Saturday, April 17, 2021

“My Aunt Bessie” by Elaine Thomopoulos

I read my newspaper, oblivious to what was happening around me. Suddenly a woman knocking on my car window made me jump. "Excuse me. I have to back up. Can you move your car so I can get out?" 

Had I seen a ghost? The woman looked like my Aunt Bessie, who had passed away many years ago. After I pulled out to make room for this woman to move her car, tears flooded my eyes. I remembered Aunt Bessie and missed her. Yes, this woman looked exactly like her. Her features were chiseled as if she were a Greek goddess. She had soft brown eyes and fine grey hair pulled back in a bun, showing her high and perfectly shaped forehead. The only thing that differed was that she did not have the high cheekbones that my Aunt Bessie had, cheekbones like a model's.

 Aunt Bessie is in the middle, with her two sisters, to the left Emily, to the right, Pauline.

Aunt Bessie was a quiet, dignified woman with a lot of energy and a heart of gold. She spoke in a soft velvet-sounding voice, putting you at ease with her gentle interest and concern. 

A child of immigrants growing up during the depression, married at 17, she faced life with strength and inner resolve. I got to know her best when she worked at my parents’ grocery store. She worked not only to help my mother (her sister) and her brother-in-law, but also to supplement the family income. Admired by her customers, she put her heart and soul into her work. A real treat for us when she stayed overnight at our home so she would not have to make the long commute back to her home. Our whole family loved and admired her so much. 

My thought went to Aunt Bessie's funeral, with family and friends paying tribute to this wonderful woman. The priest at the funeral spoke about her but instead of comforting me his flippant words made my heart ache, and my mouth feel like vinegar. He relegated her to the background by casting her in the traditional subservient Greek woman's role. He loftily related how she assisted her husband and three children in their accomplishments, not mentioning what she herself had accomplished. He did not bring out the qualities that made Aunt Bessie the person she was. I will always remember her for the person she was––a strong, vibrant woman whose memory lives on in my heart.

April 2021

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