The last time I saw my Aunt Zelda was at my sister’s funeral in Tennessee in September. The image of her in a wheelchair, David by her side, tossing a handful of dirt into Ellen’s grave is still with me. And it speaks to who Zelda was.
Zelda was the youngest of three siblings. The health issues she faced throughout her life would not have led one to conclude that she would be the last of the three to go. But she did come from tough stock. Her family were great storytellers. I remember my father telling tales at the dinner table. Of the family back in the shtetls of Poland. Of their parents’ different but difficult journeys to this country and to an industrial steel town. Of their life as a family in the east end of Pittsburgh . Though the specifics have faded, the sense of it, the richness of the storytelling remains with me. It doesn’t surprise me that Zelda had the strength to seek out her future by leaving her hometown of Pittsburgh. To do that at a time when
people of shorter stature faced more difficulties than today. To travel extensively before settling in LA. And that storytelling became part of her journey.
It is evident that Zelda was keenly aware of a central truth in life. That truth is the longing within all of us for connection and love. And she obviously felt that to such an extent that she reached far beyond family and the smaller circle of friends many of us have. She collected a universe of people she cared for. I was fortunate to make two of her birthday parties that spoke richly of the results of this life of reaching out. People came from great distances to celebrate with her.
I will remember Zelda. Her continued invitations to come out, visit, even stay in California. Her calls on birthdays and in between just to see how things were. Her coming to the weddings of two of my sister’s children.