By the next and last time that Aunt Cary came to visit us in Oregon, something seemed different. I was about to enter high school and was pretty occupied with myself, but still felt an unwelcome sense of unease some of the time I spent with her. She stayed awake most of the night then slept late in the morning. She talked faster and seemed restless in a way I somehow unconsciously noticed. Only in looking back now can I clearly describe what I experienced then. At the time the only awareness I had was that she and my mother argued a lot about her sleeping pattern. In retrospect I don’t think my mother understood what was happening either.
For a break from the tension and a treat for my aunt, she, my mother and I went to the Oregon Coast for two nights. Above is a photo I love of Aunt Cary at Cannon Beach that September of 1961. Fortuitously enough, I “became a woman” the first evening. Who better than Aunt Cary who whooped, opened a bottle of sherry and toasted my maturation? My practical mother went to the store for supplies. I needed them both that time.
The next time I saw her was in Chicago on my way to college in 1965. She was a patient in the Illinois State Hospital, in a locked ward, deeply depressed and unkempt. I was heart sick to see her in such pain. Still she grinned at me and in true Aunt Cary fashion said “You look quite collegiate.” I felt blessed once again.