Sometimes I wonder

by Lorin Michel Monday, September 4, 2017 10:24 PM

My Aunt Beryl died in late spring/early summer of 2013. I miss her. She was, to use an over-used word, a character. Self-sufficient, well-informed, well-traveled, she had lived alone for decades having lost everyone close to her including her husband, her sister, even her beloved dog, Pepper. She rattled around in a four-story house above the river in McKeesport, Pennsylvania, in sight of the shuttered steel mills where she worked for years before retiring. The house had been purchased for her mother, and for a while, the family lived there. My mother spent the first few years of her life in that brick house. My mother’s father, a turret gunner, was killed on his first mission in World War II. 

Aunt Beryl married later in life, becoming a wife to a man who was much older and already had children from a previous marriage. She never had children of her own but instead doted on my mother, her niece, and on her dog. She was cantankerous and socially awkward, and always engaged. She absorbed everything and had working knowledge of most things, especially when it came to popular culture and politics. 

I don’t know when she and I started talking on a fairly regular basis. There were times I saw her number come up on my caller ID and I let the call go to voice mail, mostly because I knew that if I answered, I’d be on the phone for several hours as we discussed everything from the current occupant of the white house to what she heard on one of her radio programs to the status of her beloved Pittsburgh Steelers. 

Before the election of 2000, she and I had a number of discussions about George W. Bush. I didn’t like him; I didn’t trust his eyes. I thought he was a weasel. She liked him, and I didn’t push my opinion. At that point, she was in her early 80s and I thought she’d earned the right to hers. Plus, I just didn’t have the strength to argue about how awful I thought Bush would be for the country. It wouldn’t have mattered; I couldn’t possibly have changed her mind. Several years later, after the Iraq war debacle and torture and countless other atrocities, she and I were having a discussion on a Sunday. 

“You were right about that Bush,” she said in her gruff tone. “He is a weasel.”

I couldn’t convince her but I give her all the credit in the world. She listened, she read, she was open to changing her mind when presented with factual information. 

She knew about the singer Pink and really liked that “John Jovi,” otherwise known as Jon Bon Jovi.

An avowed movie buff, she had no use for bad language, sex and violence. She preferred her old movies, especially anything with Clark Gable. She and I shared a love of Gone with the Wind. But she did love “that Russell Crowe.” 

In her house, the radio was always on and if it wasn’t, the TV was. She read the newspaper and numerous news magazines. She consumed the news and knew a little about a lot and a lot about a little. 

She didn’t love President Obama, mostly because he was a democrat but a little bit because he was black. There was an undercurrent of racism that ran through Pittsburgh and McKeesport in the way back, and it stayed with her. We almost had an argument once about black football players and how, to her, they only played football so that they could have the money. The white players played because they loved the game. 

Aunt Beryl died while Obama was still in office, and I know she liked and appreciated some of what he did, like getting Bin Laden. She didn’t like Michelle because she didn’t see the First Lady as worthy. She knew I was a huge fan of both Obamas and she respected that even if she didn’t agree.

I wonder, sometimes, what she’d think about what has happened in the country since Obama. I wonder what she’d think about a reality show second-rate star occupying an office that she revered. I suspect she would have voted for Trump; I also suspect she would now be appalled. Sometimes I wonder what she’d say but I can hear her voice. It’s saying “Oh, my.” I can see her shaking her head.

I wonder sometimes.

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