Sunday, May 20, 2012

Aunt Lu

I recently lost a dear aunt who was the last of the last generation to leave us. Aunt Lu (my wife's mother's sister) was on this earth for 95 years making people happy. Her memory was failing, but physically, she was the strongest woman I ever knew. Although she knew great sorrow in her life, she never let it affect her spirit. She lost her husband (Uncle Ralph) many years ago, which is not unusual, but she also lost a son, his wife, and a grandson in a tragic motorcycle accident. She bore these losses better than most by channeling her grief into an outpouring of love for her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Her energy was boundless, as hour after hour, she happily played their games. I don't think the words "I'm tired" ever passed her lips.

Aunt Lu and her generation came through some hard times including the Great Depression. Instead of making her sour on life, it seemed to push her in the other direction. I've seen old pictures of her as a girl and you could almost feel the radiance of her smile. She and her husband Ralph were two fun-loving people who made the most out of what life gave them. Along with my wife's parents, Belle and Ray, they raised families with strong American values, but also with unmistakable overtones of their Italian heritage. They lived most of their lives in small apartments that somehow expanded to accommodate all the family celebrations held there. Lu and Belle were great cooks who collaborated on many a four-star dinner. Afterward, Ralph and Ray would entertain the kids, and later the grand kids, with their silly skits that had their young audience rolling on the floor.

Aunt Lu had an eye for art, and nearly every square inch of her apartments were covered with an eclectic collection that reflected her taste. I remember one portrait of a woman that was so large it nearly reached the ceiling. She also loved to dance, and some of my favorite memories of her are doing the Peabody, a lively, quick-step dance with Uncle Ralph gliding along beside her. But if I had to pick a single talent she had that eclipsed the many others, it was being Grandma. If ever the perfect playmate was created for children, it was Aunt Lu. She knew what each child liked and went along with every whim. She would get down on the ground and be whatever they wanted her to be. She could also read stories with that sense of wonder that kept her little listeners' attention riveted to the page. She was good with all kids because of her own child-like sense of fun that magically opened the doors to their world.

Aunt Lu came from that generation that put family ahead of everything else. No parent should have to lose a child, but she lost a son, his wife and their son in a relatively short space of time. Such pain would send many people reeling, but Aunt Lu bore her grief quietly and never let it stifle the joy that came so naturally to her. Every once in a while we would get on a topic that struck her as funny and she was off in gales of laughter, tears running down her cheeks. We would often look at the pictures of her, Ralph, Belle and Ray on vacations they took together. They were fond of the bus trips run by Tauck Tours, and would go off for some well-deserved fun. Uncle Ralph was one of the few people who could make Ray laugh, when he wasn't exasperating him with his Democratic politics.

It would be easy to say that Aunt Lu had a wonderful life and that 95 years  was a good run for anybody. That may well be true, but with people like her, who made everybody else's lives wonderful, it's just a little harder letting go. Lulu is together again with Ralph, Belle, Ray, Frank, Jill and Christopher. (John, start warming up your mother-in-law jokes.) We who loved her celebrate Lulu's life and will always carry the memory of her laughter in our hearts.  


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Joseph Del Broccolo said...

Seems like Aunt Lu is a lost treasure. It seems they are all dying off now, but she was special. God bless Aunt Lu.

Jim Pantaleno said...

Thanks Joe, that generation was really something special as you well know.