For Thea Maria
My mother’s sister, Thea Maria, died the other day. She was 101 years old and was the oldest of six children, Maria, Thespina, Eleni, Sophia, Efrosini, and George. Yes, five girls and finally a boy.
As their mother died very young, when my mother was only three years old or so, Maria took on helping to raise the other children. My mom told me stories about how hard she worked and how she was often strict with them. She also told me about how, while still a girl, Maria broke her ankle badly. In the hills of the Peloponese back in the 1920’s, there was not great medical care. The villagers set it as best they could and let it heal. But she was considered crippled after that. How crippled? I’m not really sure. What I do know is that she didn’t work in the fields after that, and she didn’t attract a mate. When she died this week, she had been living with her sister Thespina for the better part of 70 years.
They lived together in Thea Thespina’s house in Athens. Uncle George, the baby of the family, had lived around the corner and looked after the sisters. He bought groceries. He fixed things. He drove them to the doctor. He did a lot. He drove them from Athens to the village every summer, and back in the fall. The sisters spent summers in the village of Arbouna, in the family home, the home in which they were all born, until fairly recently. But Uncle George had been too ill to drive everyone around the last few years, and he finally passed away last spring. Neither George nor Thespina had children. As they aged, it fell to their nephew Taki, Thea Eleni’s son, to look after them all. Thea Eleni herself died more than 40 years ago.
Thea Sophia died in 2002. So now it is just Thespina, and my mother, Efrosini. Both have dementia, and my mom is a little worse, I think, though at 91 she is a good five years younger. My mom had a tough year last year, real tough. But she is bouncing back and doing surprising well right now. Who knows, she might have another 10 years in her.
All I know is that I wish I had gone to Greece more, paid closer attention, and knew more about my blood than I do. I suppose there is still time to learn a little more before the last two of the people that connect me to a different world and a different time are gone.