a twist in the tales of life

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Auntie B's Birthday

Saturday was auntie B’s birthday. I won’t embarrass her by telling you she is 71. It was one of ‘those’ occasions because she has been in hospital for 8 weeks and a care home for the last two. She has cancer.

Auntie B and I were always close, as was the case with Auntie O. Auntie O was my godmother and Auntie B was my brother’s godmother but it didn’t matter because the both treated us as if they were godmothers to us both. Auntie O passed 11 years ago. I miss her still even though I know she visits. I feel her presence at times and to be honest I don’t really know what to do. So I just smile at her.

Auntie O worked office hours and Auntie B worked mornings and evenings so they could look after my grandmother between them. Auntie O came home for her lunch when she worked nearby so it seemed as though theirs was a house filled with activity. Someone was always coming or going. My mother is from a big family so there were different cousins, aunts, uncles and friends all passing by and dropping in. The front door was never locked.

Auntie B taught me to knit. She was an Aran specialist and made it look so simple. Her catchphrase was its only plain and purl twisted around. This meant that I never panicked over a pattern I knew it was only plain and purl twisted around. I have a strange way of holding needles and sometimes it looked like I could lose the lot. Auntie B knew it didn’t matter. Once she was happy with the tension, I could hold the work as daft as I pleased.

Auntie B‘s evening job was in a local corner shop.  She was a wiz at adding up bills in her head. She had the register perfect to the penny every night at closing. The owner trusted her so much she was allowed to bring me with her when I spent summer holidays with the aunties.  There would be an outcry over child labour now but then as an eight year old I was perched up on a stool behind the counter serving customers their cigarettes and chocolate, milk and bread. The only job I wasn’t allowed to do was cut the cooked meat. I longed for the day I would be old enough to use the meat slicer.  Then, I thought, I would be grown up.

If I had no plans on a Friday night or if I was staying of a weekend to save money for something I spent them with the aunties. We would order pizza and sides, hire a movie (on video tape then) and have a great laugh. By then my Gran had died and they had moved to another part of their town. There were fewer callers, my cousins grew up and forgot about their aunties who were as good to them as they were to me and my bro. Eaten bread is soon forgotten. But selfishly I had them all to myself.

Auntie O had retired and bought a good car so they came to ours on a Monday and Thursday. I made sure I got home from work and by then I knew how to wind them up and Auntie O especially used to get tormented with jokes. One Christmas she fell asleep in the chair so me and bro covered her in Christmas decorations, took photos and took the decorations off her again. Then I sent a photocopy of each photo to her in the post every day for a week.

Auntie B had a bad heart. She had rheumatic fever as a child followed by chorea. Neither of these are heard of now.  This damaged her valves and made her weak for years. She had endless hospital appointments and Doctor’s visits. Auntie O was in good health. Or so we thought.

She took ill and cancer was discovered. She lasted 6 weeks. Auntie B was on her own. So every Sunday she came to me for the day. Mum and Dad had turned native and gone to live in the country growing organic fruit and veg so me and B got on with city living. She would come in to me in work and we would go for lunch. Then the heart got worse and she needed surgery. Two valves were replaced and the third was repaired somewhat. But she was fine. She stayed with me for two weeks and refused to eat anything but spring rolls and chips from the local take away. I still have issues with spring rolls!

Auntie B wasn’t feeling so good. Her consultant wanted to run tests. I told her to agree. She wouldn’t.  I talked to her again but no. Then she caught a virus and was hospitalised anyway. This is when the cancer was discovered.
She had a 7 inch tumour removed from her bowel. Then she got an infection which put her back a lot. Then her blood pressure dropped. This was set back number two. She was very weak and lost a load of weight along with her strength. Then to her consultant’s surprise she bounced back. She bounced back so much she began to give out to the nurses if they didn’t meet her exacting standards. They didn’t know B is a fireball so they sent a psychiatrist to access her for Alzheimer’s as she was telling them to effing be careful with her if they were rough and effing answer the bell when she rang. She realised from the questions what was happening and asked did they think she was effing losing it. She told them at 70 years she had earned the right to be forgetful but she wasn’t crackers yet!

She is in the care home to build her strength up for her chemotherapy. She sees her oncologist on Tuesday. I wish him luck. Mum as her older sister is going with her. She doesn’t swear so much with mum. My money is still on Auntie B.

On her birthday every year we order too much Chinese food and I get a cake and we spend it together.  This year, we came to the care home. It is such a great place. They have a coffee shop on site as there is a walk into the mountains by the home so it is full of residents and their visitors along with hill walkers and strollers. We arranged a cake and surprised her. My brother, his wife and the angel child were there as well as my cousin and his family and my Uncle F. Dad was master of ceremonies. We had a great time.

Auntie B kept some cake for the nursing staff and told them to leave some for the night shift. She got teased about a night carer she gets on with and she said yes she needed her eye candy! She is irrepressible.

She told me she has to beat this because she wants to enjoy the angel child growing up. She won a championship medal for camogie and taught each of us how to hurl. She really believes she will make a good fist of beating it as she knows how to win at a tough team sport. I can’t argue with that.

She is also planning a new kitchen as she says she needs a split level cooker on account of the fact she can no longer bend or stoop. And she says she is bored with her cupboard doors. She has started to swear at us when we torment her and she has got into trouble for walking around on her own. I have a feeling she may be around to teach the angel child a bit about hurling yet. I think she may have a few other plans too.
 Wishing you many more birthdays Auntie B.
Keep Smiling

1 comment:

  1. What a lovely strong lady your Aunty is. I hope she feels better soon, she has real fighting spirit. She is lucky to have a great niece like you :)