Aunt

Aunt is definitely thinner. When I hugged her, I could feel every knob of her spine and her ribs were clear under my hands. Her lovely cleaner Linda, now an honourary member of the family, was there when I arrived. Linda is a huge fan of Uncle Bill. I keep reminding her he is spoken for. Linda is the person who allows Aunt to continue to live independently. She is more carer than cleaner these days. And throughout her years of working for Aunt has become a trusted companion, a confidante, a surrogate daughter. They love each other with an uncomplicated trust and respect. They are good to and for each other. Their relationship is good to see.

In the spring, when I spoke to the Specialist Nurse, I tried to find out how long Aunt might survive her cancer. The nurse, who is lovely, but worked off her feet, told me my aunt could well die of old age before the cancer tightened its grip. However, by the end of the conversation I knew it would be unlikely Aunt would see the end of the summer.

Yet today we were talking about winter, and where we can go when the weather turns cold. As we had both wanted to enjoy Linda's company, it was quite late before we set off for an outing. Our destination was a local hotel where I had been told we could enjoy tea in the garden.

The drive took about five minutes. Maybe less. Aunt usually feels the cold, so I was surprised when she said she'd like to sit in the garden, and laid her fleece across her knees. We were the only ones outside until we saw a tabby cat emerge from a flower bed. We sat and talked, and I asked her about how it felt to know that this might be her last summer. She was philosophical. At 92, death could come any day, cancer or no. Seeing the flowers, the colours, the cat. These were the things that counted. A teapot which poured well, and a more than generous jug of milk, sunshine on the plants and the peace of the garden, moments to be stored up and enjoyed over the next weeks.

Earlier I had found her mother's signature on the. Ulster Covenant. It's available on the PRONI site. Aunt was just four when her mother died. Her memories are scant. She was moved by the sight of the signature. I should see about taking a screen shot and storing it with her photographs on the tablet.

My little Olympus with its wifi wizardry is a hit when I visit Aunt. She selects the photos she wants and I load them onto her tablet. She has a lot of MasterB. When we go out, I take more pictures so she has a record of where we have been and what we have seen.

But today's technological breakthrough was installing the Audible app so she can listen to some books. She has just two audio books for the moment; The Railway Children, and Little Women. We listened to the pending words of both to make sure they worked.

I am English. I speak with an English accent. I read words and hear them in that accent. I know Louisa May Alcott was American, but all the same it was a shock to hear the ts in Little elided. Li'l Women, it sounded to me. Aunt took it in her stride. Naturally. As there are nineteen hours to Li'l Women, and I don't know how many to the Railway Children, Aunt felt confident this was enough to keep her going until I see her next month.

I am not so sure. The way her face lit up when we heard the first words of each book was marvellous to see. She is much more tired these days, and leaning back, eyes closed, listening to books she has loved and half remembers, may well prove very attractive.

Last night I managed to post by leaving the boat and wandering the marina to find the best spot for Internet reception. Tonight I am much later, and I have no intention of going ashore again until morning. Whether this uploads now is open to doubt. I shall have a go now, but if I fail, it'll have to wait until tomorrow.

Sweet dreams.

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19 thoughts on “Aunt

  1. Lovely and sad all at the same time. Your descriptions make Aunt and her savoring the sights and sounds make her a real presence. Thinking of you and what you are experiencing. There is no way to prepare for loss. How wonderful she can enjoy your photos and the audible books.

    • You are right; there is no way to prepare for someone’s death. When you are with them and they are alive, it seems they and you must always be so. I am glad f these opportunities to spend time with her, and to enjoy things together.

  2. Go ahead – bait me with you L’l v. Little comment! I had to look up the narrator. The only one I could find is Barbara Caruso, graduate of RADA and the RSC. She sounds a bit mid-Atlantic to me. Maybe you have another version. I do so enjoy your tales of hanging out with Aunt – special moments for the both of you.

    • Caroline Ricci. Maybe not Caroline, but definitely Ricci. Though I don’t think it was she who pronounced the title.
      I am currently engrossed in Trollope, and swapping between reading and listening. The reader is Timothy West. Sublime.

      • Found it – Christina Ricci. A bit more excitable in presentation than Barbara Caruso. Louder. That would likely make it very American, wouldn’t it? You are causing me to seriously consider the audiobooks for my daily commute.

        • I am currently addicted to Trollope. In fact I need to do some clearing up in a bit, so shall opt to listen while I dust.

  3. Lovely post, Isobel. Very poignant and moving. You depict beautifully how it’s the small things that matter, especially so when one is facing one’s own mortality.

    • I keep thinking we should be having Big conversations about Big and Important things. But enjoying the appearance of the cat, the way a teapot pours, and the sudden hike in the price of Dettol seem to matter more.

  4. How lucky Aunt is to have Linda – and you – to care for her and help her to savour these last months. And how lucky we are that you blog and share that with us.

    • I am in your neck of the isles next week. Might we meet up again? And can you recommend a good caravan shop?
      I should love Aunt to be able to come aboard das Boot. Just to sit here in the silence and to watch the birds would be something she’d enjoy so much.

        • Sme number. I think I have one for you too. will check. Hoping to get to Armargh and the JHS a couple of times if Cousin’s friend has got the tix. Are you going?

  5. Aunt has got it right… enjoying the little things right now, where she is. I love that the cat, tea, garden, and sunshine were what were important to her. I sometimes have to work hard to live in the minute and enjoy that minute fully and your Aunt seems to have that down. Lovely that you two have these times together. I admire your Aunt and I am happy that I am getting to know her, even if it is just a bit, through your posts about her. As always your words are a joy to read and I find comfort in them early this morning.

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