My mother's last remaining sibling is dying, and quickly, it now seems. I received the call last night from my mom and exchanged emails this morning with my cousin but didn't really have time to think about it until the subway ride in from Brooklyn to Grand Central this morning.She is walking, still, and planning a trip to the San Diego beach in June (it keeps Eros alive, my uncle once told me with a wink, and in a case of too-much-information to share with a niece) but one eye won't quite open and her speech isn't coming out correctly and the body of my aunt Stana seems to be collapsing, her skin folding over itself, in response to the cancer.
And this means that soon, my mother will be the only one left who remembers those early days in the hills around Bisbee, the old woman who passed warm tortillas through the window, the grandmother named Masha who said "Speak Slav!" the mother who took a teaching job late because the fourth child came, the father who wore a kilt and then got sloppily, romantically drunk and sung his wife's praises, making her giggle like a schoolgirl, the great-aunt who always told the doctors: "nothing, NOTHING below the waist," the love letters the three sisters shared with each other, laughing quietly and, I imagine, sometimes reading aloud the words written by men who later became their husbands, and by men who did not.
I worry about the impact on my own mother's health of this loss, when it comes. I remember how sick she got after Maxine died, and when I arrived, how she flung back her head and squeezed her eyes tight as if to forbid the tears that seeped out anyway.