(972) 490.8676

Lessons from My Aunt Hermine

by | Sep 1, 2015 | 4 comments

Star Ranch Sunrise painting by Hermine Sallinger

Star Ranch Sunrise
painting by Hermine Sallinger

She really isn’t my “aunt”; but you call very close family friends by ‘aunt’ and ‘uncle’ where I grew up. I’ve known Aunt Hermine my whole life. She was in the inner circle of my parents’ social life.

Adjectives for Aunt Hermine — positive, wise, and gracious.

After my Mom died 24 years ago Aunt Hermine was THERE – she helped me pick up the pieces. She asked, “When are Courtney and Brett’s birthdays?” She continued to give them bday gifts for many years to follow.

A shift happened a couple of years after my mom’s death. Aunt Hermine transitioned from a ‘mom’ substitute to my friend. It pleased us both to have a friend forty years apart in age.

In the past 24 years Aunt Hermine and I visited about once a month. Usually I came to her place, took off my shoes, curled up in a big chair, and we talked. We talked about parenting, friends, how to spend your time, sex, books, life’s ironies, life’s absurdities and life’s gifts.

On my last visit I talked about my attempt to produce a six-second video. So I practiced with Aunt Hermine. Here’s her “VINE APP” video! Her video was better than mine! (look at my blog — a few back)

Aunt Hermine’s 6-second video on life

Aunt Hermine was big about the gifts. In these past 24 years she aged from 75 to 99. She understood that time is precious and she was all about spending it in wise ways. Time – a gift to be treated with care.

She was also about “being happy”. From the message on her answering machine, “Give a stranger a smile today,” to her adamant philosophy of parenting – all you want is for your children/grandchildren to be happy – whatever that means to them.

She was practical. I was having a difficult time downsizing from my home to a smaller place. I asked, “Aunt Hermine – how did you do it? How were you able to leave your beautiful home on Beverly Drive, just 5 houses down from Turtle Creek?” She looked at me, matter-of-factly, “I walked out of the front door. I closed the door. I walked down the front walk way. That’s all.”


Aunt Hermine was positive. I’d ask, “How are you doing?” “I’m great!” That was the answer, always. Riddled with arthritis, dependent on a walker, and going kind of slow, I don’t think she was “great”. But she was! That’s how she saw the world. Through “great” eyes.

She lived her values. She valued family, love and art and she spent her precious time with family, giving and receiving love, and painting. I recall her one-woman art show just a few years ago and viewing recent sketches she was working on in her art studio.

She was giving. Of cookies, home baked – always, to her time, to her laughter to her counsel.

I asked her daughter, Carolyn, about their last conversation two days ago. Carolyn said, “Mom talked about cookies she was about to make the next day. Mom paused for a second and remarked ‘life goes on’.” Aunt Hermine went to sleep and never woke up.

It’s hard to imagine a life going on without Aunt Hermine. After all, she reached 99. I had false hopes that somehow she’d defy logic and continue to live — on her own, painting, reading, baking and loving, laughing, and living.

I will miss deeply our friendship, our talks, our special bond.

Life goes on.

Karen Cortell Reisman, M.S., author of 3 books and President of Speak For Yourself®, works with organizations and executives on how to communicate to make more money. It’s all in how you speak for yourself. Read more at www.SpeakForYourself.com/blog/


  1. Jan Kessler

    I am so happy that you were able to have an “Aunt Hermine” in your life. She sounded like a wonderful person. May she smile upon the stars… Hope to see you soon. Jan

    • Karen Cortell Reisman

      Jan – Many thanks for your wonderful comments. Warmly, Karen

  2. Meyer Smolen

    What a great article describing Aunt Hermine. I first met her when I married my wife Helen, and she quickly showed me whar a great and wonderful person she was. She became my Aunt Hermine by marriage and it proved to be an ever-lasting pleasure to know and see her. It did not matter if it was good times or bad times she was there to support you and make you feel good. Her mind and thoughtfulness was with her till the end. What a wonderful, unforgettable person. She had a good life and helped to make ours a better life.

    • Karen Cortell Reisman

      Meyer – Your comments are heartfelt and special. Thanks for sharing your own experiences with Aunt Hermine. Best, Karen

Pin It on Pinterest