My Great-Aunt died today. Below is a story that I once wrote about her, so I am reposting it. The story, called Cross to Wear, is sad but she lived a good life. Her name was Marie and she was from Algeria. She came to live in the United States when she was 39. We called her “Tata Marie”.“Tata” was a term of endearment derived from the word aunt in French, which is “Tante”. When I first knew her, she lived with my other great Aunt, her sister Rosette, in an apartment above my Grandmother. Tata Marie and Tata Rosette shuffled around in well-worn pink or blue slippers and flowered house-coats. They paid special attention to their hair; its color and the configuration of curls. They only cooked the freshest fish, only ate two cookies in one sitting, erroneously referred to the store P.C. Richard as “Richardsons”, watched soap operas and had pristine, ornate couches, chairs and lamps around the apartment. They had Monet’s “Rouen Cathedral, The Portal, Grey Weather” hanging in the living room. Tata Marie’s personality could be prickly at times. And I remember her occasionally getting into riotous, cacophonous quarrels with my Grandmother, which were followed by days of uncompromising silence from both parties. Tata Marie and Tata Rosette were always old to me, even in pictures when they were young, they still looked old. Marie would often reminisce about her late husband, her white poodle named Mimich and the breathtaking landscape of Algiers. She would have turned 100 years old this coming February.
Cross to Wear
He wore the cross around his neck for 4 years in WWII. When he died, several years after the war, she wanted him to be buried with it. The funeral home did not allow anyone to be buried with jewelry on, so she took the gold cross that hung around her husband’s neck and she put it on. She wore it proudly and sorrowfully for over 40 years.
Gold and gleaming and on a delicate chain, it always hung outside her shirt. It reminded her of him. He was a milliner and an Italian. And according to my Great-Aunt he was equally courageous and charismatic. She believed that his cross shielded her from harm.
My Great-Aunt broke her hip the other day and was rushed to the hospital and then subsequently shuffled from room to room and stripped of her clothes. She speaks with a charming French accent but her personality can be virulent. She is 96. I went to see her the other day in the hospital and she is in some pain physically, but not as much pain as she seems to be emotionally. Tears welled up in her already watery old gray eyes. The hospital staff lost her cross. It is nowhere.
This made me awfully sad. Now there is a blemish on the great orb of old romanticism that encircles our blue earth.