My grand-aunt Aurora (aka Dora) lived for 99 years. She was a fiercely independent woman, even when it wasn’t customary to be so in our society. A lifelong single lady, she enjoyed world travel, cool clothes, jewels and cars, and she loved her family deeply.
As much as I admired her, I spent much of my life holding onto a singular memory that left me somewhat fearful of her. It was during the late 60s—I was five or six years old—and the extended family was celebrating Easter. Dora called me over to sit on her lap. As was her norm, she looked fabulous, wearing the grooviest of clothing, shoes and accessories, plus perfectly painted makeup and nails.
I wasn’t too young to know that acrylics and press-ons were trendy, so I asked Dora if her fingernails were real.
She answered me by digging them into my forearm.
“What do YOU think?” she asked me with a giggle. I was stunned. I stared at the indentations she left in my skin. (Memory sometimes tends to exaggerate. There are times when recalling this story that I see these huge, gaping gouges in my arm. Truth is, they were little poke marks.)
For the next 45 years, I was low-key afraid of Dora.
Around 2009 and post-divorce, I moved back to LA County from San Diego. The kids and I lived one town away from Dora. At the time, she was in her late 80s. We’d visit back and forth a bit, having meals together now and then, usually with her sisters, my other two remaining grand-aunts.
I loved her as I loved all of my extended family, though I didn’t always feel especially close to Dora. The fingernail incident left me with a small but still detectable energetic block, protecting my Soul from what I perceived was her meanness.
I’ve never been more delighted to be wrong.
After a few years she was noticeably beginning to slow down. In her 90s and as single as ever, it was becoming clear that she would soon need some regular care and support. One day when she was left confused and a little lost while out on errands, she voluntarily stopped driving altogether.
This is when I said YES to a big life change: becoming a primary source of support for Dora as she gracefully shifted into the World of the Unyoung.
There are times when faced with sudden change that I wrestle between “yes” and “no,” a natural response but one that puts me in full resistance mode, leading me nowhere.
This was not one of those times.
The decision was automatic, starting with the logistical aspect: I lived in closest proximity to Dora and had a flex work schedule. It only made sense for me to step up. I was ready for this, even as I maneuvered the many challenges in my own life.
However, I was not ready for what I would receive in return.
In the months prior to securing professional in-home care, I spent a lot of time with Dora. Oh, the stories she shared! She told about being the first in the family to graduate college and how the tuition at UCLA was free to state residents, but her parents could not afford the $50 incidentals fee. She received a scholarship to cover it, eventually leading to her post-graduate career as a social worker for LA County, a job she held her entire working life.
I learned details of her early life in El Paso, where my great-grandparents had settled after moving to the states from Chihuahua, Mexico. She was the last sibling born there before the family moved west to Brentwood, CA.
Her mother gave birth to eleven children, with nine living into adulthood. In Brentwood their growing family lived in a two-bedroom house. It was a humble existence—yet rich in love.
We’d pore over photo albums, with Dora reminiscing as I absorbed story after story. I soon discovered that she was a marvelous, intelligent, loving being with a sharp sense of humor. And not mean in the least! My five-year-old self finally understood that the fingernail episode was simply Dora being playful.
How lucky am I to have said yes to her. My Soul was enriched in ways I never could have created on my own.
In this week’s Soul Guidance Reading we explore how welcoming in change may lead to new possibilities that we haven’t previously envisioned.
[I recorded this one a couple weeks back, so forgive the references to year end and Merc Rx! Still, the message is evergreen…hope you enjoy!]