on being forgotten


I’ve always wanted to be a part of one of those really close families. You know the ones I’m talking about. Think It’s Complicated, Father of the Bride, or While You Were Sleeping. Parenthood. Gilmore Girls. Modern Family. Not perfect. Just (mostly) happy and very close to one another.

Unfortunately, I haven’t spoken to my dad in 13 years. I talk to my mom a few times a week but we’re so different and aren’t as good of friends as I’d like. My sisters are sort of tough to be close with (not the best communicators). My mom is an only child and my grandparents passed away, so that’s it. Then there’s aunt Rose. She’s been the light (for me) in my family for as long as I can remember. We have always talked about anything and everything. She’s always been my number one supporter. From learning to make pasta (she was so proud you would have thought I invented the stove) to launching my first business. She’s always been my number one (ok, maybe my only) fan.

Rose is my grandmother’s older sister and my mom’s aunt. My grandma wasn’t the warmest, so Rose always filled that loving, grandmotherly role in my life. And Rose never married or had children, so as far as anyone in our family was concerned, she was basically a second grandmother. We were always very, very close. My sisters loved her and she loved them, butour relationship was different. My grandma definitely favored my sisters (not sure she cared for me very much) but there was no questioning that I was Rose’s favorite.

Both night owls, we’d spend hours talking late at night when I was in high school, college, and after I moved to Chicago. She never really understood what I did, which I’m basing off the fact that when I told her I ran a website, she said “well no one knows what that is” and that she thought it was a waste that people hired me to design blogs if they couldn’t be printed and hung on a wall. She thought it was great that so many people read The Everygirl (even though she didn’t know what it was). I tried explaining it and she just kept repeating “a magazine on the computer”…over and over and over. We talked about life and love. I asked lots of questions about her past even though her memory wasn’t the best. She’d say something that wasn’t that funny, crack herself up, and I couldn’t help but laugh right along with her.

A few years ago, Rose started hallucinating. She wouldn’t speak to me over the phone because “they” were listening. It was a really tough time for me because I thought we had lost her (mentally) but she moved into a senior living home, went on medication, and things got better. We went back to our regular chats. Then she started to forget me again. She went from asking about my puppy to asking where I lived. She forgot that I used to live in LA. That we were close. all the questions she asked before my visit, I was really worried about seeing her in LA. I was worried she had forgotten me. But I was hopeful.

Last week, I walked into the room, and no happy tears. Just a confused look. I was no longer her favorite great niece. Just some girl in town for work. It felt like someone hit the delete button on a very big piece of my life.

I stayed with her for about 45 minutes and she told me a few times how embarrassed she was that she didn’t remember me. I told her it was ok and asked if she wanted me to share a few stories, or if she’d prefer we talk about something else. She wanted me to remind her, so I did. I told her how close we were. That we used to talk for hours. That I was her favorite niece (which made her laugh like it always did). I did everything I could to make light of the fact that she didn’t know who I was, because I didn’t want her to feel sad or stressed, and while she felt bad, she seemed ok. She asked what I did, where I live, who I live with, and who my mom was.

It was great to see her, but my heart broke a little bit, because I realized in that moment that I’ll never talk to Aunt Rose again. Yes, of course I’ll keep calling. I’ll visit her. But our talks (as I know them) have come to an end. Our relationship will never be the same again. I know I won’t forget her any time soon, so I’ll have to hold on to the memories for the both of us. But to her, I’m just some girl who lives in Chicago now, and that’s going to take some getting used to.

I’m hoping this post reminds you of how precious our time and relationships are. If there’s someone (especially a family member) that you haven’t spoken with in a while, or that you owe a phone call to, please call them. And don’t wait months to call again. I called Rose all the time, but now I wish I had called her even more. I know she’s still here and I’m not giving up, but it feels as if it went by in the blink of an eye. Tell and show your people how much you love them.

I’ll close with some favorite Aunt Rose moments. I used to write down some of my favorites while we chatted away. You can read more here.

Me: Happy Birthday!
Rose: Thank you! Who is this?
Me: Danielle.
Rose: I’m glad you got around to calling. It’s my birthday.

Me: How much do you pay to get your hair done?
Rose: $80
Me: That’s very reasonable for a cut and color.
Rose: That’s because I don’t go to those highfalutin places. 

Leave a comment
  • So sorry to hear this. I’ve enjoyed reading about her quirks and funny comebacks over the years. She is a special lady for sure! So glad you had her in your life. She reminds me a lot of my own grandmother who passed several years ago. Be so grateful that you have many of your talks posted in your blogs. I wish I had written down more of mine. Hugs!

  • Aunt Rose has always seemed like a sort of character from a Nora Ephron movie; like Birdie in You’ve Got Mail. While it doesn’t soften the blow by much, how wonderful for you to have had her wit & wisdom all these years. She is lucky to have you!

    As a small aside, she is not your only fan–of this I am sure. Despite this transition, I hope you’re well!

  • I am so sorry Danielle. I know we talked about this last year and it hurts. It is so hard watching them slip away mentally but still be there physically. Just keep calling, because there a few times that she will be there and you don’t want to miss them because they are priceless. She may not know who you are but she will still know that someone cares and that makes all the difference.

  • When I saw her picture pop up on Instagram, I immediately said, with a huge smile on my face, "Oh, it’s Aunt Rose!" I feel like I’ve known her for years through your stories. Then I went and read the blog and felt so, so sad for you. What a special relationship you have, and always will have, through your memories. Do keep calling- even if she’s unsure of things, YOU will benefit from still feeling close to her! God bless!

  • Danielle, I’m so sorry to hear about your Aunt Rose. My grandmother had Alzheimer’s, and while she did not forget me, she was very confused, scared, and not at all like herself. We also had a very close relationship, and it was devastating to see that chipped away bit by bit. In a way, you grieve the loss of this beloved person before you actually lose them, and it is incredibly difficult. I agree with what others have said here–that you stay in touch for yourself, and to honor the memories that you can cherish for both of you.

  • Oh Danielle, I’m so sorry. I LOVED reading your Aunt Rose posts. Have you thought about self-publishing your memories, thoughts, and conversations into a book for her? It can give her something to "remember" you when you can’t be there with her.

    I’ll be keeping you and your Aunt Rose in my thoughts and prayers.


  • HI Danielle,
    Reading this brought me to tears. My heart goes out to you. I feel you on wanting to be part of a close family. I grow up in one, but now were’ all spread out…with our own lives and sometimes i feel i’m the only one who wants to keep more in touch.

    My prayers to you and your aunt.