Sometime after her sister, my mother, died and before her Alzheimer’s developed to the point she didn’t recognize or know me, my aunt Hattie started using this especially emotional turn of phrase at the end of our phone conversations. I’d say, “I love you,” and she’d reply, with vibrant care and warmth, “I adore you.” It was striking for several reasons, among them because my family had never been particularly generous with expressions or displays of affection.
My little family, Nicholas and me, have no such limitations. Still, often, as tonight, when Nicholas says, “I love you, Poppa,” I reply, “I adore you,” and I think about how full and true that is and also remember my aunt, who died in 2008, even more fondly and with genuine, deep gratitude.
That’s the whole post tonight, but here is Hattie dancing with her husband, my uncle, John Harvey, in 1988, and then with me in her Manhattan apartment, the last time I saw her before her death. I was visiting New York from the West Coast—Bellingham, Washington—for BookExpo America, the book-industry trade show. Aunt Hattie was very polite and had no idea who I was: