Monday, June 15, 2015

To the woman who made me feel American

There was this day I was walking out of the parking lot at my dad's Stroke Rehabilitation Center, and I asked a nurse .... "so do you think he'll ever be able to build furniture with me again?  We always build ikea things together and stuff like that."

She said "maybe" - but it was the kind of lying maybe that we both knew was a "no."  In that moment, I had to say goodbye to something I cherished.  Something that will never happen again.
Something that is over.

Today I'm saying a similar kind of goodbye. My Great Aunt Florence died yesterday, my Grandma Gertrude's sister.

My American Grandma Gertrude was severely schizophrenic, and my other Oma Gesina lived all the way across the Atlantic Ocean in Holland.  My parents gave me so much in life, but Florence's yearly gatherings were the only thing in my life since childhood where I got to experience family the way it's written about in novels and sitcoms.  There were familiar faces, familiar foods, bar stools that spun around, the drive to her house where we got to see the awesome Flushing Meadows globe out the window, the exercise bicycle where me and my cousin Erin rode on one pedal each.  Visiting her family gatherings made me and my sister feel like maybe we were American too, and we belonged here among all the other families that ate meatloaf and watched football.

Florence lived until 91, and in her life she accomplished so many things - recently self publishing a memoir, a book of haikus, and coming to our family's side in hard times even as she reached her late years.  She outlived her sisters and remained a loving matriarch for so many people.  She was a fine artist - painting, etching, and sculpture.  Many of her works are in my parent's house, some of her handmade cards in my apartment.  She was even a kickstarter donor for my film that I'm shooting now, and an occasional participant in some of my more heated facebook threads.

I didn't tell her this, but I'd been writing a sitcom pilot script that involves Brooklyn Jewish girls, both older in modern times, and going back in time to their teenage years (that's not the concept, but the setting).  I'd named one of the characters after her.  Her and my Grandmother's maiden name is also the last name of the main character in my movie.

This year will be the first year I don't get to see Florence at our yearly gatherings, but I'm so thankful for all of the years she already gave us - and for living her life to the fullest with kindness, creativity, gusto, and grace.

Rest in peace dear Florence.  Love to her wonderful children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren who are are also responsible for so many years of warm memories.

with her husband Milt

Florence on the top right, my Grandma Gertrude on the bottom left

 Florence on the left

Finishing her autobiography

Rest In Peace.

1 comment:

Ezra said...

Beautiful sentiments and writing, cousin Heather. And I thought my part of the family was always the part that didn't feel "American." Strange! Maybe no one feels American?