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Marie and Madeline
The Passing of Two Boyhood Angels


As a little tyke Madeline, my mother’s younger sister, was the candy bringer, always with a roll of lifesavers in her purse for the children. Remaining with her parents for life and then with my mother until now, she would have been called a spinster of old. She had, however, taken the measure of the world in her own way, working as a secretary to parole officers until retirement in Baltimore City some decades ago. There was something lurking about the world that Madeline choose not to engage, remaining a child in some ways until she met little Emma this summer and the toddler princess saw in her an ally quietly critical of the uncaring world.

Marie, is my father’s older sister, a woman wo read voraciously and raised seven children. She kept Grandma LaFond in her old age and left her door open to me for life, granting a place to visit the memories of my father’s side of the family and loaning me books from ages 5 to 53. The first title I can remember she leant me was The Age of Exploration, the last Russia Under the Czars. She and I had much reading in common and a curious view of the world. For years I would walk into Dundalk Maryland to have lunch with her one weekday a month, until two years ago, when she failed to answer the door and I got in touch with her through her son and found out she had not recognized the strange man on her porch and had huddled in fear within her little rowhome. I spoke to her soon after and she addressed me alternately as my son and my father.

Last week, as Madeline, recovering from a seizure in Ocean City, Maryland, her favorite place, asked me to wheel her up onto the raised boardwalk over the beach so that she could look down on a girls’ soccer team squealing with glee in the surf as the wind swept in, she said, “Awl, ‘dere havin’ such a nice time. I remember liking the beach. Thank you so much for taking me up here. This is so pretty—hear the waves, like thunder that doesn’t scare you”

Madeline wanted to taste a certain French fry and a certain funnel cake she remembered from a distant childhood. As she relived her taste memory, spilling powdered sugar on her slacks next to children hugging a person in a cartoon suit as I stood behind her and we watched the bustling strangers walk by, Madeline said, “Thank you for pushing me around. I know you don’t like the boardwalk.”

As I eyed a couple of Dominican babes giggling by in ill-fitted bathing suits I shrugged my shoulders stoically and said, “No problem, Aunt Madeline.”

We didn’t know that Marie was passing just then, and Madeline would never know. For when I got her back to the condo with my mom and went for a walk in search of a slice of pizza for dinner in a town that seemed only to sell whole pies, she had another seizure. By the time I got back the EMTs had her in the ambulance and a nice young man showed me the map to the hospital on his smart phone.

In the hospital, 8 days ago, I bought Madeline a pair of playing cards so she could occupy her mind between therapy sessions. She was in good hands, in a much better hospital than in the Baltimore Metropolitan Area, with staff that were actually kind and nurturing as opposed to the brutal alienation characteristic of the hospitals in and around our home town. Kissing her on the head twice and reminding her I loved her, she groaned, “When are you coming back?”

“October.”

She sighed, “I might not be here.”

I smiled, “You’re in good hands—I wish I had these girls waking me up every hour.”

Madeline frowned playfully and let her face drop in resignation as Mom and I waved and walked off.

On Sunday I was glad to hear that she had been transferred to a neurological rehab center—the best in the state.

Friday, august 9—yesterday, my sister told me that Madeline’s brain had stop working. This morning, as I am yet westward bound on a quiet adventure and the life support machines are withdrawn to let her rest, it is with the haunting sense that one less person will ask to be told of the far high mountains with an imaginative shutter of her pale eyelids.

Madeline said so 14 days gone, and Marie would certainly concur before the curtain was drawn across her questing mind, that our world has once again become too bleak for such gentle souls to consider without the view feeling like an attack.

They will be missed.

In a sense though, they are blessed.

Thank God they were spared the brutal end that awaits us Pale Boomers, as we are hunted from our homes by our feral replacements and erased in group homes by the savage ushers set above us in our decline.

Saturday Morning 8/10/19

Add Comment
GooseAugust 10, 2019 1:30 PM UTC

Sorry about your double loss, James. You've written before about how even childless relatives have their important place in the extended family. Even the ones who appear to be taken care of more than taking care of others...
responds:August 12, 2019 9:51 PM UTC

Saying permanent goodbye by surprise is never easy.

Thanks.