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Saturday, January 9, 2010

Limousine Farts

As I type these words, my great-aunt is dying in Pompano Beach, as the great-aunts of many other sensitive, Jewish boys have done for years.

It's nearly impossible for me to think of my family as a thing, as a thing with many different parts, each one in its place, without Aunt Mickey. But soon, very, very soon, she'll be gone. Her stomach is riddled with holes. Her colon is torn to shreds. She's lost thirty pounds in two weeks. It seems that years of taking care of her erratic, bombastic, obscene, unpredictable and Alzheimer's-ridden husband has taken its toll and, while he is still going strong and physically healthy as a thoroughbred at 93, she will be finished, mentally brisk but physically in tatters, at 82.

She was told at the hospital that bowel surgery might save her, but she elected not to be saved-- a pretty predictable choice for a zealous atheist.

"Why should I go through all that?" she asked my father, who went down to Florida to visit her in the hospital, "my children don't need me, my grandchildren don't need me, my husband doesn't know me. I have no friends. Why can't I just decide that it's time to go now?"

Why indeed?

"Look, Mickey is a ball-buster," my father said to me in my dining room last night, coming over for an impromptu pow-wow. I smiled at that, because it's apparently true, and true to the last. "Nobody can tell her what to fuckin' do-- ever. I've known her for thirty-five years-- she was never sick-- not even one day. So, what? Now all of a sudden she's going to have nurses asking her, 'Do you have to make?' Stick some thing up her ass twice a day? Feed her like a baby? Fuck that. Mummy, she's doing it her way, and she's very happy."

A ball-buster is how Mickey will always be remembered in our family, and she would be proud of that moniker. In fact, she might even have left instructions for it to be carved onto her headstone, because that's how she rolls. She was a legend in the music industry far before it was commonplace to see a woman at the head of a Board Room. She had no problem telling men half her age or twice her age to go to hell and I have no doubt that, when she ran meetings, pit-stains and swamp-ass were the order of the day for her underlings.

She was the only person I ever knew who kept a black cook in her house, like Jack Benny or something. Back when she lived in New Jersey and would only summer in Florida, she and her husband would take the train and her "boy" would drive her Cadillac down to Florida so it would be there for her to maneuver erratically throughout the palm tree-lined streets.

And did she ever.

I can remember being in the backseat of Mickey's many Cadillacs as a child and silently praying and nearly wetting myself as she careened through the opposite lane of traffic and acquainting the barge-like car's wire-rimmed wheel-covers with the sidewalk. I also remember, as a very young boy, taking extreme delight in removing my shoes at her place in Jersey and running down her expertly-waxed parquet floors and sliding at least eight or nine feet. I remember watching Three Stooges shorts while lying on her enormous bed with my sister, and I remember finding the first piece of pornography I ever saw in my life: a Beta-Max videocassette called "The Hornymooners."

I remember the bathroom at her place in New Jersey, which was mirrored wall-to-wall, and the inside bathroom door was completely mirrored so that, when the door was closed, you saw your own reflection approximately eighty-seven thousand times. The mirror above the sink was also completely framed in gigantic theatre dressing-room high-wattage lightbulbs, so that you thought you were defecating directly on the Equator.

As we aged, one special treat we looked forward to as kids was going to stay with Mickey at her place in Florida for a week or two weeks, I forget. This event would happen when we got to be around sixteen. My eldest sister went first, of course, and took one of her best friends at the time. They behaved so poorly, and made Mickey scream so ballistically, that they were summarily banned from ever coming back. A few years later, the same exact thing happened to my other sister, who brought our cousin.

I never got my Florida vacation at Mickey's place, but I've made my peace with that. Chances are that it might not have had a happy ending anyway.

My oldest sister and Mickey repaired their relationship and it was better than before. For years, they spoke on the phone nearly every week, and, because my sister is the oldest, Mickey often talked to her like a friend, a confidant, and it indeed harkened back to the early days of my sister's life when Mickey played such an active role in bringing her up after my mother divorced her first husband. My sister is taking Mickey's decision to end her life this way extremely poorly, and with a lot of hostility and frustration. She loves her great-aunt, her last link to her grandmother who died so very young. And Mickey loves my sister.

"I'll never forget," Mickey told my father at the hospital in Florida, "taking your daughter, maybe when she was seven or nine, to a play on Broadway. Had my boy pick her up in a limo... and I was farting all over that limo's beautiful leather seats, and she was horrified! She said she never knew that Aunt Mickey farted! 'Aunt Mickey,' she said to me, 'you can't fart in here! This is a limo!' And I said, 'Honey, I fart wherever I want!'"

I don't know exactly where I'm going with this-- which is unusual for me-- usually the post kind of just pours out and writes itself. I'm not asking for "Awww, I'm so sorry" comments, though I'll take them, but I'm not really pining for sympathy. I'm not terribly sad, it sounds strange to say. As Mickey's son said on Thursday when she was sent home from the hospital with hospice care, "Friday's my mom's birthday, and I think it's going to be her best birthday ever."

And so maybe I just want to send out my wish that I hope Mickey's birthday, her last birthday, was her best ever.


  1. An excellent tribute. Aunt Mickey sounds badass. I hope you're able to share this piece with your family. And, a very Happy Birthday to your aunt.

  2. That's a great line about farting in the limo. Maybe that's the secret of a full life? Farting wherever you want.

    I hope Aunt Mickey has a fabulous birthday!

  3. A fitting homage, I think.

    She sounds like one hell of a lady. I'm sure they'll be telling stories about her for a long time.

    Stories don't need to go anywhere, they just need to be told!

  4. I can't help it, I had to finally leave a comment. Mickey sounds amazing, and like she's had a beyond amazing life. It's not strange that you're not sad, really. Her death certainly won't be anything to be happy about, but her badass-ery is something I'm going to smile at and aspire to.

  5. Happy Birthday Mickey!
    An Excellent Tribute Mr Apron. I hope you send something like this to her children. They will cherish it forever!
    @ Sebastian, Your last line is so true!

  6. I just came up with it on the spot, but I have a feeling it's the kind of thing someone must've said in some rousing speech... sometime, somewhere :)

  7. Well It needs to catch on Sebastian! So keep saying it. I love storytellers and that's why I keep returning to this blog!

  8. Oh, Apron. She sounds so courageous. I hope that I am half as feisty some day. I hope that I face death when it comes with even the smallest amount of wisdom and bravery. She sounds like an amazing woman. This was great writing.


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