V Mc B

Archive for July, 2009

For Val

I usually (okay, I occasionally) use this blog to write about food and other silly shit that amuses me from day to day. And that’s about it, because I’m not an outwardly serious person. And even in writing about this, I don’t intend to be overly serious … but I want to write about it regardless. Because while it was the first time there’s been a premature death in my family, it won’t be the last time — unless I’m unnaturally lucky, which I don’t think I am.


I won’t dwell too much on the hospital here, even though my brain has been dwelling on it ever since Sunday, when I unexpectedly had to go say goodbye to my Aunt Val. My whole family was there — her sisters, her son, and her twin (my father). I will mention, though, that I was having an uncharacteristically FANTASTIC hair day, and my aunts (characteristically) complimented me. My first instinct was to apologize. After all, who focuses on hair at a time like this? But we were striving for normalcy … and honestly, Val would’ve appreciated my haircut, too. She always did. So there was that.

And there was also the slack, lifeless look on her face — a face that has always looked a little bit like mine — that told me: run, leave, I’m not me anymore and you shouldn’t remember me like this.

And so I left. They pulled the plug the next day, but I wasn’t there. The wake was, well, a wake. Totally Catholic. I snuck out to eat a roast beef sandwich and told an old neighborhood girl that the first thing I remembered about her was her idolization of She-Ra. The funeral was the most uplifting I’ve ever been to — partially because the priest and the whole congregation knew her, but mostly because of this:

Val was the most unabashedly odd person I have ever known.

She wrote silly songs about holidays that didn’t have songs of their own. She had an amazing way of personifying inanimate objects. She was loud, brash, and had an infectious laugh — which anyone who didn’t understand her would probably find obnoxious. She had an unusually expressive face — which at rest could have been pretty, but couldn’t be harnessed when she was feeling any sort of emotion (which was basically all the time). She loved shopping, and even though she never had much money, she’d pride herself on the bargains she’d find at the consignment shop. She loved to sing. And while she wasn’t able to move very well for most of her adult life, she loved to dance … and did so, in her own way, whenever she had the chance. It didn’t matter whether or not she was good at it.

To those who know me, I hope this sounds a little familiar.

When I was little — intelligent beyond my years, though hopelessly, irreparably weird — there were few people who understood me. Val was one of them. In fact, she was the best. “My favorite aunt,” I would call her, before I was old enough to understand that such distinctions among family were inappropriate. I’d look forward to her coming over with her pile of instruments and silly little songs … and when she did, I had a kindred spirit (while my mom rolled her eyes in the background).

This is what I remembered as soon as I left the hospital that Sunday, and it’s what I remember now.

Val, wherever you are, I want you to know I’ll miss you. And I’ll keep writing silly songs and laughing a little too loud … because I know that’s how you’d want it.

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