pear tree log: I started this blog to keep my younger son, Jonny, in touch with life in Lincolnshire, while he spent a year working in China. That year turned into five! Now he is home and training to become a physics teacher. This is simply a patchwork quilt of some of the things I enjoy - life in rural Lincolnshire, our animals, friends, architecture, books, the gardens, and things of passing interest.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Aunt Lillian

My mother was a wonderful woman.   She was intelligent, witty, creative, and loving.    Whatever she did was done with natural elegance and grace.    For the sake of balance, I should say that she had auburn hair,  she had a short fuse on her temper, especially with her naughty children.   She died when she was in her mid-sixties, way too young.

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.
Now, at ninety-one year of age,  Lillian is our only surviving relative of that generation.            For most of her life she was about 5'4" tall, today she has shrunk to about 4'4" and weighs about as much as a sack of thistledown.    

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.


  1. OH MY!!!!! Such a chuckle :) My own Grandma is nearly 93 and she has (also) lost her "filter" saying whatever pops into her mind... She can really be abrupt and blunt but can also be so, so funny... and YES, tiny loops, tiny conversation circles, too. Our weather has been far too cold and snowy to take my Grandma out, but I am VERY much looking forward to enjoying some walks with her soon. Surely Spring will be with us soon?

  2. I do believe we all have an 'aunt Lilian'!
    Jane x

  3. Massive hugs Elaine. My MIL also talks in tiny circles and has shrunk, but I cannot forget the cruelty she meted out when she was a different person. You are a better woman than I am dear friend. x

  4. Your Uncle John could be called St John. Bless Aunt Lillian she sounds a character.

  5. Thank you for telling us all about Aunt Lilian. She sounds like such a character! xx

  6. We call my father St Thomas, this strikes close to home. This sort of story is funny when it is not your own.

  7. I had a great Aunt Lillian and she and my Uncle Jake were my favorites on my mother's side. When she passed away, my Uncle Jake gave my mother a cameo that had been in Lillian's family for almost a 100 years. My mum passed away too early at 67 and on the day of her funeral, my Uncle Jake asked my father if he could see my mother's jewelry box. He pulled out the cameo and gave it to me and said, "this goes to my favorite nieces!" I cherish it. Your story of your Aunt Lillian gave me a chuckle, but I better you'll have great memories to share with all your children, XOXO

    1. I meant to say, "I bet you'll have great memories to share with all your children."

  8. Your Aunt Lillian tickles me to death, and you are a good woman for the care you give to her.

  9. A lovely story of your Aunt Lillian and it is good to hear you are getting spring-like weather even though it corresponds with our slightly autumnal weather here.

  10. I can't help associating the name 'Aunt Lillian' with raw chicken. As someone said above, we all have one; they just have different skills.

  11. She sounds like such a character. This is all such familiar territory for me, Linda as it is where we were with my Mum last year and the most important thing I think is to try and be there when you can. Despite the lack of apparent appreciation, it is appreciated, very much so.

  12. My mother was in hospital for two months when she was 80 after being hit by a car. Interestingly, it brought out the best in her, too. And she mellowed significantly from that time forward. Much more gracious, much less intolerant.

    I had an Aunt Lillian, too. We called her Aunt Lilly... But she was nothing like your aunt; she always said "thank you" and she never once hit me with her walking stick. Well, she didn't have a walking stick.

  13. Oh Elaine, you are a saint! The woman hits you and verbally abuses you and yet you kill her with kindness. What a charming post!

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  15. I have just read your latest post and see no comments are allowed to that so have backtracked.

    It is so hard to work out the minds of the people in Social Services. I do so hope that your Aunt is able to cope being on her own with the "carers" calling in three times a day.

    If things are the same as here in New Zealand the ambulance to take her home would have come at your (quite hefty) expense.

    I hope your blood pressure has at last returned to normal.

  16. Ah-ha, thought you would avoid hearing Aunt Lillian is a sweet old lady. She may be, but the health service sure is pissy. In truth, I cannot imagine it happening very differently on this side. There is no coordination. There is no common sense. I hope you can smile about Aunt Lillian, and maybe strike some intelligence into whatever system is responsible for her. You remain a saint.


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