so… it’s 28 august 2015, and I found out less than two hours ago that my aunt is dead. she’s been dead for 3 months, since may, but that’s how it goes with my kin. I am some tumor that they cut out and discarded. franny did it too.
frances william nakis preston, her full name. born 25 november 1929 and died may… may what? 2015. she was one of five children of a mafia man, of whom only one (unless she’s gone too and no one’s told me) remains. grace william nakis, and several more names besides because she’s been married at least three times. the mafia man had another family, in crete, before he ever came to america and married my grandmother, if in fact they were married at all. but no one, not my aunt or my father, ever admitted that he was a mafia man, or that he had another family, if indeed they knew these things.
aunt franny’s pies, and her paintings, her fur coat when I was in the hospital. franny’s lies, her desire to have herself and her children be the very center of our family… and she succeeded in that. her late-life addiction to scratch tickets, the cause of much behind-the-back scorn from her daughters. her intricate, baffling (to me) household financing while my uncle was still alive. she called it borrowing from peter to pay paul, and that’s quite literally what she did. took out three our four loans a year, I think. she loved little primroses, and always planted them in her back embankment so she could look out her kitchen window at them.
the fur coat… was it real fur? don’t know. only know it was big and roomy and went down past her knees. she would always come to see me in the hospital — I was three or four — near the end of visiting hours. when the nurse came over the loudspeaker announcing the end, I would go into a combination of rage and panic. I’d grab the coat with both hands through the bars of my cell (crib), cry, plead loudly. put me under the coat, aunt franny, and take me home. I’m little and the coat is big, no one will see me. take me home. please, please put me under the coat. I was inconsolable. she would have to peel my hands off the coat, say good-bye, and walk away to my continued tears and pleas.
her pies. my aunt made the most beautiful pies I have ever seen in real life, not photos in a magazine or cookbook. crusts rising up four inches high, patterns cut in them, golden, thick with filling. they were beautiful to eat as well. in 1997, when I briefly lived back in the bosom of the family again, I was raving to my cousin about her mother’s pies, and what a strong memory they are for me. and what did she say? she done said: I think my apple pie tastes better than hers. and I’m thinking: for christ’s sake. you’re so bloody competitive with your mother that you can’t just give her the pies. you can’t just say that in living memory, your mother made the best pies in the family.
but this is typical of my blood kin. competition, jealousy, tempers, scorn, and lies. oh above all, lies, and absolutely astonishing denial and self-deception. aunt franny was a pro in the lying and denial arenas, and also in manipulation with a smile on her face: the iron fist in the velvet glove.
and now they are nearly all gone, the four adults who were the focal point of my brothers’ growing up, and mine, and my cousins’. they were two sets of siblings, franny and bill nakis, debbie and al preston. the nakis girl married the preston boy, and a few years later the reverse happened. this made us kids, six of us, double cousins, cousins on both sides. people always found this quite strange, and some even asked if it was incest, but it wasn’t. just unusual.
they all had the middle name william, boys and girls alike, because that was grampa’s first name and that’s the way they done it in his family, or on crete, or whatever. questions I still have will never be asked now, but I had my chance last year and didn’t take it. the usual stuff: fears of what wrath her children might pour on me if I communicated with her regularly. not wanting to deal with this potential wrath.
as with every single member of my blood relations, I have painfully mixed feelings about franny. fondness, a sense of great loss, resentment, and more. and a huge desire that she not be dead. she was a part of the relentless smoke and mirrors that went on in my family, the dastardly psychological sleight-of-hand that has damaged me so much. and she was also my aunt, the baker of the holiday pies, the planter of primroses, the woman at the crib wearing the big coat, the player of yahtzee, a crucial piece in the agonizing puzzle that was my upbringing and my family.
all photos, graphics, poems and text copyright 2013-2015 by anne nakis, unless otherwise stated. all rights reserved.