I Am Turning Into My Aunt
Growing older often means we mature and start to become just like our parents. I see this to an extent in my case, but lately it seems I am becoming more like my Aunt Arlyne.
I first became aware of this trend last Christmas when I wore a rhinestone encrusted tiara that had a horsewoman on it. My husband took one look at me, made a funny face, and said “You’re turning into your Aunt Arlyne”. I was flattered even if he was trying to accuse me of being an eccentric old lady before my time.
This is the eulogy I read at her funeral last year:
My Aunt Arlyne had everything that made life worth living for 91 years including a bit of a challenging childhood after being born in Manhattan on June 25, 1927 to Anna and Louis Wasserberger. Her mother told her the ticker tape parade on that day in honor of Charles Lindbergh’s first transatlantic flight was actually for her birthday. They were delayed getting to the hospital, but they did and so much of the rest is history! To know Arlyne was to love her, and to love her was to agree with her, or at least keep your opposing thoughts to yourself. Some words that come to mind when we think of Arlyne are storyteller, performer, intellectual, and activist
She had a rich academic career that began at PS 16 in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. She was a bright student and went on to attend Girls Commercial High School where she wrote for the school newspaper and once interviewed Lena Horne.
She went on to work at a coffee shop in New York on 14th St., and a law office in Long Island City.
When she was 20 she married Louis DeSena. They started out on Underhill Ave. in Brooklyn then moved to Florida for 2 years before moving back to Woodside, Queens. She had her first child there, Donna in 1951.They lived in Bellerose Long Island where her son, Richard was born before they moved to Kendall Park. She lost her beloved Donna in 1953 after a tragic bout with spinal meningitis, the first deadly blow to her heart. Andrea was born in Kendall Park in 1958. She bought 4 lots of property in Montauk Point, NY where she built a beach house that so many of us visited for years. By a show of hands, how many of you autographed the piece of driftwood in Montauk?
Arlyne was a hero for a period of time when she volunteered for the Kendall Park Rescue Squad. I remember hearing the plectron sound in her den. She worked for a brokerage firm for years before becoming a valued employee of the South Brunswick Housing Authority where she helped many find housing who might not have been able to without her hard work. She was dedicated to fighting for political battles she strongly believed in and was involved in effecting change at the local government level.
She lost her husband, Louis, when she was 42, another tragic hit to her heart.. She briefly socialized as a single woman and traveled extensively before she married Marvin and moved to Hawaii. She went to college there and earned her Master’s degree in gerontology. They loved to visit her cousin Larry’s nudist camp in Hawaii. She was never a fan of wearing a bathing suit, and often went in my parent’s pool in the nude.
She moved back to her home in Kendall Park in 1979 where she continued to enjoy her lifelong friends and her Siamese cats, Moogoo and Chow Mein.
Arlyne’s daughter Andrea and son in law Robert blessed her with 2 beautiful granddaughters, Sara in 1990, and Kylie in 1995. Her son Richard and his wife Dale brought her a grandson, Roman, from Russia in 2007. She celebrated Roman’s Bar Mitzvah last February with great joy.
Arlyne somehow survived losing her daughter Andrea, in 2014 after a long, difficult battle with cancer.
I know Arlyne’s legions of friends would agree that they valued her friendship as much as she valued and loved them.
My aunt lived a long and colorful life over 91 years of ups and downs. She did not have strong religious beliefs which is part of the reason I was appointed to be the rabbi at this proceeding today. She maintained that she didn’t believe in heaven or an afterlife. We all know how much she hated to admit she was wrong. I’m sure you all join me in my hopes and prayers that she was absolutely wrong about the afterlife and is now enjoying the company of her friends, family, and pets who have gone before her. If so, we know she will be giving everyone the business for eternity.
I am grateful for not suffering the same kinds of tragedies as my aunt. My young niece also suggested I was becoming more like Arlyne as I get older by pointing out that I always wear stylish, unique clothing and accessories. I am also always finding creative ways to save money even though I didn’t grow up during the Great Depression. My social life compares to Arlyne’s with lots of interesting stories to tell. Being able to give everyone a run for their money while wearing a tiara would have made her proud.
I love my aunt, and I miss her.
Thank you for reading :)