My Auntie Karen passed away on Monday. She had been succumbing to brain cancer for some time, so it was not at all a surprise... and yet it was still a shock.
I couldn't begin to tell you how many of the little tidbits of memory I've thrown into my writings here relate almost directly to her. My recent Food of the Gods review told of me watching the movie as a child. That was at my Auntie Karen's house, with my dad and Uncle John. Watching movies at her house was a regular part of my life, including countless viewings of Grease and The Three and Four Musketeers, not to mention nights struggling to stay up late enough to see The First Nudie Musical, which I've still never found to live up to its potential.
I mention all of this not to reduce her or my relationship with her to her cable, but merely to emphasize how strong a presence she is as figure in my life.
She was the oldest of six children, and I don't recall a time when she wasn't the de facto matriarch of the family, even during my childhood when my grandparents were alive and relatively well. I know she cast a mighty shadow over her siblings and feeling surrounding that issue that could often be complicated for them... and I'm sure this week those feeling are even more complicated than ever.
I know mine are.
But I think, as it goes, that's the idea. Once we're gone, we live on in the memories of those who knew us. I think part of the function of the rush of memories, good, bad and indifferent, that we get of people when they pass is so that who we actually were lives on. If all any of us are remembered as is something uncomplicatedly good or bad, then we are truly dead to the world.
However, my desire today, isn't necessarily to get into all of that. Merely to celebrate what she was to me. She was the person who taught me the basic rules of football, four downs, end zone, etc. She was a constant presence in my life for nearly my whole childhood. She was the person who showed the picture of me peeing on the driveway to my first girlfriend. She was always the person in the room who came across with the most dignity, and somehow that never went away even when she would do things like casually call her sons "B.M." as a nickname.
She was an active member of her community, in schools and politics, and filled with amusing anecdotes from them, as well as a treasure trove of family history, both in terms of the details as well as the human element.
In personal terms, any day that I gather the confidence to think I can make a mark in this world, whether making movies or just that my silly thoughts here are worth reading, it's in part because my Auntie thought I was somebody special. I know that her husband, my Uncle John, along with her children and grandchildren are having an even more difficult time than I, and my heart goes out to them.
Karen Elaine Baker