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My family are notoriously bad at informing each other of important things, (births, deaths, marriages), notoriously bad at telling each other the truth.

We often learn of things by chance, or as an afterthought long after they happened.

Like today. A phonecall from relatives in another contry.
"Magda is dead."
"WHen did she die?"
"A month ago."

Useless to say, why didn't you call earlier? Not that we were close, or that we could go to the funarel, but still. I don't really remember her well except as a woman with badly dyed hair, and the sort of unfortunate nose which is a typically Jewish legacy. Hopeless with directions speaking a badly accented Serb. Speking as though each of her sentences divulged a great and profound truth and generally starting them with:
"I tell myself, Magda, you must..."

She visited us a few times when I was in Yugoslavia. She seemed impossibly funny and quaint to me with her appalling pronounciation, linguistic mistakes and thinning hair a garish red. She took my cousins and me to a children's clothing shop. I remember they were more timid, better behaved, but I took her hand and dragged her over to pleated plaid skirts and twirled around saying:
"Look, I would be very pretty in that one."

And the news that she died a month ago delievered casually between complaints about Palestians and the weather.

It is often so with my family.
Masters of Euphemism.

"I need to have a small routine procedure. I'm going to Belgrade for a few weeks." my mother's description of her fairly advanced cervical cancer and radical emergency hysterctomy.

"Your father needs to be in hospital for a little bit." my mother's for his having a burst aneurysm, needing to undergo neurosurgery.

"Daddy has gone on a trip", my own, for his death.

And news of ill health, of misfortune, nearly always reaching me after a delay.

Like the light of the stars reaching earthly telescopes with records of what happened millions, billions of years ago. So that each staring into space, into births and deaths and lives of stars, all that which is new and just learned is always in fact only a glimpse of the past, a journey back into history.

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rainsinger
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