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).

Goodbye Uncle Roy

Things have been relatively quiet around here, after my pretty hectic schedule of posts during March. The main reason for this, was the passing of my Uncle Roy on the 31st of March. I’ve been writing this post for a while, but for some reason I just couldn’t get it worked out and posted. This meant that I couldn’t post anything else, as I felt I had to get this post completed and put to bed. Finally tonight, I sat down and this post is the result.

My Uncle Roy, from my Dad’s side, emigrated back in the late 50s early 60s. He was posted in and around Australia and liked it so much he decided to stay. My Aunt Mickey, Roy’s sister, also emigrated to Australia, but that’s another story. Maybe that’s where I get it from, having been in Canada myself now, for over 10 years.

Now the dates and things are a little hazy, as I was only a small kid, but as I remember it my Uncle Roy, his wife Sandy and children, Fraser and Tiffany came to England sometime in the late seventies. I think they only intended on staying for a year or two, but stayed a little longer. During this time, I got to know them all, as we frequently went to visit them. They lived not far from the Elephant and Castle, a place that always sounds more like a pub than a place. My brother Alan and Fraser, as I remember it became as thick as thieves. They also worked for my Dad on a few occasions, on one occasion, shovelling horse manure. I heard my brother grumbling about that for an eternity after.

I always remembered Roy as a very large figure, with not much hair, as with many of the Meeks men, but through sheer luck, not me. Not yet anyway. He always wore a hat, very similar to his brother Davey, which maybe, as some people think, had something to do with it. In all those years that he was in England, I don’t ever think I heard him raise his voice. I’m sure Fraser and Tiffany would tell a different story, but to me he always had an undeniable confidence and exhuberence.

When establishing yourself in another country, you have to embrace it wholeheartedly. I don’t think you could have embraced it any more than Roy. I never thought of him as English, or indeed an ex-pat, to me he was always an Australian. Even in their stay in the UK, he was always Australian to me, rather than English.

I can remember him taking us, my Mum, Dad and me up into the Hinterland, to some kind of wild reserve, when we were in Australia, for his Daughter Tiffany’s wedding, in 1994 I think it was. I can still see him as holding this huge lizard thing by the tale, like some Crocodile Dundee character. I’ll have to see if I can dig out the picture for that. I’ve got it in my collection of photos in the basement somewhere.

Over the years it’s hard to stay in touch, especially with me emigrating to Canada, but it in the last year or so, Roy and Sandy discovered Skype, which meant that we spoke more often. They also sent me a letter with photos, which we received just a few weeks before Roy passed away. He looked so happy, as he had his kids and grand-kids around him. As always in hind site, I wish I would have replied sooner, but conventional letter writing is not my forté. In fact I hate hand writing with a passion, getting my wife Sherri to fill in conventional forms.

As is now all too common in this digital age, I found out on the Thursday morning that Roy had had an aneurysm. My cousin Tiffany posted on Facebook that she was jumping on a plane to be with him. I called her on her cell, just as she touched down on the Gold Coast and said to pass on our love. Unfortunately, little did we know that he’d already passed away.

It’s funny how emotions can take over. Without wishing to sound a bit uncaring, I don’t think you could say I was that close to my Uncle Roy, but I did love him dearly. I was kind of unprepared for how devastated I was. When Tiffany posted that he’d passed away, I know that there’s never anything you can say to help ease the pain, but I wanted to reach out, just to say I was there. Unfortunately it’s hard to help, when you are a blubbering mess. I was a similar mess when I finally got hold of my Dad, who was in Spain. I think the think it forces you to realise, is that you are getting older and I think that’s kind of scary. In my head I’m still a fairly young 21 or so. However now, I’m a Dad of 5 kids and it forces you to ponder on your own mortality.

I realise this is kind of a sprawling post, but it’s one that’s been brewing for so long and kind of cathartic to do.

I don’t know what it’s like to lose a sibling, or parent, but my thoughts are with my Aunt Sandy, cousin’s Fraser and Tiffany, and their extended family. Over a month has passed and I know that the old cliché that time heals doesn’t help now, but just know that our thoughts and love are with you.