Goodbye Aunt Elsie

Elsie on the London EyeWhen there’s something on my mind, it usually has one of two outcomes. Either it drives my thoughts and creativity, or it has me slamming into a roadblock. The lack of posts recently will go someway to confirm, that at present, I am under the influence of the latter.

At the end of March saw the unexpected, sudden passing of my Uncle (on my Dad’s Side) Roy. Although I felt fairly close to my Uncle Roy, due to the sheer distance between us, him and his family being in Australia and me being in the UK at the time, there wasn’t opportunity for physical interacting, apart from the couple of years he returned to the UK for a couple of years with his family in the UK, back in the 70s.

Just over 2 months later, my Aunt (also on my Dad’s side) Elsie passed away. She’d been ill for some time, so while he passing was not unexpected, finding out she’d passed away, was still like having a part of me ripped out.

Growing up, my Nan and Grandads house was always the hub of our family, especially early on Sunday evening’s where we’d more often than not have our Sunday tea. I can still remember my Grandad freaking me out, by eating winkles (small sea based snail like creatures) and sticking their eyes on his lips and then once he had enough, would lurch over and say “Gissa kiss”, which as you can imagine, sent the kids running, with cries of “Ewwww!”.

When my Grandad passed away, I found myself at my Nan’s even more than before. She was an incredible women. Very strong, with never a word of complaint. She would bend over backwards to help if she could. She’d often impart advice, when she sensed there was something troubling me, or recount tales of her childhood, or other recollections of days gone by. I so wish I’d have foresight to record her stories in some fashion.

My Nan had suffered for years with cataracts in her eyes, resulting in affected eyesight. After she had laser surgery to remove them, either the surgery went bad, or there wasn’t much that could be done, as her eyesight rapidly disintergrated soon after. Before and more so after the surgery, she often spoke of seeing spooks in the house. I don’t think she thought of them as ghosts, just a comforting way to deal with the tricks her eyes played on her. As her eyesight got worse, her mental health also began to be adversely effected. We as a family tried to rally round, either visiting frequently or having someone occupy the end bedroom, which had an amazingly soft mattress, which left your imprint, when you got out of bed.

As I remember it, my Nan, even with failing eyesight was as independent as ever. But as the years wore on, her eyesight got worse. With failing eyesight, her mental state as diminished, which as a diabetic, requiring regular insulin, was very dangerous. I’m not sure how many years after she managed to stay in her flat (I can still remember her phone number, at least I think I can 837-2247), but it soon became apparent that she could no longer live on her own and a place for her was found in, I think in sheltered accommodation. I say think as I never ventured to visit. It’s something that’s haunted me ever since. I loved my Nan dearly, but just couldn’t face to see her. I suppose you could say that’s a bit of a cowards way out, maybe it was.

I think I was 21 when my Nan passed away. I seemed to take it pretty well, but pretty much fell to bits at her funeral.

With my Nan no longer with us, my Aunt Elsie’s home became the central hub of the family. I’m not sure if my Uncle Jimmy (Elsie’s husband) was still with us. They were pretty much my favourite Aunt and Uncle, I suppose much of that again, was because we were so close. I can remember visiting them at Christmas, after we’d unwrapped our presents at home. We’d all get dressed up and visit Elsie and Jimmy, and exchange presents. I can remember one year getting a Raggedy Andy stuffed toy. Not too sure looking back on it, that it was appropriate for an 8 year old boy, but what the hell, I remember carrying around everywhere. A later give cam as a surprise, a wet shaving kit. The surprise was I was only about 10 or 11. I still managed to get the maximum use out of it, though I had to find a safer replacement for the razor.

Another memory has never left me and that was of us, including my brother visiting on another Christmas. I remember my Uncle Jimmy making my brother and I a drink, and I don’t mean lemonade. I seem to remember him going through the drinks cabinet and throwing in, anything he could find. We didn’t seem to care how disgusting it was, as I remember drinking it and getting very drunk. I think I was only about 8 or 9, and my brother 3 years older. Do that no days and they’d report you to social services.

As I got older, it became more and more difficult to visit. I say difficult, in all honesty, at that age, you become more interested in your friends than family. I still managed to pop in on occasion, the last time being when I went back to England in 2002. I went back to England again in 2008, but it was pretty much a whistle stop visit and I never got to see Elsie again, though I did phone on occasion. It’s funny, the older Elsie got, the more she reminded me of my Nan. Her mannerisms and even to some degree the way she looked. Ever since my Nan passed away, I don’t think a week goes by when I don’t think of her, especially while watching the kids play and wishing she could have been a part, even the briefest part of their lives.

Elsie had her first stroke I think in 2009. She seemed to be on the road to recovery, but more health problems amongst other things had her moving in for a while with her daughter Cathy. I’m not sure if she managed to get back to her flat, or whether her failing health forced the decision to find her sheltered accommodation, but she moved into a place not far from the Elephant and Castle. While at the sheltered accommodation she suffered more strokes and became a shell of the person she used to be, not being able to recognise people that came to visit, including family.

In the early hours of the 12th of June 2011, she finally found peace after many, many months of suffering. I know she has been released from the suffering, but It’s still not hard to wish you could roll back the years and maybe visit more.

This year so far has been extremely hard. I think the realisation that we are all getting hard is kind of being shoved in our faces. Of the 8 children my Nan and Grandad had, only 3 remain, some taken far too young. It’s also a bit numbing that I myself am growing older. With 5 children, I never pondered on my own mortality. This is something I do more an more.

Goodbye my Dearest Aunt Elise. Gone, but forever missed.

(Some of the dates and ages, may be a little off, but a lots of years have passed since I’ve thought about much of this).