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