My lesbian aunt

MY FAVORITE and only aunt died on Christmas Eve. Her name was Marthalyn, but most people called her Marty. She said she was 89, but I calculate she was 88.

roseShe had cancer that was only noticed a few weeks before she died.

Marty lived and died in a house painted white on an island off the coast of Maine, and she had lived there more than 30 years with her “partner,” Grace, who was an Emily Dickinson scholar.

Marty had worn many hats. She had been a university official, a professional binder of rare books, and she worked in the 1950s with the American Friends Service Committee ferrying exchange students between the United States and Europe.

Yes, she was a Quaker. She was not raised a Quaker.

She chose it as an adult.

I make an issue of her being a lesbian in the headline because neither she nor Grace ever came out of the closet even though they fit every lesbian stereotype in the script.

There was one exception. Marty was not angry. She was a cheery person, the most upbeat of us all. Grumpy Grace, on the other hand, filled the darker requirements well.

Grace lives in a Maine nursing home, having completely lost her mind, a condition that began almost 10 years ago, probably Alzheimer’s, but Marty never used that word.

With Marty’s demise, I am left with only two blood relatives — a daughter and a sister — in my very peculiar* family. We are not prolific. My mother was an only child. My father had just one sibling, Marty, who had no kids, of course.

My sister is also a lesbian, no children. My daughter is 47, married but no kids. Clearly, we have never had big family reunions.

Now we are down to three. My daughter is the last limb on this peculiar tree. And Marty comes out of the closet today, posthumously.

* * * *

*  “Peculiar.” That was my mother’s preferred word for the family she married into, including the two kids she spawned.

10 thoughts on “My lesbian aunt

  1. I have always enjoyed your tales of your aunt. I have also noticed that the traits you admired in her tend to be your strengths, as well. Maybe we all do that. See others through the filters of our own aspirations.

    Whether or not that is true, I feel for your loss. Our family connections are one of the things that help us make sense of this world — a world that needs far more Aunt Martys.


    1. Steve: I don’t recall any specific tales of my aunt. I have mentioned her in passing down through the years. I suppose that is what you are referring to.

      She died Christmas eve, but due to communication foul-ups on the part of Grace’s kin, nobody on our side knew of it till five days later.


  2. May Marty rest in peace, and may Grace find cheer before her time is up.


    Kim G
    San Francisco, CA
    Where we know WAY more cheery lesbians than grumpy ones.


    1. Kim: Marty is, I am sure, resting in peace. Alas, it is too late for Grace to find much cheer. She is totally out to lunch. From what I hear, however, she’s in pretty fair physical condition.

      Every time Marty visited her in the nursing home, Marty had to be reintroduced to her by a nurse.

      As for cheery vs. grumpy, I think my view on lesbians is mightily colored by my sister who is the angriest, grumpiest, most militant and explosive lesbian imaginable. She is a genuine political fanatic who would have been content as a guard at Buchenwald or a Soviet labor camp. I maintained a thin peace with her for many years while my mother was alive, as a favor to my mother, and when my mother died in 2009 I made an attempt to improve the relationship with good ole sis, but it was utterly impossible. I quit communicating with her a couple of years ago. Pathetic situation.

      As for cheery lesbians, there is a woman here in town who is a lesbian, and she is the nicest person imaginable. Puts a smile on my face just running into her downtown, which I do on occasion. Lovely woman. I know all lesbians are not like my sister.


  3. It is kind of strange how the world turns isn’t it? Both of my parents are still alive and also all 3 of my siblings (2 brothers and 1 sister) and I am the oldest of the 4. The ONLY person I have a wonderful relationship with is my sweet sister, Susan, who is 7 years younger than me. She and I have given up on the rest of our “peculiar” family, which is our preferred name for the rest of the lot.

    Your Aunt Marty sounds like a delightful person. Rest in peace Marty.


    1. Cat: As the old saw goes, you can pick your friends but not your family. When you say the “only person,” I’m assuming you are referring to your parents too. That is sad. I never liked my father, but my mother and I had a good connection for most of her life. Alas, it went downhill about the final five years of her life due to her relentless attempts to “patch up” the situation between my sister and me. Not only did the situation with my sister not get patched, the relationship with my mother went bad.

      Yes, Marty was a good egg. Only one big flaw. She voted for Obama.


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