Today is Kitty's mother's birthday. Were she alive, Eileen would still be eight days older than dirt.
We had an interesting relationship. Eileen and I. She felt I was never good enough for her daughter (she was right).
Eileen was a complex person. There was a lot of tragedy and uncertainty in her early life. Her father died early. Her mother committed suicide. Eileen was then raised by her aunt and uncle. Her uncle was a jolly rogue who sometimes played in vaudeville and sometimes hung out with criminals. He was also an avid gambler so financial security was out of the question. Her aunt had some problems of her own, mainly bipolar. Yet both loved her and tried the best they could to give her a secure home. Eileen's fiance was killed in World War II and she eventually married Kitty's father only to find herself in a trailer in Georgia with an infant while Harold went to college.
Eileen was a paradox. She could be as tight-fisted with money as Scrooge or Silas Marner, yet she could also be generous to a fault. She liked people but was perhaps* a sociophobe and avoided gatherings. She hid behind a gruff exterior but had a heart of gold. In her last few years, she even admitted that I was a pretty good guy. (All her other three children had divorced; Kitty and I are still going strong after 48 years.)
Eileen was never the hippest cat around. Her lack of knowledge of late Sixties-early Seventies popular culture was a constant source of amusement for her kids. (Emerson, Lake & Palmer? Aren't they the two boys from Canada?) Social graces were never her forte, either. I'm sure she thought she was using her indoor voice when she would blurt out loud comments about other customers in a restaurant. (Look at that man eating alone over there -- doesn't he have any friends? Look at that fat lady over there -- she should be having that for dessert!)
But she gave the world Kitty and I'll forever be in her debt.
She took us out for lunch at a Chinese restaurant once. She had seen a coupon for a Chinese restaurant earlier that week and decided to use it. Unfortunately the restaurant she took us to was not the same restaurant that had the coupon. In fact, the two restaurants had completely different menus. Nonetheless, she insisted that the coupon be honored. They specially prepared something not on their menu for her -- and at the price she insisted on. Kitty and I never dared enter that restaurant again.
Every year since Eileen's passing we have had Chinese on her birthday and we will again tonight.
As I said, she was a complex person but, then, we all are. Underneath it all Eileen was a smart, funny, caring and kind person.
I miss her.