Her name is Rockie, but don’t take her for granite. One of her jokes.
Her given name is Rokama. According to several sources I consulted, in Hebrew the name means “comforted.” Or beloved. Or one who has received mercy. Or possibly: compassion. They all fit.
If I had to name some of the influential women in my life, as I did here last year around Mother’s Day, Rockie is right up there at the top. More than any other woman in my life, Rockie has listened to me talk about the things that are on my mind and in my heart. And I’ve done my share of listening to her too: stories of her young life, her teenage years, her life as a young wife and mother, her perspective on motherhood and grandmotherhood. We’ve talked about current events, late-in-life advanced degrees, things we’ve done as young women that we look back on now and wonder how the hell we did all of that. The table in the picture is where we sat, often late into the night, talking, reminiscing, and sharing some deep thoughts and a lot of laughter.
I’m sure she remembers my escapades as a reckless teenager on vacation at her family’s home in a Southern California beach town, where I continued to visit until she and my uncle relocated to a different home recently.
I’m grateful to her for her patience and her understanding as I navigated through my tormented teens, making everyone in the house suffer through my theatrical breakups. She kept an eye out as I embraced the freedom at the beach, where life was relaxed and the possibilities limitless.
If those walls could talk, I have a feeling she’d know what they would say.
Even when I was a kid, I appreciated the way she made the smallest things more fun. I remember being so excited when I could sleep over with my cousins at their house, where the beds were made up with sheets in colorful stripes and flowers– a revelation to a child who slept on plain white at home. Color, fun, excitement, unconditional love: they all seemed to come together under her roof. And she gave the best birthday presents of anyone, perfect for whatever age I reached.
Our conversations sometimes go over familiar territory, but it doesn’t matter. If it’s the hundredth time we’ve talked about the same bit of family history, so what? We may have left something out the other ninety-nine times. I can always learn something new, shake my head over things I could not or cannot change or understand, and discover the meaning of a long-ago set of circumstances. And much goes unsaid, since there’s a certain shorthand we both know. Any mention of my maternal grandmother, for instance, and we both roll our eyes and sigh. To say she was a piece of work doesn’t do her justice. And knowing all of that makes other things a little easier to understand.
As we both get older, there is a little more conversation devoted to what she calls “organ recitals.” She’s had her share of health-related issues, and so have other members of our family. But it’s not all we can talk about. As I wrote before, she’s still my “go-to grown-up” when I’m facing something big and scary. With one exception, she’s always been able to encourage me and offer sound advice. We both found ourselves out of words last year when my sister was dying. Even then, it didn’t matter if the words came or not–her unconditional love and support never wavered. Rockie did all the same things for my sister, and they loved each other too. When I’m with Rockie now, the loss we feel is palpable.
She is compassionate and beloved, without question. She’s been my rock on more than one occasion.
I count myself lucky to have these two women in my life: the best aunts in the world. And I will never take either one of them for granite.