One of my aunties- my mother’s best friend through most of my life- died last night. I heard via text when I was inline for a tennis court. Bev would be shocked and amazed, admiring, and incredulous that I would be lined up for tennis. I don’t think she exercised a day in her life. She was forced to do physical therapy, and grudgingly would do it, with a persistence, grimacing and bitching about it. But, she would do it.
She was the first gourmet I’d ever met, at the tender age of 14. She took me to my birthday dinner at the Caravansary in Stanford Shopping Mall, and I don’t know how it came about, but she dared me to eat a piece of this huge chocolate cake. I started off gleefully and when I reached maybe the last fourth of this huge piece of chocolate cake, she took pity on me and told me it was OK if I didn’t finish it. She had a huge heart. She loved, loved, loved her granddaughter. I’m comforted in the fact that she got to see her age and grow into a beautiful teenage girl. I was worried when she started having health issues that she wouldn’t, but she did. She was stubborn, and also just good at keeping up on regimens and taking care of herself (except for exercise). She loved food, and truly understood food at a level that was always very impressive to me. Her son is an amazing, fearless cook, so maybe that had something to do with it.
Little bits I love about Bev: she knew how to tell a joke. She always had a few on hand, and was great for the recall and telling. It is a very good lifeskill to always memorize a not bad joke. Most of mine are Bev’s. Here are some:
A man left an accordion on his back seat. He locked the car, went to a bar. When he came back, the window was smashed, and another accordion was on the back seat. (I replace accordion with “naugahyde”.)
A blind man walks into a bar with his dog, a chihuahua. The bartender says “no dogs.” He says: “It’s a seeing eye dog.” The bartender says: “Nobody has a seeing-eye chihuahua.” The man says: “It’s a chihuahua?”
How many Jewish mothers does it take to screw in a light bulb? Oh, none. I’ll just sit here in the dark.
Bev had original art- woodcuts= hanging on her wall, made by the artist themselves, who were her friends. She was so glamorous to me, representing this kind of authentic bohemian, well, as bohemian you can get in suburbia. She enjoyed different culture…’s foods. Ha ha. She had a love of all things Chinese, including her waiter at her favorite restaurant that she, for all intensive purposes, adopted. They were so close I visited one his nieces in Beijing, one of the highlights of my trip, since she was living the same lifestyle I had at that time, but half a world away. It was invaluable to meet and she showed me a side of the city, and the culture, I wouldn’t have had otherwise.
Bev was an artist and instilled in me also a love of photography and, as a teenager, helped me with my first SLR, developing prints, evaluating them. She told me to keep a journal of all my camera settings and how happy I was with each photo. This is before instant gratification- when there were days, even a week between taking a photo and seeing a print. She gave me my first enlarger (I had 3 at one point…) and encouraged me when I setup a darkroom in my garage and bathroom. Of *course* I had two darkrooms. Her photograph of her husband was one of the best photos. It’s a foreshortened head on shot while he’s smoking a cigar, and giving a kind of squinty look through his glasses. It is Classic Roger.
Bev was a very loving person. She adored her friends, her son, her husband, her kids, her niece, her sisters, their kids, their husbands, most of all her grandchild.. and our husbands and kids and children. She was honest and smart, and could be honest and smart – and maybe too direct many times – with you. I’m so glad I met her and I will miss her a ton.
I took my son to visit her in her retirement home recently. I remember changing his diaper on her floor, but I don’t really remember what we talked about. It was just nice to check in and be with her. She was all smiles about Reid and asked me lot of questions about his development. She told me about her life as if I didn’t know her, which was distressing as she mixed up most of the facts, but also, I just liked talking to her.
Bev was an adult that was always part of my life- countless dinners in my teenage and young adult years- biking to Mountain View, getting Chinese or eating at their house. Her kugel! To die for. Talking about real things, politics, literature, movies. I was always taken very seriously, never brushed off for my opinions, which were taken to task and considered thoughtfully. Bev usually had someone living with her- a family friend, a niece, a niece of a family friend, a cousin’s daughter- her son and his wife or someone visiting. She was a great entertainer and I fondly remember sitting around their dinner table after the food has been eaten, Roger opening another bottle of wine, dessert dishes sitting around, talking about friends or telling stories. I got the task at some point of making coffee, escorted or overseen by Roger. Bev would serve ice cream or ask to open the Sees’ candies. She was always reading something and always wanted to talk about it. Even when she got a walker she would have a stack of books on it.
We passed the first New Year not celebrating it with Bev, this year. We’ve celebrated every new year with her, and a bunch of family, at a large dim sum restaurant in Palo Alto. Bev, I hope you are surrounded by wonderful Chinese food, and you can watch all the goings on of your granddaughter.