Her side of the family is 'complicated', with several half-brothers, some of whom may not really be even half-brothers... I still haven't worked it all out. She did, however, have one older sister, Lillian. Lillian's birth certificate shows that she had the same parents as my mother, if it is to be believed. The age gap between Lillian and my mother was six and a half years, and they were like chalk and cheese.
Lillian didn't cook, do housework, or anything creative, although she definitely knew how to back a winning horse. She liked a flutter. On reflection, that isn't quite true. She must have been creative because I can remember being told that she iced cakes professionally, for a time - although not once in my 59 years have I seen any evidence of that skill.
As I recall it, her idea of cooking was to wash a few lettuce leaves, tomatoes and half a cucumber - for gourmet meals she would add a few spring onions. Amazingly, she could spend half a day cooking that particular meal. Luckily, Uncle John was a wonderful cook, so they ate well.
|Aunt Lillian and my lovely Uncle John,|
many years ago.
Three weeks ago she had a fall, and although she has memory problems, she knows that it was around midday when she fell because her favourite lunch-time programme was about to come on. Her recollection is that she stumbled and was unable to get up from the floor. Luckily, at around 4pm the newspaper boy came along and spotted her on her living room floor. He ran to the neighbours, who called the Emergency Services.
There was a problem; Lillian had left her key in the locked door, so the First Responder was unable to get in. He summoned the Police and the Fire Brigade... eventually they decided to take the pins out of the hinges, to gain admittance. My aunt was insistent that all she needed was some help into her chair, she was fine...
Routine tests revealed that she had suffered a problem with her heart, so, despite her protestations, she was taken to A&E and then on to Coronary Care. She remained in hospital for a little over two weeks.
For Lillian, it has been fun. She has enjoyed all the company, people coming and going, the attention - and meals arriving on a tray, without her having to go to the bother of putting a Wiltshire Farm Foods meal into the microwave.
A few days ago she was transferred to a Care Home; while she regains some strength and mobility before she returns to her home, for she is adamant that she doesn't want to go into permanent care. She looks tinier than ever, but is being well looked after, and she seems quite happy.
Yesterday, when I visited, the sun was shining - for what felt like the first time since last summer. I borrowed a wheelchair, tucked her in, and took her out for a breath of fresh, Spring air. The grounds were full of snowdrops and daffodils, the air was almost mild and the sun shone. After the over-heated air of the care home, it was refreshing and revitalising, for both of us.
Lillian enjoyed herself, although I noticed that she clutched tightly to the arms of the wheelchair, not quite trusting my wheeling skills. I found that by pointing out a distant road and mentioning that it led on to somewhere she knew well, or at a distant church tower and talking about it and the village, she was kept happy and entertained, she relaxed.
In recent years Aunt Lillian has become something of a tyrant towards me - completely lacking in manners, never greeting me but simply listing things I got wrong, or issuing orders, occasionally poking me with her walking stick. The last three weeks have seen her mellow, or perhaps the change has been in my behaviour.
I treat her as though she is a young child and remind her about her manners. Our 'conversations' are very simple, her greatest pleasure is in hearing about my grandchildren, so I tell her what they have been up to - again, and again, because she talks in very small loops, tiny circles.
She still issues orders, but at least I get a "please" out of her...especially when I prompt her with the sound 'p...p..'. I haven't even attempted to get a "Thank You" out of her, I know my limitations.
Of course it helps now that she no longer has the use of the walking stick, she simply doesn't have the strength to whack me with her walking frame.