Friday, March 2, 2007

My Favorite Aunt

My aunt Ruth is 80 years old. She has macular degeneration, which means she is legally blind. But does that stop her from driving all over LA in her 1976 gold Chevy Camero? It didn't until one afternoon last summer, when she was making her way into Hollywood on Cahuenga to fill a prescription from her eye doctor, and she collided head-on with, "some girl who wasn't looking where she was going."

The "girl" had minor injuries, but my aunt was seriously injured. She had internal bleeding and they had to cut out part of her spleen and some of her intestines. She is lucky to be alive and lucky that she didn't kill anyone else. When I got to the hospital, Ruth was in bad shape, but she was conscious. Standing next to her bed, holding her hand, I joked (gently), "So, no more driving, right?" Ruth replied, "Well, I guess not. They'll never insure me now. And my car is probably totaled." By the way, not only had she been driving blind, but she no longer held a license. She had tried to renew it earlier in the year by having her boyfriend fill out the paperwork (because she couldn't see it), but then they wanted her to take a vision test. She told them she forgot something in the car and never went back.

It's been several months since the accident and Ruth is doing alright, but she has lost a lot of weight. Food tends to go right through her because of her intestine shortage. Trudy thinks she looks fabulous. "Have you seen Ruth? She looks 50! I am so jealous." When I asked her how Ruth was going to stop losing weight, my mother looked at me blankly and said, "I don't know." Like, it was the most ludicrous question she'd ever been asked.

When my mom would have one of her meltdowns, Ruth was the only one who could venture into her bedroom and calm her down. I remember Ruth as being very “groovy,” back in the late 60’s and 70’s. She wore cool shift dresses, high, pointy heels and lots of costume jewelry. And she often wore “fashion wigs,” so she’d have totally different hair every time I saw her. She always had boyfriends, two or three at a time. At one point she was dating a DJ named Dera, who had a creepy, overly-modulated voice and used to bring me stuffed animals; a compulsive gambler named Big Stan, who was really big and tall and sweet and wore turquoise jewelry and would give me money if he won at the track; and a scandalously young waiter from Chasen’s restaurant whose name I forget.

When I was a kid, I was Ruth’s favorite. She used to like to buy me toys and take me places, like to the movies and the zoo. That’s probably because Trudy wasn’t around a lot of the time and because she didn’t have any kids of her own. And that’s because, Bobby, “that-good-for-nothing-bastard ex-husband of hers,” who loafed around all day on public golf courses while she waited tables, left her one day, out of the blue, with all her savings. The reason they had no kids it turns out is that, unbeknownst to Ruth, Bobby had had a vasectomy before they were married. No one talks about him in front of her, but whenever he comes up Trudy always sighs and says, “Yeah, but boy, was he good looking.”

When I was about five or six, Ruth would bring me to her condo in the Hollywood Hills and let me try on her wigs and swim in the pool. That was in 1969. She hasn’t let anyone into her condo since then. No one. Not any of her family, not any of her boyfriends, not even a repair man has seen the inside of that condo since 1969.

Until the accident.


darcy Whittemore said...

i am laughing and frowning at the same time.

Anonymous said...

I am on the edge of my freakin' seat...I TOLD you I thought you're the greatest!