Today I’d like to share with you one of my life experiences.
It is about a great lady I know, who has made any happiness in my life
Many years ago, while I was in college, I was struggling to
get through, my marks were great, but my ability to hang on wasn’t. I was
rising at 4:00 am and getting on the train at Bellport on the south shore about
5:00 am to go to Jamaica NY, to switch to another line and take that back on
the north shore. When classes were over, I reversed the routine, then went to a
job and worked until 11:00 pm at Hill’s Supermarket, came home did homework and
went to sleep only to start the next day the same. Dad had no money to give me
to pay for college or anything that went with it: we were poor.
I would go to school all day but arriving at Westbury,
getting off and hitchhiking to the campus, and if I didn’t get a ride, I
walked! I would spend my day, sometimes with nothing to eat, sometimes a
sandwich. Getting on the train I would hide in the rest room until the trainman
passed then find a seat, because I had no money for the fare. I know it was
wrong, I feel guilty about it, but I didn’t hurt anyone, and that was the
extent of my criminal activity. I had to pay for my tuition, books and art
supplies plus film for my photography classes.
One Sunday my aunt Marie: my Mom’s baby sister came for a
visit, and asked me about what was going on in my life. When I got around to my
travels and how I did them, she immediately insisted that I come stay with her,
which was near the college. For her good graces and those of her wonderful
husband Frank, my mentor and perhaps one of the real heroes I had as a kid, I
managed to stay in college and get my degree, which paid out for years to come.
She gave me a place to sleep, three meals a day, and a place
to work and do my homework, no charge! Carrying 21 to 24 credits a semester, I studied not
only design, but also business courses, English lit and math and science. The
work was hard enough as it was, but I needed an education, and I needed to have
a better life than my Dad’s. He came from immigrants and never had the
opportunity during a depression to go to college, but he was excited about my
going, even if he couldn’t help me.
Aunt Marie made it possible for me to get through the most
difficult time in my life, and because I got through I met my wife and had my
family and did the things I did do, because she had the compassion to see to it
that her nephew persevere.
She died last night. In her early 90’s she is breathed her last breath. She knew she was
dying, but I know her spirit is still very much alive. She lived alone, he only
son died tragically many years ago in the early 70’s. She has an adopted son,
Billy who struggled mightily to give her comfort and be with her in her
passing. He is a wonderful so, and good person.
When I was a child growing up in Brooklyn, Aunt Marie would
come in the morning, while Mom was busy cleaning and make her mark. She was a
card as they say. Mom would have a radio on with Arthur Godfrey hosting, and
Aunt Marie would switch old Arthur off so she could chat. I would hate to see
her. She would call over her 4 year old nephew and check behind my ears, to see
if they were clean, EVERY MORNING! As a little girl, Aunt Marie would make my
grandmother stand and place her hand on her heart when they played the National
Anthem on the radio first thing in the morning!
She was a shopper, dragging Mom down to Piken Avenue or
Broadway and walking my 4 year old legs off, as she and Mom pushed their baby
carriages and chatted, while looking into the store windows and on occasion,
stopping to barter.
She had a spot in her eye, on her retina and when I would
looked at it I was amazed by it and like all the kids: ask if it hurt. Aunt
Marie was probably one of the most beautiful women I have ever met, she was a
stunner, a looker, and she never knew it.When Christmas came around, I would send her a card addressed to "Marietta" her real name, one she hated to hear. She would always say: "When I get my hands on my rotten nephew I'm going to kill him!" then she would laugh.
When Uncle Frank and Aunt Marie got older, they moved to
Boca Raton Florida to spend their retirement years. After Uncle Frank died, she
took on a newspaper route in her building to keep busy. She would deliver the newspapers and
chat with her elderly friends and neighbors, them would take her walker and
walk a great deal, at least a mile and a half to the local supermarket to shop,
getting out of the house and shopping were her life.
There are so many things I could say about her; so many
wonderful memories that I cherish that will keep her alive in my heart. I tried
to call her at least every two weeks and check on her, and as she suffered osteoporosis,
I would ask: “How you doing, how are you feeling?” She would always say: “Well a
little pain, but I make the best of it, you know, you can’t complain, so you
make the best of it.”
Nothing held her down, and this won’t either, she will live
in my heart until I die.