I smile at Laurie from across the living room and I wave. She barely knew my father but she is technically his sister. Her hair is falling on each side of her shoulders and she is seated next to my sister and they are deep in conversation. I think back to our last conversation.
“Wait a minute…What was your father’s name?” I ask hoping she wont say David.
“David, David Halevy. Why?”
“Do you know my last name?” I ask.
“No, it hasn’t really come up, do you know mine?”
“Wait.” I put my finger to her lips. “Wait.” I pull out my driver’s license and I show it to her.
“Robert Levy,” She reads it. “Brooklyn New York! Hey I am from.” I begin to nod.
“Do you know…how should I put this? Do you know your father’s children?”
“I know of them; he never wanted us to interact he felt that they would hurt me since I was an “illegitimate child.”
“What are you getting at?”
“Halevy. It means ‘the Levy’ in Hebrew or Arabic or whatever they derived it from. Basically, if you need to…whats your brother’s names?”
“Um, there is Victor, Sam, Shaul, then there is-“
“That is good enough…Shaul…is my father’s name. Better known as Saul Levy. Or when he was a child, Shaul Halevy.”
“What? No that would mean that we are-” She put her hand to her mouth.
“You are my Aunt.”
“Oh my God.”
“How could it be that we never met? I am kind of a famous writer, didn’t you see pictures of me in your father’s house?”
“I only went to his house when he passed away; your father was very nice to me and didn’t judge at all. I don’t remember seeing you or meeting you. Although he did mention that his son was a writer. I just assumed it was a term like, ‘writer’ unemployed and trying to figure something out. Plus I remember David, his wife and kids and Sophie and her husband, I dont remember his name-“
“Isaac, he is a dickhead.”
“Yeah, he ignored me the whole time. But where were you?”
“I was in Australia on the set of a film. I helped write the screen -wait a minute. Do you know what this means?”
“Its not hitting me yet…I feel kind of dirty. I cannot believe this could happen…I have to go, I have to go home. I am sorry, I am at a loss for feelings or words. This feels like an emotional avalanche.”
“Emotional avalanche, I like that.”
“Glad you like it – goodbye. I need to go.”
“Oh yeah…oh…” She left – I felt sick.
I went to the back of the house to get some air and space. The backyard once seemed so much bigger than it did now. I stand there remembering all the times we had there – we moved in to this house when I was around 8 years old. The rusted chairs and table still sat on the broken back porch. A bright orange cat looked at me suspiciously and then snobbishly turned and strolled away. It was all cold concrete back here – not a blade of green grass to be seen. But somehow it was a magical place – a place where we dreamed, pretended and played. A place we all felt safe amid the aroma of my mother’s cooking, the banging of the steam heat and the sounds of competing voices all vying for attention. Somehow our mother was able to wrap us all in her emotional embrace. The feeling of nostalgia to me is sort of an extra limb – without it I would never know how to express myself.
“Stop romanticizing everything in your past and see events and people for what and who they were. Then you can learn from them.” Dr. Green, my former psychologist.
“I prefer to stay stupid and romanticize and glorify the events I have been through and the people I have known.”
“Why? What benefit do you derive from that?”
“But those are false positives. You are glorifying bad memories and ignoring the lessons to be learned in favor of twisting their reality into good memories and happy times.”
The sound of the back screen door closing shook me back to the present.
It was Laurie.
“Hey, how you doing? I was expecting to see you here earlier.” She looked adorable.
“I was here, just not visible. Your mother actually called me the night before the funeral and told me that if I wanted to sit with you all I should come and know that I am family. She is very special.”
“She also doesn’t know about us, you know.”
“You never told her?”
“No, for some stupid reason I told my father which was one of the stupid things I have done in my life.”
“Yeah that sounds kind of stupid.” We both laughed.
We sat on the back porch and drank some coffee.
“How small a world for us to meet and, well, crazy, no?” She said.
“How come we never knew about each other…it would have made things easier.”
“If not as much fun…” She said and smiled.I felt excited very quickly, inappropriately.
“Auntie!” We both laughed.
“Its a crazy world – I was always wishing I could be a part of a big family and I end up meeting you, my nephew, in a bar in the Hamptons.”
“While you were in the midst of an emotional breakdown.” I added.
“That I was and you came to my ‘Emotional Rescue,’ thats why your my favorite nephew.” She laughed.
“Well, I would hope so – but my Aunt Brenda is still my favorite, and then there is Aunt Frieda, Auntie Em from the Wizard of Oz…” We both laughed.
“I grew up with just me and my mom. I would see your grandpa once a week and he was supportive as supportive can be when you have as big a family as he had and was as old as he was. My mother, technically Jewish, had no traditional religion in our home or anywhere. I see you guys and how you are all there for each other…” Her eyes welled up.
“Its not always as supportive as it seems.”
“But its there, all around you. When you walk through a doorway there is a mezuzah. When you go in the kitchen there are separate dishes and utensils for meat and milk. Before you eat and after, you give thanks to God. Its all around you, gives life some focus. Doesn’t it?”
“I haven’t really prayed or said a blessing on food in a long time. The first time I prayed in years was at the cemetery.”
“Why is that?”
“Sometimes reading the same words over and over again loses its sincerity. Plus the whole ‘you must do this and must do that’ I never really took to that in my life. I always do what I feel to do as opposed what I am told. Its gotten me in trouble but ‘sincerity’ has always been too big a word in my life.”
“Yes I can understand that, that’s why I became a runaway bride when I could have been a rich housewife.”
We both laughed.
“We should both take acting lessons and learn to bullshit our way through.” She said and I nodded.
“Its a deal. I am moving back to New York so we can go together.”
“Bobby, this could be the start of a beautiful friendship.” She said in a bad Humphrey Bogart voice, I laughed.
“I think so too, Aunty Laurie.”