Nobody ever wrote anything for Stella Lang.
Except for her obituary in the newspaper.
Maybe a boy wrote her a love letter once, but we would have never known.
She didn’t talk about memories like that.
I’m not sure anyone even thinks about Stella Lang anymore.
Except for the two of us.
And maybe those greedy cousins who sued my mother- the only person who was by Stella’s side every day as she laid dying- because they were upset that my aunt left her more money than them.
And I don’t think of Stella Lang very often.
But right now I am.
Right now, I’m in the grocery store staring at a bag of miniature Hershey’s chocolate bars and my chest hurts.
I wonder what went through Stella’s head every time she went to the grocery store to pick candy up for me.
She didn’t have to think about the past every time she stood in that aisle. She was creating a future that would turn into a memory that would turn into a young woman currently unloading her groceries into her car and weeping.
Stella Lang was not a warm woman, but she loved me.
I was her sweetheart, her closest thing to the child that lived for only four hours.
And I loved her because she loved me.
Stella Lang was content sitting in her recliner, eating a frozen dinner, and watching Matlock. This sort of behavior was not entertaining to an energetic 10 year-old, but neither did that 10 year-old understand that she was helping take care of a child who was now being raised by a single parent.
Stella Lang did not have many friends, but she appeared ok with that. She had her sweetheart and her Matlock and the house that her husband built with his own bare hands and the money he left her from his roofing business and all the time in the world.
The last memory I have of Stella Lang rests on two senses- the smell of canned vegetables, human feces masked by cleaning disinfectant, and whatever odors exude from hospital walls and make you dizzy and nauseous on the elevator ride to wherever you’re going. The other is touch- the feeling of Stella’s fingers on my back as she cried tears I didn’t see her shed at her husband’s funeral, and wouldn’t let me go. Knowing deep down that she was going to die there and that we may never see each other again.
But that wasn’t the last time I saw her.
I saw her one more time and she was so far gone that I’ve pushed any semblance of that memory out of my head.
Then my mother called to tell me that Stella Lang died.
And I don’t remember that either.
I don’t remember what day, what month, or even what year.
I don’t remember talking to my mother the day of the funeral.
I don’t remember the first time I went to the cemetery to see her gravestone.
But I remember calling you and the pure, crackled joy that came out of your voice every time you heard me start, “Hi, Aunt Stella.”
I remember your collection of musky perfume bottles laying neatly on the dresser.
I remember your powder pink bathroom, your player piano, your collection of porcelain cardinals, your vinyl kitchen top, and Uncle Elmer’s WWII pins.
I remember me sitting on your brown shag couch across from you sitting in that green shag chair and talking about your past and my future.
I remember staring out your window into the back yard, past the garden, up the rolling green hill, and how I would give anything right now to be standing there again.