Wednesday, November 5, 2008

My Aunt Midge Passes Away, Age 98

My Great Aunt Midge passed away last night, six minutes past midnight at the age of 98. Pictured here is a photo of my first daughter, being dedicated six years ago with my Great Aunt Midge, my two uncles and me on Mother's Day. Aunt Midge did not have any children and last week when Fred and I visited her in the hospital, she told us that children are so important. How sad that she did not get to experience the joys and triumphs of motherhood. What a blessing though that she was able to be a mother figure to me and to my oldest daughter, Sienna in the last few years.

I have always had a special place in my heart for my Great Aunt Midge. I loved hearing stories about how she and my grandmother, Naomi would get along or not get along which was more likely. They were very alike in many ways. My husband, Fred can remember visiting my grandmother Naomi, she would always offer us a Diet Rite. Years later, we would visit Aunt Midge in her apartment in Oak Park and she would also offer us Diet Rite. Interestingly, we once had Thanksgiving at my cousin Stephen's when he lived on Lake Shore Drive, guess what he offered us to drink?! Yes, Diet Rite - it must have run in the family! Another drink that we enjoyed with Aunt Midge on occasion was sherry.

We'd sit in her gorgeous green apartment in Oak Park, burning up from the radiator heat - although she always complained her apartment was cold - and sip sherry together. We once took a drive to her birthplace in downstate and met with a genealogist there. I recall the genealogist sharing news articles with us about a relative who had been shot in Chicago from a lover's quarrel. I also think I remember hearing something about our family settling down in Kentucky and starting a Baptist Church. Midge, of course did not want to have those parts of history be part of her lineage, so she dismissed much of that information as scandalous nonsense. It was somewhat surreal to uncover our Davidison genealogy with Midge!

Another special bonding time we shared together was on my wedding. I hosted a bridal tea party at the Drake. I have a picture framed on my dresser of Midge and I on this special day. She looks so proud to be at the Drake, right where she belonged all along but would never feel important or special enough to go on her own. Whenever I see classy tea settings or old Asian style home decor, I am reminded of Midge. She was classy and had the best taste!

And she loved to shop! I have a funny memory of taking her shopping to the mall a few years ago. We borrowed Marshall Field's wheelchair while we shopped. And, boy, did we shop till we dropped! She tired me out! We needed some lunch and as we were headed off to the food court, the door alarm went off. I assumed it wasn't us since I didn't think Midge was a shoplifter and onward I pushed her down the mall pavement towards the food court. It wasn't until we returned to Marshall Field's an hour later that I realized we were considered wheel chair thefts! Apparently, we weren't supposed to take the wheel chairs out of the store!

I guess you could say that I owe my relationship and marriage to Fred to Midge. All through college we dated and would visit Midge from time to time. When she moved to Oak Park, I had graduated from college and moved to Chicago shortly after while Fred stayed in school to finish one more year. I thought I was all that and a bag of chips, working at an architectural firm in the Loop. So, I broke up with my boyfriend from college. Until, the one day, I was talking to Midge and she asked about Fred. I told her that we had broken up. She told me, "Well, I don't know what you are thinking. There are a lot more girls prettier, thinner and younger than you are down there at that school of his." Insecurely, I picked up the phone to 'reconnect' with him and we ended up getting back together and marrying within six months!

It was so typical of Midge to tell me that there were girls prettier, thinner and younger than me. She would put me down many times for my weight and I always felt like a rag muffin around her. For some reason though, she was family and because I was used to this treatment from my family, I stayed around. I kept visiting her and taking the verbal abuse. I also forgave her constantly, understanding her value system and its high regard to appearances and thinness in the social world. This was a trait I had also inherited but have worked hard to suppress it and purge it from our family value system so that my own girls know in their heart they are loved and accepted, in hopes they won't struggle with outward appearances and the need to perform socially.

As I became a mother of two highly spirited children and my life became more busy, I slowly spent less and less time with Aunt Midge. In hopes to share my children with the eldest of our family heritage, and to make sure Midge knew she was loved by us, I would make every attempt to include her with our holiday celebrations. As I started to respect myself more, she started to too. She became more forgiving of our lessened visits and more caring to me and my family. We spent most of our time together commenting about our memories together.

And, I am fortunate to have many memories with Aunt Midge. She had a spunk about her that I hope to have well into my 70's let alone, late 90's! She always did look good, classy. As her passing marks the last of her generation in our family, I step up in my own lineage to be the woman I want to be when I get older. I have learned from both her mistakes and her beauty and zest and I am grateful forever for the hardships and blessings her life impressed on me and my daughters. My memories of her will last for a long time. I hope my daughters will remember her and the fun we had together as we all turn a page into the next phase of our heritage.


Lilly's Life said...

Wow what a post and so many stories. It was great. I have to say that the older people get the more they are a little straight with their words. I dont think they mean harm although it can hurt. By the way you have a beautiful smile in that photo. Just lovely. Also I think Aunt Midge was more than likely right about Fred being a keeper. Maybe she had her own regrets perhaps and was pushing you. I love how you got married within 6 months after you reconnected. Great post I enjoyed it immensely.

Elizabeth Channel said...

Oh--this is such a neat post! She reminds me so much of H's Aunt Burt. (Yes Burt.) She died a few years ago at 93; similar story, no children, started her own china store back in the 1920s; always enjoyed a spot of sherry in the afternoon. Women like this are harder and harder to find. Thank you for sharing this story! I know you will miss her!

AC said...

Feeling sort of guilty about this, but I am excited to have just learned that all of her furniture and things are waiting for me. My cousin who has been taking care of me told me that I was like a daughter to her and she would want me to make a home for her things. I am so excited and can't wait to have pieces of her in my home! DH is driving up next week to pick it all up. :)