The Ghosts in the Machine

My phone contact list contains more than a few names that are no longer among the living. I haven’t the heart or the energy to remove them. It’s too close to erasing their memory.

The list includes my Great Aunt Tedi, who never smiled in photos. A feisty New England red head known to all by her nickname Tedi, a name she gained back in her high school days due to her Ted Williams devotion. It wasn’t until her funeral that I learned her given name was Esther. Aunt Tedi only drove SAABs, preferably at speeds unsafe in most neighborhoods. Smart, funny and direct to the point, I miss her something fierce. 

Aunt Lenore, my dad’s only sibling. I grew to appreciate her – we were such different people it wasn’t always easy for us to connect. But we shared a love of family and family stories that I miss greatly today. She was a creature of her generation – a wife, mother, tennis player, travel agent. She appreciated the finer things in life and we shared a joy for cooking and dining. I wish we had understood each other better.

My late, great cousin Jill. I miss her every single day. Seven years and four days older than me, I idolized her as a child. As I grew, we grew apart. We were so very different, yet had some real core similarities. A love for family stories and lore, a liberal bent (although she was much further left than I’ll ever be), a passion for new places and experiences. Losing her ripped my heart in a way that has yet to heal.

My second cousin, Michael, who I wish I’d known better. What I knew of him, I genuinely liked. He and Jill were tight; when I heard the shocking news about his passing, my first thought was that Jill would have someone to hang out with. Michael was a man who lived his beliefs, thoroughly committed to the causes that mattered to him. A man I’m proud to have known.

My dear friend Melanie. My New York Friday night dinner companion for more than a decade. We started out in different political camps and found ourselves together battling the crazies. She knew where all the skeletons were buried and, unfortunately, she took many of those secrets with her. I can picture her biting her lower lip when she was eager to share a particularly good story or piece of information. I’m still pissed at her for lying to me about her annual post cancer check-ups which, it turns out, never happened. She should still be here, laughing with me about the political people we knew who are now in jail and cursing the man in the white house.

William, the superintendent in my building back in New York. I no longer have that apartment and I don’t believe he still works there. Yet whenever I see his name in my phone, I hear him say ‘hola’ and envision him smiling his big smile. One of the kindest men I’ve ever known.

Maybe someday I’ll get around to cleaning out my contact list. But for now, it’s all part of my history, all the pieces and people who helped me become me. Catching a glimpse of those people lights a spark in me, bringing back wonderful moments of my past.

Do you erase or do you save?

Ciao for now,

Lauren J

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