The Roaming Aunts

I had visitors for lunch. The aunts are 70 and 91.75. ‘Only 19 and 3/4 years between us,’ says the driver, cheerfully refusing to move her car now it had safely negotiated the new motorway and arrived at its destination. The older aunt was left to squeeze her way out of the small opening she’d been left. ‘Down here!’ she cried, when she got out and was demanding her hug. Last time I had to bend down that low it was for a kid I could tickle and squeeze until they squealed. ‘Got your stick?’ I ask. ‘I don’t really need it,’ she said, taking a run at the steps and grabbing the rail. They’re a good pair these aunts. Top and tail of my father’s large family. Started with June and then my grandmother had five boys until Diane at the end when my grandfather was diagnosed with TB. 70 years ago people died of TB, just like they’re dying now of another disease that are equally fearsome and difficult to understand. The aunts have come up to visit my mother. Diane has driven from Invercargill, stopped in Dunedin and is spending a few nights with June. Already they’ve taken a trip to Geraldine and today, they stopped and went shopping in Ashburton before they arrived. They’re going back to Timaru tonight. They’re supercharged and not looking to slow down anytime soon. I feed them special food and we laugh about things my father used to do before the dementia took hold. I see him the way they did. As a brother who worried about them being on their own. I have to say being on their own doesn’t seem to have set them back much. They’ve both been through the sort of hardship that could have made them harsh and unforgiving. Instead they have character and insight and see humour in every aspect of life. The phone calls from them and my uncles, show me that families are created by actions, not birth. And my mother, is part of that family. The smile on her face at the sight of these two unexpected but so precious visitors, was the best smile I’ve seen for a long time. Now all I need is to distill the secret … nope. No need. Lemons donated for strawberry gin pretty much says it all!

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