They lit the candle outside my Aunt’s room tonight. There was Christmas music from the CD player next to her bed and a blank journal for visitors to write in. After I left, they were changing the sheets from standard hospital white to pretty pink or blue. The lit candle let’s everyone know that Mary is getting ready to transition. Nurses, aides and even the housekeepers will stop by so she is never alone.
I sat with her for two hours tonight. I asked if she remembered how, when I was little, we would sit on her bed and pretend it was the back of a whale that took us all over the world. What adventures we had. And she would pretend to be Chinese Girlfriend and call me up and we would tell stories. And when she took me to Central Park Zoo and I was done watching the seals and had to pee, she would take me across the street to the Sherry Netherlands Hotel to use their fancy restroom instead of the public ones in the park. And when I was older, we would go into Bergdorf’s or Bendel’s, places we had no business being in, and she would make the sales people take things out and we would try stuff on and then she would say “No, the color is all wrong” or “That just isn’t you”, and we would walk out. How she was always my own, personal “Auntie Mame”.
Her nurse Debi told me yesterday she thought Debi was me and was trying to plan a party with me. She was always the bartender, in the kitchen with the blender making cocktails. They never had names. She’d ask what you wanted by color. “You want a pink one or a brown one?” So I told her tonight that if my mother or her brother Marty came for her she should go. They had a big party ready for her. I would be back tomorrow but she shouldn’t wait for me. She should go and I would catch up later.
She couldn’t talk today. Or move her head. Her eyes had that “thousand yard stare”. But yesterday she could. She would say a lot of things that didn’t make sense to me but sometimes it was as if nothing was wrong and she would whisper to me like a fellow conspirator. “I know why you are here.” “Oh, why’s that?” I said. “You’re here to do what you were meant to do. To do what’s in your heart.” “And what might that be?” “You’re here to make people smile.”
Oh Aunt Mary, I’ve been trying to figure that out for years. What took you so long to tell me?