I got the news on the last day of my vacation. Aunt Bette had died.
And the last of my dad's siblings was gone. All of them gone.
Just like that. My dad, his sisters and brothers, no more. These loud, boisterous, bigger than life forces of nature who loved to sing together and laugh together and rib one and all together, now gone altogether. I still can't believe it. They were so loud. Now, so silent.
The Cavuto family's Greatest Generation now just a great memory.
And in my Aunt Bette, a very special one.
When we got the news of her passing, we all started asking, who's godmother was she again? My brother's? My sister's?
It was a dumb question. Aunt Bette was everybody's godmother. Single almost her entire life until she married at the ripe old age of 85, Aunt Bette never had any children of her own, but that doesn't mean she didn't have children.
She had lots of them. Her brothers' children, and then their children, and then their children. Aunt Better doted on them all.
No one was left out. No toy too small. No amusement park or carnival too much.
She and my Irish mom were very close. Aunt Bette often joined us on family trips.
And let's just say this big-headed toddler yea, even back then didn't like to share.
Aunt Bette suspected years later it's because she always took me out to eat, and I was always hungry.
And Aunt Bette was always there.
Here she is with my grandmother at my high school graduation.
Then four years later at my college graduation.
Same drill. Same deal no matter the nephew or niece or great nephew or niece or great, great nephew or niece for Aunt Bette always a big deal.
We were all big deals.
She was a port in a storm for siblings and cousins now spread all over the world no emotional teenage trauma was so overwhelming that a good bowl of my Aunt Bette's cavatelli couldn't fix it, and make you forget it, or the beyond generous host who always provided it. Whether for one or 100!
In her kitchen. In her home, paid with her money, from her job,
At a time single women had trouble even getting a mortgage, leave it to my Aunt Bette to get many mortgages, and many cars without a husband, without anyone. No one co-signing. Just Aunt Bette signing.
I used to joke that long before the National Organization of Women, there was the organization of big, bad, Bette.
She wasn't burning bras, but she sure was blazing trails. When I once asked her what she did if a bank refused giving her a loan. She simply replied, "Then I'd go ask someone else."
The bank that said yes did ok, just like Aunt Bette.
Just like a whole generation that refused to take no for an answer, or the vowel at the end of their name as an impediment.
I guess that's why they called them the Greatest Generation.
As much defined by their spine, as in my Aunt Bette's case, their heart. And now gone all of 'em in my family gone.
I think of all those meals out, and only now it's sinking in.
The power of gathering around a table, before you wake up one day and see only empty chairs.
Bette Cavuto DeStephano. dead at 95.