You know that feeling when you really need to pee but you can’t seem to get yourself out of bed to go empty your bladder? That’s a bit like depression.
I wrote that paragraph two days ago. I started something but I couldn’t finish it. I do that a lot. Like tonight, I started to fall asleep but I couldn’t. Mostly because of AnnaPuppy who’s being an annoying, needy little bitch and is now staring at me with the cutest “I’m so sorry eyes” trying to make up for two hours of what I can only imagine sounds like a pack of dying hyenas. Oh yeah, now you fall asleep, you four legged decibel demon.
My great aunt died this week. People don’t think that should have much of an effect on someone – a great aunt sounds a bit like a distant Miss Havisham figure looming distantly: a collection of fake pearls on her walnut dressing table. The distant part is right, she passed in the States where she had lived most of her life, the later part with my aunt and uncle, who aren’t really my aunt and uncle. The aunt is actually My Lady’s first cousin and the uncle is her husband. I’ve written about them before: American Mom and The Smartest Man In America. Even calling them an aunt and uncle seems inadequate because they are closer than that to me.
My great aunt was a feisty lady. You never had to guess what was on her mind because she told you right away. I was lucky enough to have time with her this summer as she faded and the few moments alone with her the day before we left to come home are etched in my mind. Her voice was so distinctive and maybe it was my imagination or nostalgia but I always heard her hometown accent thicken when we were around. I held her freckled hand that day and I knew it would be the last time she’d tell me to give her love to everyone at home but nothing prepared me for this. ElsaDaughter spent a day crying. Her great, great aunt, seems irrational, but that was the effect this Irish nineteen fifties emigrant woman had on us.
I remember her understated glamour the first time I can recall her coming home to Ireland on a holiday; the first time I was in Seattle with her and my lovely great uncle who passed, eerily, three weeks after his only brother, my grandad. Two gents. She made pound cake in a tin with a hole in it. I thought there was nothing like it. She put the sprinklers on so that my cousins and I could run through the spray on a hot day. She had a shower room in her house – posh or what?! (That’s how ancient I am or how unsophisticated we were in Ireland in the eighties: we still had baths. Actually I remember being scrubbed of a Saturday evening in front of the fire in some sort of bucket. But that may have just been for the craic. ) She drove us places in a HUGE CITY and tut tutted when she heard that my great uncle had fallen off a stool shaped and painted like a mushroom in the playground of a McDonald’s when he took me out for a burger because I didn’t eat whatever exotic (to an eighties Irish kid) dinner she had made for us all.
Then I remember feeling heartbroken for her the last time she came home. She knew it would be the last time. We just all hoped it wouldn’t be.
In 2008 she bought me a Rascal Flatts CD because I casually commented that I liked a song of theirs on the radio.
The way she talked about her daughters and grandkids, and great grandkids, you’d think they were royalty. They are to us.
I guess I saw alot of my own Nana in her: Miss Marple and she had married two brothers, a year apart. Straight up broads, capable of great tenderness and telling you that you were being ridiculous at the same time. They don’t make them like that anymore.
My American Mom asked me about music for her memorial service on Thursday night. I wasn’t much help because I went off on a tangent, listening to songs that remind me of my great aunt, My Lady and Miss Marple. I ended up sitting on my bed for an hour mentally picturing all the good times: the sound of her voice, her rosy, soapy smell and the sideways look she gave you when she disapproved. I can understand why ElsaDaughter was stopped in her tracks, she was her Ninny in America.
This is partly, maybe mostly why I haven’t been able to write this week. The passing of someone close is an unusual jigsaw of emotions when you’re seven thousand kilometres away.
I want to fix it for everyone over there. I want to cook them a big Shepherd’s Pie and mind the kids and clean and get groceries or whatever needs to be done so that they can grieve and just be with their memories. I want to hug my American Mom and tell her how great she is, how lovely she is and how unbelievably giving and selfless she is.
And I want to be there on Monday with my cousins who are like brothers to me and their gorgeous wives and their kids and sing Danny Boy for a lady who left home all those years ago and built another home for us all on the other side of the world.
Thank you Aunty D, I’ll see you again for a cup of tea. X x