For us all Christmas 2014


Angie was Uncle Pete’s first wife; a thin, blue veined smoker, heavy browed, raven hair strained back over a beaked nose and a frantic kind of way about her.

It was probably from the pills.

I was terribly small, so any memorial residue is none too keen here, but I do recall that their concept of “babysitting” was to close the bedroom door and let the party continue unabated.

At the time it seemed to me criminal and I’m sure complaint was registered with the management because Momma didn’t much park me there after that.

Poppa probably got an ear full as well ‘cause he always did like a party, guilt by association, any excuse and so forth.

She had a gift, my Aunt Angie, she made caramels, real caramels, firm, yet yielding to the bite, so buttery smooth and creamy they took your fingerprints when consumed.

I sold my soul for those things and later spent a good deal of my life searching the darker side of the candy world for their likeness.

See’s Candies were close, Kraft’s a disgrace fit merely for the covering of cheap, red, holiday apples.

Oh, the horror, the bitter disappointment, the humiliation of hundreds of tawdry, ill lit, candy shops with their slack jawed, bored counter help, then waking the next day again bitter and disillusioned from dreams of Aunt Angie’s walnut and dark sugar delights, so perfectly held together, separated only by squares of edible wax paper, they remain fragrant, inviting, addicting to this very day.

Addicting, strange, but as Angie’s demons chased her, the pills, the booze, the divorce, the gift began to fail, and I saw her less less.

Uncle Pete shoved all his chips across the table to her and in typical Tishmack tradition said, ”To Hell with this, I’m moving to South America and pan for gold”.

He would have too if the ship hadn’t sunk in rough seas just outside Puget Sound.

Pete claims that night he went to the bunk on a roller coaster ocean secure in the Captain’s claims of lengthy experience and absolute safety, to be awakened by shouts of “into the Life Boat” and “Every man for Himself”.

It was a small ship, and a smaller lifeboat already filled with men away, Pete times the toss of his suitcase, all that he owns, to meet the swell of the dinghy, only to see his only remaining asset sail into the angry black mouth of a rising wave as the boat dips away.

Angie remarried, a class up from us, a world apart for her and we seldom heard much except rumor.

They lived in the big house across from the Old High School, encapsulated, entombed.

I recall the last time we met, she was reclined on the ornate couch and didn’t get up; Christmas, she had a gift just for me, caramels; joylessly hard, depression dark, hopelessly inedible; heartbreakingly unrecognizable.

Silence passed between us, there was little to say and I was too young to have read the chapter on the Importance of Final Goodbyes; except for this memory, this story and my longing for caramels, nothing remains.

I saw her once more, it was from behind the streaked glass of the schoolroom window, across the street she’s on a stretcher, eyes closed, covered in white sheet, the EMT’s load her down the front porch, over the yard, into the ambulance and out of our lives, tail lights blinking in the distance..

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