An answering machine voice remembered

The message has been on our answering machine for more than three years now, and I’ve never had the heart to erase it.

I didn’t in the days and weeks after my Aunt Kitty had first left it around Mother’s Day 2014, and I still haven’t in the days following her death on Dec. 30.

The message, after all, is that of a familiar, welcoming voice of someone special in our family, someone we loved, but sadly, too, a reminder, especially now, of a generation fast fading.

It was the last time my Aunt Kitty ever called the house to talk to my mother. Dementia was beginning to transform her life as it already had taken its stronghold on my mother, her big sister.

Aunt Kitty had a voice as beautiful as she was, clear and distinctive, soft and soothing like her rich laugh, a commercial-worthy voice if there ever was one.

It was very much like her penmanship, her cursive writing almost art like.

But her confusing answering machine message, unlike her voice, bore evidence of something amiss.

Even so, just the sound of it has offered a kind of comfort through the past three years or so that I’m hard pressed to explain. And it’s been a gateway to many memories, like two French doors opening to offer a deep inhale of fresh air and a welcomed mental step back in time, back when things were normal.

Catherine “Kitty” Scherrer Diab was one of my mom’s two younger sisters in a family that also included a kid brother. She and my uncle, the late George Diab, and my cousins lived in Wheeling; Charleston, W.Va.; Atlanta; and finally Wilmington, N.C., a place they called home after having settled there in 1971.

A visit to their house, wherever they lived, was always a special occasion, something to be greatly anticipated and greatly enjoyed.

That was the case whether my mother and I rode a bus to Wheeling to see them or when I took my first plane ride to spend the summer in Wilmington before my sophomore year in high school while my mother pursued master’s degree studies in Spain.

Aunt Kitty extended hospitality with ease. Nothing ever seemed to ruffle her feathers, making the Diab house the place neighborhood children just naturally gravitated and congregated.

Aunt Kitty’s cookie jar was never empty, ever ready to accommodate the appetites of children hungry after an afternoon dip in the backyard pool. She wasn’t one to fuss, either, if there were pool puddles left behind from our feet in our haste to snatch a snack.

A station wagon ride for ice cream cones after dinner was always in the realm of possibilities.

I spent another summer there in 1979, working as part of a college internship and enjoying yet again hospitality, only this time on a more adult level.

I admired Aunt Kitty for that welcoming spirit, for her love, caring and elegance demonstrated in such a simple, unassuming way.

It was a love extended not only to me but ultimately to my children as well.

I will greatly miss the woman behind the answering machine message.

(Kiaski, a resident of Richmond, is a staff columnist and community editor for the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times. She can be contacted at

(Kiaski, a resident of Richmond, is a staff columnist and community editor for the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times. She can be contacted at