The stage lights are extinguished; the main player has exited through the curtain and the bit players are standing around wondering, “What next?”. Aphrodite has died.
Aphrodite, “the Goddess of Love and Beauty” she announced early on in our relationship. For the first twenty-five years of that relationship however, she was “Miss Pappas,” not Aphrodite. In her obituary, self-written, I’m fairly certain, was the segment, “Throughout her career, Aphrodite was an example and a role model for younger women in the office by showing them that women could excel . . .” Oh my, yes! I was one of those younger women. She didn’t mention that she hired all of us, but she did, and then she proceeded to mold us. In my case from a “girl” afraid to suggest to people that they should “pay up,” to a woman who one day saw someone who owed coming out of the bank counting money and called out to him, “Oh good! Some of that must be for me.” (I always had receipts in the car.)
One day as Aphrodite and I were in Small Claims Court pursuing someone who hadn’t been as amenable as the man coming out of the bank, the judge entered. He looked around the courtroom, stepped down from the bench, beaming and said, “Hello, Miss Pappas. How are you doing? Been travelling any lately?” Standing back, I had to chuckle as I thought, “Well, this certainly looks like the fix is in. If I were the defendant, I just would leave now.” Then, always after court we would go over to the old, “Tom’s” restaurant on Lafayette for pie and coffee/tea. Everyone there knew her too.
Lately, there has been a bit of news about how many meetings and conversations last approximately 50% longer than either participant really wants. No so with Aphrodite. She had a way of drawing herself up and, either in person or on the telephone, of just dismissing the other party. When she was finished, you were finished. She had such a presence.
A running joke among we “younger women” was that no matter where we went, Aphrodite would run into men who she knew. Really. Once on the way to some industry function in Indianapolis, we stopped in Kokomo for refreshment and there was a man known to Aphrodite.
Leaving a restaurant after lunch one day, in was coming some man known to Aphrodite (What else?) who had a younger woman in tow. I believe that he introduced her as “Scarlet.” A few minutes of chat ensured, then when we exited, I turned to Aphrodite and said, “Did he say that her name is Scarlet?” Then I realized that on the other side of the door, that young woman probably was saying to him, “Did you say that her name is Aphrodite?”
In thinking back over our times together, which eventually included social outings as well as our work lives, I realize that I don’t remember her ever recommending a book to me. Although she was a reader—someone in my social group delivered books to her from the South Bend Public Library in her later years—this seems curious. We would talk about politics, theatre, religion, and music among other topics. She was a great fan of opera and was incredibly plugged into national and local events, and was a devoted listener of NPR, but didn’t tell me of books that I needed to read. Pity: I imagine that they would have been interesting.
Many of our outings involved restaurants owned by other members of the Greek community. She was a proud and committed American citizen, but also was very mindful of her Greek roots. She and her sisters donated to the refurbishment of Ellis Island in memory of their forbearers who had entered America there. Although American, she was a great booster of all-things-Greek, and didn’t hesitate to “lean on” her cadre of “younger women” to purchase tickets to luncheons and to the annual Festival at St. Andrew Greek Orthodox church where her family were charter members. Again, such a presence she had.
So, as I bid farewell to Love and Beauty, I join in the saying from the Greek Orthodox community, “May her memory be eternal.”
Traditional Greek Music (Bouzouki and Syrtaki instrumental)