An Aunt Passes

April 22, 2009


I have three aunts on my father’s side: Diana, Naomi, and Henriette.

Diana, is most like my grandmother Agnes, a horrible narcissistic woman who may have ruined my father. Diana is in now a sanitarium with Alzheimer’s disease.

Henriette, the youngest of my three aunts, is still active and energetic in his 80s in New York City. She makes calendars to sell featuring reproductions of fine art she pulls from the Internet.

I bought her a computer and a fine printer so she can make her calendars. She has been paying me back at $30 a month. Her last check arrived Saturday. She proudly told me that she is half way to paying me back.

She also told me that it was sad about her sister, Naomi, thus informing me in this off-hand, roundabout way that Noami had died

Naomi was a force or nature. All of my three aunts were narcissistic personalities like their mom, but all of them turned out a little better than Agnes.

Naomi studied to be a ballet dancer. She reached the apex of her career when she danced in the chorus line of a road company production of the musical Oklahoma. She moved to California (I suspect to try and get into the movies), but then she divorced her first husband (whom I never knew).

One day she was at a party and she met Donald. Donald was about ten years younger than Naomi. He was an engineer and a cowboy from a California high desert pioneer family that owned a ranch near Hemet, California.

As soon as he saw Naomi, Donald asked her to dance with him, even though he could not dance a bit and Naomi, a ballet dancer, danced very well. As they stumbled around the dance floor, he told her, “I want you to marry me.”

Isn’t that one of the most romantic stories you ever heard?

So Noami married him.

Most of the time, Donald was very quiet. As a product of a cowboy family, he was the strong, silent type. Although he didn’t say much, when he did speak, it sounded very profound. Naomi sometimes said, “Donald is very deep.”

As one of three narcissistic sisters, she had met her match and brought out the best in each other and counteracted each other’s worst tendencies.

Their two daughters, Joanna and Valerie, turned out very well. I always thought of them, the product of a Chicago Jewish family of alternative health nuts and a California high-desert pioneer ranching family, as an example of “hybrid vigor.”



They lived in Fullerton, California for many years. Naomi ran a dance studio for during most of that time, teaching children to dance ballet and to tap dance. Donald went back to school and switched from being an engineer to being a chiropractor.

After a while they decided to become citizens of the world. They moved to England, then Sri Lanka, then India, and then to Australia. We lost track of them and they lost track of us. Donald became a professor of chiropractic at an Australian college. Valerie became a chiropractor like her dad, and married an Australian chiropractor.

Joanna, like my brother B, was good at learning languages. After becoming fluent in French and Spanish, she said, “Those were too easy. I am going to learn Chinese.”

Joanna moved to Taiwan and became fluent in Taiwanese Chinese and Mandarin Chinese. She started working as a translator and international deal maker, helping American companies and Taiwanese companies set up business arrangements. She met and married Kenny, a Taiwanese businessman. They started a company called Graco which makse baby furniture and baby strollers. They became millionaires. (Most of my relatives remain poor all their lives, but my cousin Joanna became a millionaire and my mother’s brother George Perle, an obscurely famous composer did pretty well also, being awarded a Pulitzer Prize in composition and a MacArthur Genius Award, honors which also pay pretty well.)

Similar to her parents, Joanna had two daughters. The youngest was born almost deaf. Joanna took her daughter to Australia, where she was the first Taiwanese child to have a cochlear implant. Joanna was so grateful that her daughter learned to hear that she decided to use her millions to set up a foundation so every deaf child born in Taiwan who can be helped by cochlear implants gets one and follow-up training. Unfortunately, Joanna died of breast cancer some years ago, but her foundation lives on. Her two daughters attended the “American School” in Taipei, Taiwan. The school built a library and named it the “Joanna Nichols Memorial Library” after my cousin.

My aunt Naomi, as I’ve said, was a force of nature. She was a person who engaged in relentless self-improvement, studying yoga, becoming a vegetarian, and following just about every plan she could find intended to defeat death and decay. I think she really hoped to live forever. She told me once that she died on the operating table during heart surgery in Taiwan and had the “going toward the light” experience that many people who have Near-Death Experiences report.

However, it discouraged her greatly when her daughter died before she did. Eventually, Naomi and Donald moved to Australia. Her hips gave out and Naomi the ballet dancer and relentless physical fitness follower became a cripple in her last years, cared for by her younger husband, my uncle-in-law, Donald.

In her last letter, Henriette informed me that Naomi died recently. I hope Aunt Naomi found the light she was going for.

I was a product of parents from distressed families, (and my parents probably should not have married each other). I married a woman who appears to be a “soul sister” of David but did not suffer similar abuse as a child. It is true Mrs. Random (before we were married) did not speak to her mother for a couple of years after she turned 18, but that’s probably pretty normal for a number of children as they become young adults. (I will write the tale of that episode fairly soon to keep my promise of delivering it as a “premium” for shareware contributions.)

When her mother was dying a few years ago, my wife flew down to the high desert in California and spent a peaceful and friendly week with her mother. My wife’s sister, who lived about an hour away, spent no time at all with their mother in her last days as sis apparently had some unresolved “issues” with her dying mom.)