.-= Jen @ NathanRising´s last blog…Uniquely Nathan =-.

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naptimewriting April 1, 2010 at 7:36 pm

Big big hugs.
Big, silent, strong, unhurried hugs.

Big, thoughtful, unquestioning, supportive, timeless hugs.
.-= naptimewriting´s last blog…Then and now =-.

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TheKitchenWitch April 3, 2010 at 9:13 am

Sitting at the airport, plugging in (at least for a few minutes) and wishing I could give you a big, hard hug. I am so sorry. Be gentle with yourself this week, okay?
.-= TheKitchenWitch´s last blog…Neighbor Friday: Motherese =-.

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