My husband and I now have 18 weeks to go until Ironman Arizona. We’ve gotten into a good groove with our training, and this weekend, we did a solid bike-run brick one day and a swim-run combo the next. But life happens, and -unfortunately- death as well. Just a week ago, I went three days without any training at all. But it was for a very good reason … I went to Chicago to remember my Aunt Eleanore, who passed away at the impressive age of 95. Here is a picture of her and her brother when they were little.
She was really a special lady. She was born in 1917, the year of the Russian Revolution, and just before women in the U.S. won the right to vote. As a product of that time, she was a progressive thinker herself — extremely smart, well read, easy to talk to, full of wonderful stories, and always interested in learning about other people – no matter who they were or what their station was in life. She would tell stories of roller skating through her neighborhood in Michigan as a young girl, what my father (her “baby brother”) was like as a kid, how my grandfather had been the first football coach at the local college and my grandmother had opened her own beauty salon, and how she (Aunt Eleanore) had traveled across the country with her husband, who was an itinerant seed salesman. She was just fascinating. She had worked in the printing department of the University of Chicago, and by the time I was old enough to start getting to know her, she worked as a freelance proof-reader. I think she worked on scholarly journals and papers, and I remember that she seemed to know about all sorts of things due to the myriad subjects she was exposed to in her work. Going through her things, I noticed that she had all sorts of specialized reference books for medical and scientific terminology, as well as dictionaries for several foreign languages.
She lived for as long as I can remember in a lovely condo in the middle of the erudite neighborhood of Hyde Park. She and her former husband Bill had raised my cousin Bruce there, but Bill left my aunt before I can remember. (During WWII, he had worked in Churchill’s “war room” in Great Britain and supposedly met someone named Lady Daphne during that time. Reportedly, he left my aunt years later to return to this woman in the UK; however, I’m not certain if I have all the details right.) At any rate, Eleanore always seemed like a super-independent single mom in my mind (even though Bruce was an adult by the time Bill left.) She just seemed to have it together and didn’t mind being on her own. Her condo was the coolest place. She had all sorts of wonderful books and adorable figurines on her shelves, and she’d pin up cute clippings and articles everywhere. Being there last weekend was the perfect way to remember her and her things. Not just the things she had, but how she had them.
I was lucky enough to come away with a few cherished items, such as a picture of my grandmother, and my aunt’s extremely used Manual of Style, which is taped together and full of her notes and paper-clip-marked pages.
Mostly, I was glad to get some pictures of her lovely condo, hoping to capture her essence and the way I remember her.
My training will go on, and I hope it leads to my completing this Ironman! But I know that it’s just one day in the scheme of a whole life. I sure hope that along the way, I can appreciate all the people in my life the way my aunt did throughout hers.