The Komen Race for the Cure took place in D.C. today and it got me thinking about someone I cared about and lost some years ago. My dad had only one younger brother who had married my mom’s best friend and moved right across the street from us when my sister and I were kids. My cousin, only a little over a month younger than me, was more like my sister growing up. They moved to a different country when I was about 10 years old. It was devastating; I was not only losing a sister but I was also losing my favorite aunt. A lifetime has passed and contact has been rather sporadic most of the time but the bond is still there. This is for you, tia Filomena.
When I married an American and moved to the US I was very much alone; I didn’t know anyone, had no family around, I didn’t even have a car to go places when my husband was not at work. To top it all we couldn’t afford the exorbitant phone rates they charged back then when calling Europe, so I had to ration calls to my family across the Atlantic. However, calls to our Northern neighbors were pretty affordable, so my lifeline became my aunt. We called each other at least once a week and she just made my day with her laughter and positive life outlook. She never seemed to be depressed and she had a knack to find the silver lining in every situation, no matter how bad. I was often driven to tears when talking to her; tears of laughter, not sadness. She made me feel less lonely, less isolated.
I was heartbroken to find out later that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer. In her typical optimistic way, she fought it with all her might and she beat it. At least, that’s what everybody thought. Imagine everyone’s shock when the doctors found the cancer had sneaked into another part of her body a mere few months later. I can’t imagine what my cousin went through and unfortunately I was not in constant contact with my aunt anymore. This cancer seemed to have done what nothing else ever succeeded in doing; silencing her good humor, her joy for life and for everything around her. She stopped calling, she stopped coming to the phone. One day, she was taken from this earth and from all that loved her. Gone but not forgotten…
Tomorrow is Mother’s Day here in the US. Filomena was an amazing mom, grandmother and super-aunt, being there for me when I needed the comfort and assurance of a familiar and loved voice. I miss you, tia, I miss you a lot.