Monday, November 19, 2012

Remembering Aunt Loretta, my mom's sister, 19 November 1917 to 3 May 2012

Aunt Loretta and Roz Miller Walker, her granddaughter, visiting Sylvania and Bill Form and his wife Joan Huber in Columbus (August 2011), a historic and memorable reunion that we will always cherish.  Top photos: Aunt Loretta with a pregnant Michelle (Chase was born August 16, the day after she left); Roz  (blue sweater) and Elissa (lavender shirt).  Historic photos of Aunt Loretta at 16, in pastel (she gave me her age when I visited in Charlotte a few days before she died), & next to her in black and white, my mom, and  next photo, Aunt Loretta with her daughter Maria, my sister Andy, and me, visiting our grandparents Luchetti in Rochester (in early 1950s).  Love that photo, a page from mom's old album, with a note in her hand. I prize that, too.
Today is my Aunt Loretta's birthday.  She died peacefully in her sleep on 3 May 2012, six months ago. She was ready.  I miss her and all those who are with her. 

Aunt Loretta had a good life, but it was marred by tragedy: both her children, my first cousins Maria and Skip, had MS, the kind that gets progressively worse, the blinding, crippling, disabling kind.  Both died young, in their 50s.  Losing your children too soon, and so tragically, is too painful to contemplate.  I cannot imagine it.  My aunt and uncle suffered. Their grandchildren suffered.  My aunt Loretta lived with grief all her life. 

Aunt Loretta was my mom's sister, her only sibling.  She was a beautiful young woman with a sense of style, a devoted wife and mother, a good traveler and great cook.  She remained a pretty woman into her senior years, when she moved from Florida to North Carolina (and back and forth several times), but was closer to her grandkids Roz, Kris, and Dan.  

Aunt Loretta and my mom spent a few months together in Haiti, when my Uncle Steve worked for an American company there in the 1970s.  It was a highlight of their lives.  My mom remembered the poverty, getting to know and speak the language (she was a whiz at languages, a gene I didn’t inherit), and helping out at a Catholic orphanage.  She remembered the vibrant culture, art and beauty of that place.  It’s why I’ve always had a special place in my heart for Haiti.  

My mom was two-years older than her sister, so to her our aunt was always “my little sister.”   Aunt Loretta, like my mom, was bi-lingual, both speaking Italian and English.  How I envied that, but we kids were never taught to speak our grandparents’ language; our parents felt we should know only English and become successful American citizens.  My cousin Maria, who spent several years living in Verona  when her former husband, a doctor, was with the US army, did pick up Italian ; she loved sharing  Italian  cultural and cooking traditions with her kids and all of us, like her Christmas decorations, which I take out every year and prize, and her delicious chicken parmesian and lasagna.   

My sister Andy and I had a great
85th birthday party for Aunt Loretta
 in Tallahassee (19 Nov 2002).
  Our mom was with us.
Happy memories sustain us.  Aunt Loretta visited her father’s family outside of Rome several times, which made her happy.   We celebrated her 85th birthday in Tallahassee at Andy's house, my mom still with us but frail.  Mom died about four months later.  Aunt Loretta at 85 looked fantastic and was full of vim and vigor.

She looked pretty good at 94, too, when she came to visit us in Sylvania with her granddaughter Roz in August 2011 (hard to believe it was only a little over a year ago). She visited every single person in our family, missing baby Chase by only 1 day.  She had a great time, and so did we.  We are filled with happy memories because of that visit.  We were hoping she’d come back, this Spring.  It was not meant be.

Now my aunt is at peace, like her children, my parents and my dear brother Loren.  "She's in a beautiful place," my daughter Elissa believes.  "I know you're not sure about this mom, but I am!"    
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