Outside of my parents, my aunt (Mom's sister) Kenie Mittleman was probably my greatest role model throughout my entire life, for as long as I can remember. She was glamorous, witty, kind, generous, soft-spoken, smart, quietly spiritual, and had a very "live and let live" way about her. She even worked as an executive secretary, which I'm sure was one of the reasons I chose a career as an admin assistant. I loved going to her and Uncle Max's house in Nyack as a kid (and even after). It felt cozy and homey and I remember curling up on one of their chairs reading my cousins' books and being so, so happy and warm. For some reason I always associate these visits with autumn; I know we saw them during the rest of the year, but I can't think of my favorite season (or even travel over the Tappan Zee bridge) without recalling these wonderful times in my "ancestral spawning grounds."
Aunt Kenie exuded warmth, and always had good advice for me. She never pushed me to listen to it, it was just there, very matter-of-fact, very sensible. She last imparted her wisdom to me a few days ago during our frequent Wednesday evening phone calls. I'm so grateful we spoke then, as the event that led to her leaving us took place the following day. Nothing was left unsaid, the circle was closed, it was all wrapped up neatly the way I'm sure she would have wanted.
I never heard an unkind word said about Aunt Kenie, or from her. She always saw and spoke of the best in people. Her smile, her whole being, was radiant. Even in the last few years, after Uncle Max passed and her sight grew dim and she struggled against cancer, she remained cheerful and optimistic. "Every day is a gift," she said. And it was. May the gift that was Kenie keep on giving for generations to come. RIP, my beautiful aunt.