by Trish Hubschman
Aunt Jean and Uncle Ben moved to Eastern Long Island in 1976. They lived in Brooklyn and didn’t have any kids of their own. At some point, you might say, they kind of adopted me. It made me feel super special.
They must have moved to the island in the spring because they were well settled-in by early summer. I remember the Fourth of July barbecue on their back patio. I was wearing a purple T-shirt with a pink Statue of liberty on it. She had fireworks bursting around her. I loved that shirt. The whole family was there, cousins, aunts, uncles, the Grandparents on Mom’s side. One of my cousin’s had to get a very old electric barbecue grill out of the garage. I always wondered where it had come from. I don’t think they had it in the city, and it was too old to have just been purchased.
I don’t know if I stayed overnight that time at Aunt Jean’s, but I did often enough and had my own room in the three-bedroom ranch house. Mine was called the Bicentennial Room. It was in the back of the house. Grandma and Grandpa had their own room too. It had a trundle bed in it and was also Aunt Jean’s home office space. Sometimes Mom drove me out there to stay with Aunt Jean and Uncle Benfor a week. Other times, I went out with Grandma and Grandpa. Grandma and Aunt Jean were first cousins and super close.
At breakfast, Uncle Ben would make me pancakes the size of quarters. I was allowed to drink coffee at an early age out there. It was made in a percolator. I never saw that before, and I was intrigued.
On hot days, me, Aunt Jean, and Grandma would walk the quarter mile down the street to the beach. I would moan, groan and whine that I didn’t want to walk all that way. I knew that Uncle Ben would drive us. Sometimes he did. But more often, Aunt Jean wanted us to walk. She’d tell me that if her and Grandma’s old legs could carry them, my young legs could too. What choice did I have?
When we crossed the last main road and were on the bluff overlooking the sand and Bay, we still had to walk along a path and go down a flight of stairs to get to the beach below. I admit, it was worth it once we set up our chairs and blanket on the sand. We had so much fun together in the water. Grandma and Aunt jean were excellent swimmers. Sometimes we sat on each other’s laps and floated in the water. Aunt Jean’s block had their own private section of the beach and Bay. One corner of the roped-off section of the water, we dubbed ‘Crab Corner.’ I cut my toes many times on something pointed or was bitten. The other corner was designated for jelly Fish. It was gross having a slimy jellyfish slide against my leg or arm.
Back at the house, Grandpa and Uncle Ben waited for us doing whatever they did. We returned, took showers, and had dinner, then the four of them played Bridge. I’d walk around the four adults seated at the kitchen table. Because of my limited vision, I couldn’t see the cards they held, but Grandpa would always tease me about telling the other team what cards he had and shooed me off.
Those were the happiest times of my life, being with the four of them. But it only lasted four years. In 1980, Uncle Ben got cancer and died. Aunt Jean wouldn’t move closer to Grandma after that. She had her friends and activities out East. The grand folks and I still went out to see her and spend the weekend or Mom drove me out and it was just me and Aunt Jean, and I’d spend a week. Us ladies, Mom too sometimes, would still walk down to the beach. Grandpa would set up a lounge chair in the backyard and do his crossword puzzles. When we returned, we’d usually find him fast asleep on the chair with his hat over his face.
Then I went away to college. Grandpa died and Grandma fell and broke her hip, landed up permanently in a wheelchair. Aunt Jean fell down the basement stairs in her East End house. She was okay, but Mom decided it was time to move her closer to family. She went into an assistive living facility. It was just a converted hotel and was nice.
Grandma passed away the year after I got married. Yeah, she and Aunt jean were at my wedding. Aunt Jean passed a few years later. I was very sad, and I cried, but in retrospect, now the four of them, Aunt Jean, Uncle Ben, Grandma and Grandpa, were together and could play Bridge again in Heaven.
Trish Hubschman is the author of the Tracy Gayle mystery series: Tidalwave, Stiff Competition, Ratings Game, Uneasy Tides, and Gayle’s Tales.
Trish is a graduate of Long Island University’s Southampton Campus and has a degree in English-writing. She is deaf-blind and lives in South Carolina with her husband, Kevin, and their dog, Henry.
*Trish is a sponsor of TTW Marketing Services.
Patty L. Fletcher
Bridging the great chasm which separates the disAbled from the non-disAbled
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