A great person, and also a link to the Blumenaus of Hope Street, has passed.
So this week, we return to a time of loss and grief.
And, hopefully, solace.
My great-aunt Eleanor Kidd died April 1 in western Massachusetts. She was just about three months shy of 104 years old, and represented the last living relative of my grandparents’ generation.
She was a smart, funny, resilient lady who overcame adversity more than once and enjoyed the pleasures of long life and close family. (I won’t rewrite her obit, linked above, but suggest you check it out. It’s better reading than anything I’ve written in a long while.)
To explain her relationship to me in Hope Street terms, her sister Corine married my grandfather, the keeper of the calendars. And Great-Aunt El showed up on them from time to time over the years, while visiting or otherwise interacting with the Blumenaus of Hope Street.
She was also one-third of my family’s tightest birthday cluster: Hers was July 4, mine is July 5, and my cousin Brandon (the son of my Aunt Elaine) is July 6. This was not the sort of cluster you piece together by searching distant generations on a family tree: The three of us were all in the same room at least once or twice. This somehow escaped my grandfather’s notice, and he never took a photo with just the three of us; it was rather the sort of thing he would have thought of.
As an independent adult, I only spent a few days in her company. Not long after I was married, my wife and I (then living in Norfolk County, Mass.) went out to West Springfield one autumn weekend to visit Great-Aunt El and her family. I had a lovely time; the hospitality was warm and genuine; and it remains a regret that I did not stay in touch.
If you’ve been here a while, you might remember my post about Great-Aunt El on her 100th birthday … or the post I wrote about her husband, Bob Kidd, who died before I was born but whom I would have liked to meet.
Bob Kidd, El’s husband, died unexpectedly in early March 1969. The calendar entries posted above show a phone call to Springfield on March 23, and what appears to be a “long“ phone call to Springfield on March 30 or 31. (I wonder what “long” meant by Hope Street standards. Very few phone calls in the 15 surviving years of Hope Street calendars got that treatment.)
It doesn’t take much imagination to guess what was going on. My Great-Aunt El was probably opening up to her sister in the aftermath of her loss, maybe talking about what she was going to do going forward to support her children … and my grandma was doing her best to comfort, reassure and support her as she started on a new path.
Or perhaps Great-Aunt El was talking about the mundanities of daily life — the kids’ grades, the spring thaw, the brakes on the car — as a way to think about anything other than her loss, and my grandma was providing an ear.
(Maybe my grandpa, too. The Blumenaus of Stamford and the Kidds of Springfield were close, and I know my grandpa felt the loss. He was perhaps not an enlightened/sensitive man as we define them in the 21st century, but he would have helped in any way he could recognize.)
I am not close enough to Great-Aunt El’s family to fill a similar role in their time of grief, decades later.
And, given the length and quality of her life, perhaps their grief is somewhat different in nature. Those who knew her best can treasure a life well-lived, instead of mourning a life cut short.
Still, my heart is with them, as my grandparents’ were with Great-Aunt El when she needed it. The loss of a remarkable person is the loss of a remarkable person, no matter how long you get to spend with them.
To her kids, grandkids and great-grandkids, in all the places they’ve settled, I offer my condolences.
And to the memory of Great-Aunt El, I offer the preceding 740 words, and a tip of the hat.