Small but Mighty

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She was tiny. My Aunt Izzy was barely 5 feet tall, and she had a real elegance about her, as did her husband, my Uncle Mel. She was a woman of faith and a wit as sharp as a scalpel. She could jab you so swiftly and artfully, that you wouldn’t know it until you looked down and saw the hole in your shirt. But she was so charming. You were almost flattered by the attention. Uncle Mel was my father’s brother. He had a sort of Cary Grant/James Garner swagger, and he adored Aunt Izzy. They were quite the couple.

Aunt Izzy would serve up strawberries she had hand-dipped in white chocolate. She could mix up Manhattans, daiquiris, and all manner of food and drink and never glance at a recipe. She never said, “Now, where was I?” as she did all that while simultaneously chatting with the rest of us. 

One morning, as several of us sat around the breakfast table, Uncle Mel was comparing himself to my father and teasing Aunt Izzy.

“Kenny was the handsome one. Kenny was the smart one. Kenny was the successful one. I’m telling you, Izzy, I just don’t get it. Why didn’t you marry my brother instead of me?”

Wearing an elegant little housecoat, coffee pot in hand, Aunt Izzy refilled Uncle Mel’s cup and smiled.

“I married my opportunity,” she quipped, “not my choice.”  

Aunt Izzy made steady achievements in her career, and when she retired, was head of nursing at a hospital in California. She and my uncle never had children, but we were her nieces and nephews and cherished them like second parents.

She outlived Uncle Mel by roughly two decades and remained active well into her 90s. She never lost her edge but said it took five years for the ache of my uncle’s death to subside even a little. As I said, they were quite the couple. Just days before her passing, she gazed around her room at all the family bustling about, waiting on her as though she were a queen and exclaimed, “Oh, I’m having the most wonderful death!”

How can you not admire a woman like that?


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