She Called Me “Ort”


I have written before of the death of my beloved Aunt Cary, but I am thinking about her a lot this Thanksgiving weekend. It was Thanksgiving of 1969 that Cary walked off a ledge in Manhattan and fell to her death. We didn’t learn about it for several days, since she had no identification with her. I came down with Hepatitis A that weekend, courtesy of a contaminated restaurant worker, and was unable to go to Chicago for her funeral.

She was only seventeen when my parents left me in Buffalo with my grandparents for several months while they went West to establish a new life and career.( A whole other story.) That means that it was Cary who took major care of me from 11 months until 14 months. She was there when I learned to walk, and she occasionally came West to visit us.

She always called me “ort.”  I found her chain smoking, insomnia, fast talking and loud laugh a wonderful contrast to my parents. Yes, she was probably bi-polar, but I didn’t have a clue. I loved her without reserve.

By the time I was in college, she was more seriously ill, unable to hold a job, and held for a while in a pre-enlightened Chicago psychiatric hospital. I visited her there on my way to Cambridge, and she looked so wistfully at me saying, “you look so collegiate.” In 1967, she was living in Manhattan, and  I had tea with her in the Russian Tea Room (where the men bring their girlfriends, she confided) when she was living at the Barbizon. That was the last time we saw each other.

So here’s to you Aunt Cary. You were and are a true blessing in my life and I give thanks for you tonight.

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