Ellie

We weren’t close. I’m sad to admit it. But she’s family.

My father has 2 sisters, Margie and Ellie. Margie had 6 kids and survived an abusive sonofabitch of a husband. He died and she met a man who would make up for all of the abuse and more. Sonny. He did everything right by her until he died ten years ago. Margie recently became unable to care for herself and she was forced to move to a nursing home.

Ellie was a far less accomplished woman. To be honest, she led a unaccomplished life. Born with Epilepsy she, by all accounts, used her illness as a crutch. She barely graduated from High School. She never worked a day in her life. She lived with my Grandfather and cared for him (he was sick with Emphysema from my earliest memory) until his death in 1983.

I worked at the local Supermarket through High School. Ellie and my grandfather lived on “the Pond”, a section of town named after an actual Pond, Martin’s Pond, a huge area of town notorious for lower income but hearty families. Many of my friends lived there, “Ponderonians” as it were. My kind of people. The entrance to “the Pond” was a street off of the main road that started as a long and steep hill. Ellie and Gramps lived on the very bottom where it flattened out. Gramps had a view of the water on one end of the house and the street on the other. Confined to an oxygen tank, he inexplicably chose the street view and sat in the window year round. He was notorious for his omnipresent face in the window. Ellie’s notoriety was to be seen slowly plugging up the hill with her obvious (and unexplained) limp as she pulled her makeshift shopping cart with her. She spoke and dressed poorly. She was the focus of a good bit of mockery among my Supermarket colleagues. Kids can be cruel and it wasn’t until they learned that she was my Aunt that they let up a bit, in my presence at least.I’d like to think that I wasn’t ashamed of her but I think I was. In the back of my head, however, I always reminded myself that she was family and you never turn your back on family.

It was easy to underestimate Ellie. She was an unremarkable person. My father didn’t care for her, his own sister. He had no respect for her. He thought that she could have done so much more and he believed that she hid behind her illness. According to my cousin Mike, who I am the closest to, her Epilepsy wasn’t a constant nuisance to her, her episodes were few and far between and there was no reason she couldn’t have worked, or volunteered or done something other than sit and watch soap opera’s.

I lost touch with her for a lot of years. We reconnected a little last year at the Nursing home. She ended up in the same facility as Margie. Margie is lucid and strong, Ellie has dementia. Catching up was not to be with her, she was on a loop in which she asked me the same questions every ten minutes. She was cheerful at least.

My relationship with Ellie wasn’t complex. But it has been a secret source of shame for me for many years. I could have been nicer to her, I could have kept touch with her. She was always nice to me.

It’s too late now. She and Margie contracted the CoronaVirus last week along with 59 other patients in the home. Margie is hanging on.

Ellie died yesterday.

morning coffee

A vision of loveliness in a t-shirt and panties, in her bare feet she dances across the kitchen to a song only she can hear. At the sink, she fixes her coffee as she stares out the window, her morning ritual, marveling at the birds as they frantically dart in and around the feeder. The dog brushes up against her and she stoops down to pat him, her affection emanates from her as she talks to him. She knows he doesn’t understand but he hangs on the nuance of her every kind word.
She sees him come in, and as she stands she tosses her hair back from her face, smiles at him and returns her gaze to the window.
He approaches her and wraps his arms around her waist. She leans back, trusting that he won’t let her fall. He buries his face in her neck, savoring the smell of her hair.
“You’re beautiful”, he whispers.
“Stop it, I’m a mess”, she whispers.
“You’re the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.”
She closes her eyes and savors the moment.

He fixes a coffee and settles in. The newspaper on the table before him fails to catch his interest. His gaze remains on her as she putters about her morning routine. After all the years he is fascinated by her. She walks weightlessly. Her smile illuminates the room. She lights up at the smallest of things.
How does her heart even fit in that tiny body?
“You’re staring at me. Stop it.”
“You’re not even looking, how do you know that?”
“I can feel it, silly.”
He returned his attention to his paper. He pretended to read it but his mind was elsewhere. He knew his face was betraying him. How do I tell her?
As if reading his mind, she leans in and kisses him on the head.
“What are you thinking about?” she asked him in the sweetest of tones.
“Oh, nothing.” Now is not the time, he told himself.
She sat down at the table across from him and sipped her coffee. She looked up and caught his gaze.
“You’re staring again.”
“Sorry.”
She got up and left the room. He returned his focus to the newspaper. Moments later he looked up and saw her in the doorway, a single tear slowly made its way down her face. He realized that she had gone into the den. And that he had failed to close the browser.
“When were you going to tell me that it’s back?”
His stomach sank. When I can wrap my head around another man loving you, he thought.
He doubted he could ever do that, certainly not in the six weeks that he had left.
He motioned for her to come to him. Instead, she cupped her face in her hands, turned and left the room.



3,2,1 Quote me…The Sad Clown

I woke up this morning to see in my notifications that Lisa of All About Life fame has nominated me for the 3,2,1 Challenge. She knows me, I love a good quote and I especially enjoy elaborating on why it means something to me.

I find it odd, perhaps a sign that this challenge comes on a day that I woke up in the mood to binge-watch movies of a man whose loss I feel deeply. The brilliant and manic comedian that brought tears of joy and abdominal pain from laughing.
The soulful and charismatic actor who created and portrayed characters that walk alongside me in real life.
The “sad clown” that laughed on the outside and cried on the inside but chose to make others laugh because he knew pain.
The man who left us way too early because his pain was just too much to bear.

I have been called a “Sad clown” before. I have been accused of making jokes to minimize pain. Of deflecting praise because I didn’t feel worthy of it. They weren’t wrong, I was deeply unhappy for a long time. But I did get pleasure out of making others happy. That’s what Robin did, so today I will provide 2 great quotes from Robin Williams.

Bad days are lessons. You can learn from them or dwell on them, it is your choice. I have had more than my share of bad days in my life but I always chose to smile through them when I was able, or smile after when it was over. Collectively, my bad days have taught me to appreciate everything, most especially the little things in life. The warmth of the sun, the smile and laugh of a child, the gait of a beautiful woman, the affection of a pet, the sunrise of a brand new day. We only have so many sunrises left and I try to enjoy them all. I don’t know how many days I have left, none of us do, but I refuse to die with regrets and unexpressed feelings.

What a wonderful take on wisdom. Wisdom is fleeting for some, nonexistent in others and always appreciated too late in the dispenser and wasted on the young.
Too often we dismiss the advice of others because we feel that we know enough already or that the giver is not qualified. Wisdom comes from good judgment. Good judgment comes from making mistakes. Mistakes, better known as learning experiences make and shape who we are. How we handle them speaks volumes. At the very least, our mistakes teach us how to handle future incidents. At the most, they allow us to help others clear their hurdles.
Unfortunately, wisdom is acquired too late. The sands of time eventually fill the bottom of the hourglass and it dies with you. You can only hope that someone besides yourself learns from your slips and falls, the hills and vales and the walls that you hit so that they might not struggle.
But if they do, they will have acquired their own wisdom. Just another cog in the circle of life.

I nominate:
My bud Biff @ Biff, Sock, Pow. His blog is brilliant and funny and I would love to see what he comes up with. I would also be pleased if you would check him out. You will not regret it.
Sparky Jen. She’s positive, very wise and a true pleasure to read. Trust me.
Tom @ Tom Marches on. He’s been in a slump lately maybe this will get him writing again. Plus I would like to see what he comes up with.