I took Aunt Ginger to a funeral today. A classmate with whom she had gone to school all twelve years had died and Aunt Ginger wanted to be there. At 87+ years old, Aunt Ginger is starting to be frail and wobbly on her feet. The day is long gone when she could put on her coat, quickly walk the almost four blocks to the funeral home, and walk home, especially on a cold, gray day. Her physical decline, coupled with her advancing dementia, made me call her and say "I will pick you up and take you."
I did not know this classmate, Phyllis, although I had heard about her over the years. I'll give credit to the minister leading the service; he painted such a picture of Phyllis that I felt I did know her by the time the short service was over. The funeral home was crowded and Aunt Ginger sat right in front of me. As the minister recalled this or that story about Phyllis, I could see her head nodding in agreement.
The minister then called for anyone who had a story to stand and share it. One nephew spoke up about Phyllis's kindness to his mother during a lengthy illness and decline. Another family member spoke about Phyllis's lasagna. I stood up and told a story I have heard many times.
I introduced my aunt, explaining that she and Phyllis had gone to school together starting in elementary school. Phyllis's maiden name was Rogers. My aunt, whose proper name is Virginia, had already adopted "Ginger" as her name at a young age. The two would often walk home together. One crossing guard, no doubt a lordly 6th grader, would stop them and demand to know their names.
"What is your first name?," he would say to my aunt.
"Ginger," she would reply.
"And what is your last name?," he would say to Phyllis.
"Rogers," she would say.
He would then make them say "Ginger" and "Rogers" over and over until it was a duet of "Ginger Rogers," before letting them across the street.
When I finished my story, Aunt Ginger turned to the man next to her, who was one of Phyllis's nephews, and said "and that's a true story."
The Ginger Rogers duo stayed friends their entire life, despite taking markedly different paths through life. And today I am grateful I got to bring the surviving member to say goodbye to her partner from long ago.