Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Dorothy, Thelma, and Marcella

Boy you don't hear these names today do you?  Three sisters who were oh so different and had such different impact on me.  All were daughters of Cecilia.  Sister Macrina once shared with me that I didn't have a saint's name, well I don't recall a Saint Thelma and she was a saint with all she went through in her life.

Marcella.  I think her other name was Lucifer.  You'd have thought my name was "you little shit" as much as she called me that.  She was my grandma.  She ate Limburger cheese that she kept in a cabinet with sardines and washed it down with a bottle of liquor that the neighbor would buy for her.  She would hide the liquor and I would tell where it was.  Could be why she called me a shit. She was mad, all the time.  She used to be a smoker when she was younger, but had a stroke and gave up that vice.  I can understand how hard things were not being able to use her arm and her leg wasn't right.  I wouldn't want that for any family member.  But she took it out on everyone.  I think her alcoholism is one of the reasons my mom was so angry and hard on us all the time.  Marcella never had a nice thing to say to me.  She was mean to her mom and sisters.  I played outside a lot just to be away from her.  We had to go to the grandmas' house all the time because my mom worked.  When Marcella got older she had to live in a nursing home.  I was the grand kid who was there to visit, who took Thanksgiving meals there, who talked to her.  She treated me the worst and I was the one who was there in the end.  I like to think that I did have good empathy at one time.  I don't have much now.  I think all the negative has caught up with me.  No one else ever had to change, just me.  I am always expected to be the one who says "okay, I'll change, it's my fault."  I really, really hate that, but I do it.  One day I will understand why.

Dorothy.  Best seamstress ever.  That includes since her death.  She could sew anything.  She could change pantsuits to skirt suits and skirts to pants.  She could crochet and knit.  She could make long things short and short things long.  Let it out and take it in.  A.M.A.Z.I.N.G. Period.  She was married to Uncle Bob, yep that one with the freaking chihuahua.  She was a chain smoker.  I don't think I remember a time she didn't have a cigarette.  She was an amazing cook too.  Thanksgiving was always at her house.  Once you got past the nasty dog, it was all good after that.  She cooked with cast iron.  It gave food a flavor that cannot be duplicated.  She also made THE best macaroni salad on the planet.  Between Uncle Marian and Aunt Dorothy of course I had a few extra pounds.  I had to eat like there was no tomorrow, because ultimately there wasn't when she died.  Aunt Dorothy got breast cancer.  When you think about that you think of going for your annual exam or doing a breast exam and finding a lump.  That isn't what happened here.  One day we (my mom and I) were at my Aunt Dorothy's.  she called my mom into the bedroom.  This was at a time when my Uncle Bob was really sick as well and he was near his death.  I don't think I will ever forget what my mom said to me.  She said "they're gone."  I said what's gone?  My mom said, "her breasts."  Holy shit.  The cancer had already eaten through the tissue and was visible.  She wore menstruation pads to absorb the seeping.  I cannot even imagine the pain she endured.  When asked she said she didn't have time to address it because Uncle Bob required her attention.  If this doesn't change you, nothing ever will.  I do not take my health lightly.  My mom got her to a doctor.  They did surgery to stop the continued devastation.  She was treated with radiation and chemo,  but it was too late, it had moved to other parts. She had a tracheotomy and wore a little lace thing on her throat.  She did stop smoking.  She did live for quite some time.  She still sewed a bit.

Thelma.  Aunt Thelma had 2 husbands - Tony and Marian.  Tony was a nasty SOB who abused others - children, as I understand it.  But that was a time when no one spoke up.  He got mouth cancer and died. No one ever said he didn't deserve it or that it was too bad.  I think it was good riddance to bad rubbish. Thelma was the bomb for a great aunt.  Call me not-stylish, but I wore her hand-me-downs.  I have NO idea why I liked her clothes.  I think I loved her so much maybe I thought the clothes would make me better in some way.  Thelma took care of everyone. EVERYBODY.  She made sure her mom and sisters were taken care of, she worked, she had her own house.  She made jello for every gathering.  I had never seen jello made in so many ways, so many flavors, so many additives.  Some didn't work out so well, but others were amazing.  She is known for her jello.  She wasn't a good cook.  I used to go with Aunt Thelma everywhere.  We would go with the other aunts on Sundays to Gary to shop, before it was a cesspool of human waste.  My little 9 year old self and all these old women.  It was great.  Occasionally we would take Aunt Katie, Uncle Wilmer's wife.  She was diabetic.  It was several times when I stole candy and juice because Aunt Katie would have an attack right there in the store.

I used to walk to my Aunt Thelma's house from my grandma's house.  Many times without telling anyone I was going.  That didn't go over very well.  Aunt Thelma had a velvet picture of a bull on her wall.  I have no idea why.  She lived upstairs and rented out the downstairs. Every Saturday she had her hair done.  Only on Saturday.  She didn't wash it all week.  It was styled about 12 inches or so above her head.  She was like 7 feet tall with that hair.   I never knew that Aunt Thelma was bald.  I only found out one New Year's Eve when we were being bad and blowing our horns.  She came flying down the hall and had no hair!  (Only wisps on the sides that were tied up with a wig to keep everything on.)  I don't think I even knew women could be bald.  It was scary.  At first we didn't even know it was her.  We thought someone had broken in and was attacking us.  We threw the horn at her.  Sometimes I would go wait in line with her downtown to get government cheese and milk.  That cheese didn't melt, ever.  I bet if we still had a brick of it, it wouldn't be moldy yet.  The milk was nasty.  Powdered.  Yuck.  Being poor sucked.

Aunt Thelma watched Val when we went away.  Val hated Aunt Thelma or rather the leather coat she wore.  When Aunt Thelma came in, Val would hide in the basement (hellmouth) and Aunt Thelma would have to carry her up all those stairs to let her out.  Val would growl.  Aunt Thelma would bring her treats, but to no avail.  After Val died, we got Mandy.  Mandy was a Great Dane.  She LOVED Aunt Thelma.  She always knew Aunt Thelma would bring treats in her purse.  That dog would root around in that purse until she found something to eat.  They had a great relationship.  This is as far as I am going to go talking about Aunt Thelma because some family members took advantage of her.  They stole things from her.  I will cover that another time.  Aunt Thelma was an amazing person.  She was simple, proud, and caring.  She did the best she could with what she had.  I never heard her complain, even when Uncle Marian was taken from her.