Especially during Yom Kippur, when I think of the many beloved relatives who have passed away, I reflect on the time when I last saw Dorothy Leff, Aunt Dotty, of blessed memory. My mother Julia’s unmarried older sister lived in Brooklyn, New York, in the same apartment with my maternal grandparents Celia and Samuel Leff. My family lived on Ocean Parkway and Avenue S, a few blocks from the McDonald Avenue Trolley – one way to get from our house to Aunt Dotty’s apartment.
Almost every Saturday, Aunt Dotty went out shopping with her cousins Betty and Sylvia Bernstein, also single, while I used her makeup in a top dresser drawer to put rouge and lipstick on Grandma Celia. When I was 7 years old, we moved to Rockville Centre, on Long Island, and I didn’t get to see Aunt Dotty as often, but whenever family events, dinners, parties took place, she was always present. Each year Aunt Dotty took me to a Broadway musical in the city. When I started raising my family in Binghamton, New York, Aunt Dotty mailed us homemade peanut butter cookies in round tins or gave hand-knitted hats, scarves and mittens to everyone.
After my grandparents died, Aunt Dotty moved to a senior citizen housing project in Brooklyn. I saw her less often during those years, other than her coming to Binghamton with my mother for the fall Jewish holidays or for Seders and staying the Passover week. Summers she came to visit us at the family home on Oquaga Lake.
A longtime breast cancer survivor, when she was no longer able to get out of bed, with an aide by her side, my husband and I came to visit. I remember going into her bedroom, where she greeted me with a smile. The aide asked my husband to pick up her morphine prescription at the pharmacy as it could not be ordered over the phone. The pharmacist said that after taking the medicine, Dotty probably would go into a deep sleep and pass away.
I stayed by Aunt Dotty’s bedside holding her hand. She said, “Flora, you know I probably am going to die.” I replied “No, Aunt Dotty, you’re going to be ok.” The medicine arrived. The aide gave her the dosage. Bernie and I left to drive back home. Very soon after, Aunt Dotty passed away. I felt not only sad to have lost my Aunt, but realized I missed the opportunity to tell Aunt Dotty all the wonderful things she did for me – those trips to Broadway introducing me to musical theater, to complimenting me for anything I did, and whatever our four children did as well.
Aunt Dotty – forgive me for not telling you all of this when I held your hand the night before you died. I hope you always knew how much you were loved. I still love you, remembering you with everlasting memories.