My Dearest Aunt Frannie

As some of you may know, my lovely Aunt Frannie passed away the day my mom flew back home. My sister emailed me with an urgent message and when I called her back after work, I got the tragic news. Fortunately, mom was already on the plane and did not have to take the 24 hour plane ride with the loss on her shoulders although the reality would be there when she landed in Portland.

After lots of crying I got home from work and tried to wrap my head around the reality of the situation. Not only was this so unexpected, but I was so far away and totally helpless. In my sadness, I began to celebrate Aunt Frannie’s life while here in Malaysia.

I began by making Aunt Frannie broccoli. One Thanksgiving weekend, I was visiting the east coast for one of my best friends weddings and got to spend Thanksgiving with my Aunt and her family. It was a wonderful day filled with a delicious meal, wonderful conversation and my caring and special Aunt. One of the things I remember is helping her cook dinner. I got to make the broccoli dish, which will forever be known to me as Aunt Fran Broccoli. Place broccoli, olive oil, salt, pepper and bread crumbs  in a plastic bag, shake to coat and place on a baking sheet in the oven to bake. Easy and delicious and the perfect dish considering the situation I found myself in.

Next, I got on my computer and began to look through all of the photos I had of the times we spent together. I had photos of us in Central Park, when she took me to see the Santa’s in Times Square, teaching her and mom Texas Hold ‘Em one summer in Oregon, us in front of the  bridge leaving Staten Island and my 30th birthday party in Las Vegas.

Me and Aunt Fran on Staten Island

Mom and Aunt Frannie with Poker Chips

The memories came flooding back. I remembered how she made the visit to Oregon almost every year to visit our family. When she visited during Easter, we would go to church, have Easter egg hunts and play cards. I fondly remember trips to the coast and the mountains, pulling over on the side of the road to take photos of wild flowers. I remember how she pronounced Oregon and how she would leave the house early in the morning for her solo walks to discover the neighborhood.

The memories continued across the country to New York. I remember her taking me on tours of Staten Island, not only to show me the shots she took to win photo contests with her disposable Kodaks, but to show me the homes of well known Mob bosses. I can taste the Italian food that she prepared and the cookies that we would get at the Italian bakery down the street. She not only would show me around Staten Island, but willingly take me to Manhattan at any time of the day to show me something she thought I would be interested in such as ground zero, or Olafur Eliasson’s waterfall project in the East River.

Me and Aunt Fran in Central Park

Aunt Frannie, Aaron and me at Dinner

Driving Past the Waterfalls

I can vividly see her handwriting on all of the cards I received in the mail from her with photos and news clippings that made her think of me, like the wild turkeys on Staten Island. She was there for my college graduation and threw me an unbelievable 30th birthday party. She made it a day I will always remember. From the doughnut birthday cake and stolen yard high beer vase to the photo collage delivered to my door before I woke and convincing my mother to take a blood test for me, she made it special.

Turning 30 with Aunt Fran

Aunt Fran organizing my Birthday Party

Voting on the Blood Test

I loved her with all of my heart. I can say that she was the most special woman in my life other than her younger sister, my mother. I expected to see her at my wedding and be there while I raised children. I can feel her hugs and kisses and hear the special way she said my name. I wish I had at least 31 more years with her but since I don’t, I will always remember what made her special to so many people and strive to be more like my Aunt Frannie every day. I have to accept that I have only what I remember, and because Aunt Frannie was such a remarkable woman, luckily I remember a lot.

18 thoughts on “My Dearest Aunt Frannie

  1. Pingback: 2010 In Review, Pretty Cool | Greetings from KL

  2. Dear Rorey,
    Where do I begin about your Aunt Frannie? For one thing, I thought I was the only one who called her Frannie. She was my sister-in-law, but she was truly a sister to me. She is the one who when me and my family were homeless, having come back from living in Connecticut and not having a place to stay while awaiting a mortgage on a house we bought. She told us, actually she insisted, that we stay in their basement. She secured beds for us and proceeded to open her house and heart to us. I accepted, a bit reluctantly , because I didn’t want to be a bother and was in the process of looking for a temporary furnished apartment. I thought we would only be there for tops a month. Well, it dragged out to four months. She never complained. My best memory during that time is that I got a chance to get close to Amy and Alex, which I regard as my children, as well. Through the years since, she and I did many things together and enjoyed each other’s times together. She was always a woman on a mission and thought of everyone, alway flowers-in-hand. She was very proud of you and your sister and loved your Mom to bits. How could I ever forget her! She was always a wonderful resource about anything and everything, especially about Staten Island – she knew every nook and cranny.

    I am still in shock over her passing and still can’t believe that she is gone, that I can’t just call her and hear her voice saying “how are you?” in her own inimitable way. As a matter of fact, I spoke to her twice that day and in spite of her being in pain because of her neck and shoulder, she was coherent and clear. I will always miss my sister/my friend.

    Fran (the other Aunt Fran from Staten Island

  3. Hi Rorey,

    I am yet another niece. I don’t want to say Manny’s niece because Fran was my aunt. Since all of this has happened I have been thinking a great deal about Fran and the things I have learned from her. Appreciating nature, making a good party where everyone feels included from the youngest to the oldest, recognizing when someone needs something even if they don’t realize it.

    She was there for my mom when my mom learned she was Celiac. Fran got her so much information, took her shopping for food and helped her to find the information she needed.

    I think for me the lesson I will most take to heart is to be an advocate for my children.

    Thank you for sharing your wonderful memories.
    Josette

  4. Hi Rorey,
    I agree with what my cousins Chris & Joanne said. It especially touched me & sparked tears in my eyes when you talked about her doing your 30th birthday. She helped my mom who lives in Vegas put together a little graduation party for me at her house in June. She always loved parties & opened her home for special occasions even my mom and stepdads Pretend wedding since we all missed the real one in Vegas. She will never be forgotten. Your blog was really beautiful! Sorry for your loss.

    • Hi Jennifer. Thanks for sharing your thoughts about Aunt Frannie. She was a truly special woman and will be missed by so many. Her specialty was bringing people together in celebration. -rorey

      • aww thank you for replying to my comment. Aunt Fran was definitely special. I still cant believe it!

  5. Rorey:
    I just want to second what my cousin Joanne said above and agree that what you wrote here was lovely. It’s fully in keeping with the generosity of spirit that marked our Aunt Fran’s life.

    She was especially good to my mother Francesca (Manny’s sister) and my immediate family, and we can never truly repay the debt of kindness she offered us at every turn.

    I think I’m going to make Aunt Fran Broccoli this weekend and think of her! And you as well — thanks for sharing this blog post with us.

    Chris M.

    • Hi Chris. Thank you for responding and sharing. Putting things down formally on the blog has helped me connect and share with people I would not get a chance to otherwise. I will strive to be more like my Aunt Frannie everyday and connect with the people that make a difference in my life. Her generosity and kindness were unbelievable. Enjoy your Aunt Frannie broccoli and please know that I understand her loss will be hard on everyone. My love to your side of the family. rorey

  6. Hi Rorey

    Your sister passed along this link for me to read – that was truly beautiful!
    She touched so many people’s lives as was evident at the wake last week.
    She loved you, your sister & mom – spoke of all of you quite often.
    Thank you for sharing!

    xoxo
    Joanne (Manny’s niece)

    • Thank you Joanne. It is funny, but Uncle Manny and Aunt Frannie have such a large family and I know that the loss is deeply felt on both sides. I heard that there were so many people at the wake to share and celebrate in Aunt Frannie’s life. I really wish I could have been there. All my love to your side of the family. rorey

    • Thanks dad. I heard that you wrote something to share about Aunt Frannie. Would you mind passing it along to me? Thanks and I love you.

  7. Rorey,

    It was a pleasure to have known Frances and have her visit us here in Five Rivers. I definitely remember her photographs with copies to us and a note we received before she even got home. Your memories are beautiful. Thank you for sharing them. I read your accounts of KL with so much enjoyment. I know Frances looked forward to each installment and loved them, too.

    • Thanks for the note Carolyn. All of the messages about memories of Aunt Frannie are helping me smile through the process while being so far way. I hope you are all well.
      Love,
      rorey

  8. Rorey, what lovely memories of Aunt Fran. I’m sure your words are making her smile! I think her influence on you is evident (all those kodak moments paid off) in your ongoing and amazing photography. Thanks for expressing and sharing your thoughts. I know she loved you very much, as I do.

    Mom

  9. Hi again Rorey,

    Such wonderful memories to hold and share. A lovely tribute indeed to dear your dear Aunt Frannie. (I’m so happy that you, too, call her Frannie….Frances always sounds so formal, to me, for a woman who was so down to earth.) I’m going to try that broccoli recipe….it sounds perfectly delicious. If it weren’t for Frannie, I would not have my Mom, Rorie’s own handwritten recipe for the family meatballs. Frannie and your Mom are my longest and dearest friends, and, more importantly, my second family.

    Thanks for sharing your beautiful memories and photos.

    Love,
    Joyce

    • Hi Joyce. My cousin in Montana on my dad’s side made Aunt Frannie broccoli after reading the post too. She was a real good cook and I wish I has some more of her recipes to use, in her own unique handwriting of course. Know that I too think of you and Janet as a second family and know that loss is difficult for you guys too. I love you and will talk soon.

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