“Reflections on An Aunt and An Ort”

Great Aunt Elizabeth and Great Uncle Alec in Pike Cemetery

I first started writing about Aunt Cary inspired by the recently published book about the Barbizon Hotel in New York City where she once resided. Then when I began to remember so much more about our relationship I added a number of blog posts. What I hadn’t realized was that while I knew of Cary’s descent into what we would now call bi-polar disorder it might would startle my readers. I also hadn’t known that readers would be moved by my experiences with her.

I write very little about my family of origin, respecting their privacy. However, what is true is that I never had the opportunity to grieve my relationship with Cary with them. The only story that stayed alive in my family was that Cary took her life in 1969. While that is grievously true, it is the least important part of the story of Cary. As I wrote the posts, I came to truly understand that she was so much more than her death. Her laughter, her energy, and her love, were essential parts of her.

We know so much more about bi-polar disorder today, but it still claims far too many sufferers. Whether in a manic phase feeling invulnerable or in a depressive phase seeing no reason to go on, the disease removes the person from the center where they are truly themselves. I hope that my writings paid tribute to that wonderful core that was Aunt Cary.

And I also pause to note her other favorite words which pepper my speech to this day: hoot, snazzy, and of course, ort.

37 thoughts on ““Reflections on An Aunt and An Ort”

  1. I guessed that Cary was who you were referring to when you mentioned ‘family’ in one of your comments on my post about a suicide. So sad to hear, but she left a legacy of fond remembrances for you to cherish.
    Best wishes, Pete.

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  2. Sadly, it is too often a life is labeled by a small slice. What you did was honor and acknowledge the depth of her humanity. I think she would be proud to have this written celebration of her spirit so that her memory lives beyond her illness. We fell in love with her through your love for her. I am sorry you were never able to fully grieve her until now.

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  3. I, along with many others I suspect, immediately saw Cary as a much loved, vibrant, beautiful lady. I love that you shared her with us and she has enriched my life a little by your memories of her. Thank you Elizabeth, and thank you Cary!

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  4. Have just caught up on your tribute posts to your Aunt – love and admiration are what you’ve shown. There are many out there with this ‘disease’ not all will be remembered as Cary is.

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    1. Thank you so much. I hope that others who have experienced mental illness in friends of family can take a chance to remember the good times as well as the illness. The process of writing these posts really helped me balance my memories of her.

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  5. It’s so special to hear you say she was far more than her death. I’ve really appreciate reading your memoir about your aunt and it is encouragement for the gentle and great influence we can have on the young relatives/people in our lives. Thank you.

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  6. I agree, thanks for sharing Cary with us – warts and all (saying about bad things) – I’ve met people with all kinds of mental disorders and even with good medication nowadays the swings can be exhausting – and truly the person never wants your “advice or intervention”

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  7. What a lovely remembrance of your Aunt Cary. She left a mark on you and many wonderful memories. Isn’t that what we all wish for? I smiled when I read her other favorite words, as I say hoot and snazzy too.

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  8. I work with individuals who have bi-polar disorder. What you have done by really focusing on the beauty, love laughter and all that makes us human is so needed. There is such a negative prejudice about those who suffer from mental illness and it is easy to join in the stereotyping until someone like you focusing on the individual worth and dignity. Great posts.

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