*I have been thinking a lot about this, and I would like to start a series of portraits of some of the amazing people in my life. Their stories are fascinating to me, and hopefully will be interesting to readers as well. It is all well and good to talk about “life path”, but I prefer sometimes to hear what other people paths are. When I was in my 20s, I often thought of my memoirs. Here is an attempt at other people’s memoirs first. Enjoy. -tidewater *
Everyone needs an aunt who wears hot pink spandex pants and loves the symphony. I do not have any aunts like this by blood, but am honored to have D in my life.
D always wears the most fashionable glasses from Hong Kong – usually pink with some ornate side bar. She uses the word “fabulous” with a mid-western accent. She is thin, 65, and dyes her short cropped hair blonde. She is spartan with her diet, and most of the time eats a combination of rice cakes with vegetable (without the s). She makes cookies without any sugar. She likes to redo rooms in her house using dark mysterious colors that must have been fashionable right before the French Revolution – and she always manages to find some very unstable handyman to do the work for her. She worries a lot, so much so that it makes her skinniness seem to the be result of running around worrying. She loves classical music, and has a trusty assortment of new age cd’s that she will play on repeat while she does pilates in the living room. Before she retired into the business she runs now, she was an elementary school music teacher, and she still loves to play music in a fun, childish way. She speaks French fluently, and always celebrates Bastille Day when she can. This is important for the story.
D still goes dancing on Friday nights, only now she starts at 5pm. She is an avid online dater, which is very impressive for a woman who can’t figure out facebook or the basic commands in Excel. She is looking for a man who “is not poor”, and scoffs at all kinds of men who clearly do not have the money to treat her to dinner. She goes to Over 40 meetups, and most of the time it is hard to book a “date” with her.
D has been married twice, and the second marriage dissolved into something that I also liken to a Korean soap opera. Her first marriage, she says, was short and sweet, and she argues that she was just too young to be married. The second time she got married it was to a French pearl seller, who she met in Hawaii probably in her 30s. Oh! Was she in love. They traveled the South Pacific looking for pearls, and commuted often between southeast Asia, Hawaii and the mainland. The pictures of her from this era of her life, in the 80s, have her with big hair and high waisted pants.
Along the way, they adopted a Burmese teenager who then went on to have a successful internet start-up when he graduated college. She’s always mentioned her Burmese adopted son in an offhand way, as something that was obvious and not much trouble. She just returned from a 3 week trip to Burma, where she attended her son’s lavish wedding to an Austrian girl who is earning her PhD in the United States.
D had a full poodle named Prema which she adored like a child. When Prema became sick, she had a dog psychic come and commune between them. Prema’s picture is still prominantly on the refrigerator, and she can’t talk about her without crying.
Something happened, though, and she didn’t have children. Whether it was by choice, or circumstance, or by omission, I do not know. I do know that 7 years into the marriage, her French husband began an affair with their Thai secretary. He had one child by her, and when the Thai woman was pregnant with the second, the French man asked D if he could bring them all into their home in Hawaii. This is where the divorce happened, but not where their relationship left off. Today D still runs the business with French man and his Thai wife. Although she was close with the children of that marriage when they were little, over time the Thai wife refused to let her see them any more. This has broken her spirit a little, and yet getting away from the tangled web of that relationship has proven impossible over the last 5 years.
D is always gracious about having people come and live in her house – especially if they are vegetarian and female. There is always someone from the Phillipines or the outer Hawaiian islands living in her basement. In Hawaiian there is a word ‘hanai’ or ‘calabash cousins’, which means to adopt. D was surprised when I hanai’d her into my own family. She is neverendingly optimistic about meeting someone as she approaches her 70s – and in this, she puts my 30-somethings whining to shame.