She was small and wispy and stooped over, which made her look even tinier. Widowed and childless, she lived, serenely content, in a converted storefront, somehow subsisting on her husband’s meager World War 1 veteran’s pension. Despite her virtual poverty, she was active in several organizations that raised money for Jewish causes. . No distance was too far to schlep, by streetcar and bus, to attend a meeting or help someone in need. To say she was religious is like saying Bill Gates was rich. A gentle soul, she burned with a genuine spiritual passion. Aunt Ida was the most decent and good-hearted human being I’ve ever known.
She drove my mother bananas. No part of my mother’s, or anyone else’s life, was off limits to Aunt Ida’s devout fervor. According to my orthodox father, Aunt Ida interpreted Jewish laws in ways that even G-D had not thought of.
Her name was seldom uttered by my parents without being repeated, along with deep sighs of frustration and wagging of heads. It was almost always, “Aunt Ida, Aunt Ida.” An extra one or two was occasionally necessary. Anyone in our family getting married was quietly but firmly “persuaded” that the reception be strictly Kosher. Anyone not yet married could count on a steady stream of potential mates of all sizes and shapes funneled to their doors. I still believe some of my cousins married in self-defense.
Nothing, however, better illustrates the essence of Aunt Ida than what I am about to tell you. She came to our house one day and informed us that she had won a brand new automobile in a raffle held by the local yeshiva, for which she was a tireless and devoted fund raiser.
Oh, happy day! There was justice in the world after all. This poor little devout woman had finally been rewarded for her saintliness. We literally danced with joy. The sale of the car would give her enough money for at least three years rent. She might even be able to move from her increasingly unsafe neighborhood.
“I donated it to the Yeshiva”, she announced proudly.
“Oy vase meer,” my mother shrieked. The house literally reverberated with howls of dismay and tearful appeals to common sense and financial reality.
Aunt Ida, of course, remained undaunted. All arguments to reason were useless against the passion of her religious zeal. So, while Aunt Ida left our house in her usual state of pious tranquility, my mother was left in a state of nervous collapse, and the Yeshiva was left with a brand new car.
Aunt Ida lived out her last days in a nursing home. Predictably, the nurses and aides loved this gentle and uncomplaining woman . Remembering her, I can’t help imagining this scene: She is no longer pitifully bent over and while some angels are looking on in awe, she is gently lecturing G-D himself on some obscure point of Jewish scripture. He is nodding patiently, and with a barely perceptible grin, He is thinking, Aunt Ida, Aunt Ida.
“Rizzo”, Jerry’s 15th published story, appeared in the December issue of Blue Lake Literary Magazine, an online publication. Previous stories have appeared in “Voices”, The Avalon Literary Review, 2014 and 2016, England’s Woman, Ingenue. Also three dozen articles in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Chicago Tribune, Houston Post, and others.