This is the woman we spent our weekend with... My Aunt Katherine, or Kat, or if you are one of her friends from her country club days, Kitty, or Kits. She was a fabulously well dressed, clothes horse in her hey day. Now? She still likes to look good, still fusses with her hair and worries that she's attractive. But she doesn't worry quite as much as she used to... Time has a way of mellowing even the sharpest of us; dulling the flinty, sparky parts of the personality.
For almost 10 years now, Kat lives in a great continuing care community. She left a home that she absolutely loved because her husband needed care. David, died shortly after. They were married over 50 years. He was not the most pleasant of men. Could be cutting and cruel. Never physically, but emotionally. He was...well he's dead, so I'll leave it at that. But, Katherine always forgave his behavior. For Kat, David hung the moon. That will never change.
She's made a few friends at her community. One of them calls her, Miss Butterfly because she's always flitting about. Slower now, but she still comes and goes, never lighting anywhere for very long. Aunt Kat wanted to show off Rory & Fiona to her friends. She adores those two Scotties of mine- has pictures of them everywhere! Oh, and she wanted them to meet Michael and me too, but truly, it was all about the dogs, who by the way, were wonderful and behaved. This was their first sleep over.
We helped with odd jobs around the apartment that a woman who is 92 and becoming frail would love to take care of for herself but can't. Like flipping the mattress, dusting the lights overhead, re-setting the electric clock so it stops blinking 12:00. Simple things made complicated by the fact that there is no one there to help...but she doesn't complain. Well, perhaps a little.
Kat had an excellent circle of friends and she adored entertaining. I remember, as a little girl, being at her home for over night stays and snuggled in a big bed listening to the laughter and conversation of a cocktail party underway. Falling asleep to the pleasant sounds of people enjoying themselves. Yes, I have an Aunt who used to host the most wonderful cocktail parties. Little foods to pass about. Piano music in the background. Drinks poured out of a shaker into crystal glasses.
In her day, she was a superb cook; had a fabulously decorated home. And, great gardens. She was a member of garden clubs and a ribbon winner for many of her arrangements. I can't look at a daffodil without thinking of Kat...she's won lots of ribbons for her daffies...simply beautiful.
As we held hands on our stroll before leaving, we stopped to admire the tiny Black Eyed Susans growing along the way. They mean Summer to us who grew up in one of the nicest states in the union. I've planted the Maryland state flower here at my home in PA because they remind me of "home." And that makes me happy.
I think I learned to love gardening from Kat, although I couldn't stand it when she'd rope me in to helping her weed. Yuk! It felt a little odd naming the flowers for her... she used to tell me the names. When I say one, she responds, "Oh, that's right, how could I have forgotten?" She asks that with more frequency these days.
Although, at times, she and I still go head to head since she knows where all my buttons are and just how to push them, over time I've come to realize that a great many of the qualities that others like about me, I just may have gotten from this tiny, fussy, woman who makes me generally crazy.
She was so grateful that we came to visit and we actually had a nice time being there. She loves Michael and thinks he's the most thoughtful, pleasant guy. She'd be correct. He's really sweet with her. And, let's face it, no matter how old a gal gets, it's nice to have a guy be sweet with you.
She loves to get a hug or kiss because there are so few anymore. No one around to give you a kiss out of the blue for no other reason than, "Just because!" How can you not share a smooch with someone when you know you can give them that sort of smile?
Here's the thing about Kat, the thing I admire the most is that at 92, she still is curious about life and things around her. She still wants to learn and delights in a small accomplishment. Like, learning how to use chop sticks for the very first time and actually being able to pick something up with them! She's wanted to know how to do it for years and I was able to show her.
I suppose what troubles me is that I'm not there. None of us is there. My cousin Val is in Florida and I'm here. Katherine's the last of the six Dietor children. She's cried at the funerals of every person who has meant "love" to her. Her parents, her siblings, her husband. And, now recently, her two closest friends have passed away. Imagine saying that many farewells...
And, I want to know how that must feel for her, but I don't have the nerve to ask. I want to understand how someone can constantly have everyone they love slip away and leave them behind, but I just don't have the nerve. The truth is, pondering it unsettles me; I don't want consider it as the path for my life. But, I know it is possible.
What I've watched over the years is a remarkable development of incredible courage in a woman who, when she was younger, seemed as though she had no depth of character at all. She who worried and fretted over everything. Fearful of EVERYTHING. Yet, this huge thing? This being alone in a wide world? This sort of sadness, she has shouldered and moves forward with each day. My Aunt was a fabulous friend. Her friends loved her because she totally loved them. Now they are just memories.
When you talk with her about how it feels, she'll say, "There's only one way ...
...to live. You look for something good in the day. You remember how kind God has been to you. You try not to feel sorry for yourself because what good does that do? You just end up feeling worse. You just look for something good and think about that; not the parts that make you sad."
Bravely you walk on through your life each day, not fixating on all that has been lost to you, but looking at what you still have. Because after so many years of living a swell life, you know that there aren't countless days left and not a single one should be wasted. On the really blessed days you have your family and sweet dogs with you. And that gives you something wonderful to think about on days that aren't so good.
I've learned a lot from Katherine. And I'm still learning a lot from her. Thanks for our visit, Kit Wit. I love you. I'm glad we've both lived long enough for me to realize that, despite the rough patches we've had, in the end the love is the only part that matters.
Namaste' Till Next Time,
Holly aka Katherine's Niece
5 hours ago