My great aunt Baba died on Saturday night.
I do these things. I dream about old, ex boyfriends that I haven't thought about in years, and the next morning they call to say, "Hey, we had a baby last night!" No matter what I'm doing, I look at the clock every time it says 12:34. If I'm asleep, I will wake up for it. Talk about annoying. If I sleep through my alarm clock, I will wake up exactly 5 minutes before I have to be where I am late for getting to.
Anyway, that's so not the point. The point is, Auntie Baba took her leave of us in the middle of the night on Saturday. I know you're going to be all, "Oh, I'm so sorry!" but really? Don't. Let me tell you a little about her first.
Auntie Baba is my husband's great aunt, his father's aunt. She was born in 1913, which is before WWI. Which, WOW. She was married to her husband Gordon for 50 years or so before he died. They never had kids, they traveled, they collected things from around the world, they had friends and played bridge and did whatever it was they wanted to. They owned a little mobile home in Palm Springs, and though I imagine they could have afforded more, they were more than happy with their little home on the golf course in the desert.
I met Baba many years after her husband died, when she was 87. We'd mailed pictures and letters, but when she was 85 she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Her response was more or less, "Fuck THAT shit." And that little 85 year old woman kicked cancer's ass. I took the boys to meet her after her treatments, and let me tell you, that woman was a rock star. She was pissed off that they wouldn't let her keep her driver's license, even though she was slowly going blind. I mean, 'how exactly did they think she was going to get to Bridge and seriously, everyone in Palm Springs is ancient and they all drive like shit. Why can't she, too? I asked her what the secret to her health and longevity was, and she told me.
She drank a lot, she smoked a little, she swore, she traveled and she loved.
That's a smart girl, if you ask me. She had happy hour at 3 pm sharp every day. She had her friends and her bridge club (she REALLY liked bridge, to each his own.) She had a "suitor", and I don't ever want to know what the meaning in those quotation marks is. She lived surrounded by her family, her niece and the families that have grown from her, and my husband's family. Her walls dripped with photographs spanning generations, children and families that all loved her dearly. She loved my children, who look like her cherished and only nephew, their grandfather, who died entirely too young and took a piece of her heart with him.
We all had no doubt they'd be saying her name on the tv and over the radio in 5 years, when she hit 100 in full force.
She regularly wrote, and as she grew older, the letters became harder to read. The Christmas checks for the kids grew larger, to the point where I questioned whether or not she actually knew the dollar amounts she was writing. In her letters, in her scribbles of handwriting, I could see her slowly slipping away. But that woman held on as long as she could. She went out kicking and screaming, and once the dementia took her, it wasn't a month before her body gave out, too.
There is one thing Baba will never do, and that is not live life on her own terms.
She has insisted on being cremated and her ashes entombed in some sort of column thingy, all the way on top, where the sun will always shine on her and she'll be forever warm. She's asked that there be no services of any kind for her, which feels odd to me. I mean, of all the lives to celebrate, hers was the one. She was a shining example of taking a life by the reigns and riding as hard as you can.
But what Baba wants, Baba gets.
Our family will quietly commemorate her life one day next week, once she is settled in for an eternity of desert winds, and I will do my best to teach them the things that she would have wanted them to know; that life is too short for regrets, that anything worth doing is worth doing well, that you don't need more than what keeps you comfortable, and that if you're not having fun, you're doing it wrong.
Rest in peace, dear Baba. Rock on, baby, rock the fuck on.