Aunty Annie’s Conversation.
Based on actual events
She sits in an old green single lounge chair. A tall and thin, very thin old lady, with bent shoulders. She sits arms folded tightly across her spare chest.
She is obviously cold and her shins are always too close to the small gas heater. They have become browned.
I see her again, my old aunty. A blue and pink cameo brooch is at her neck. She always seems to be wearing a blue grey dress, which hangs beautifully.
The cat is comfortably sleeping on her lap and her thin veined hand rests gently on its back.
She is now eighty-six.
Television is a novelty as she and her brother Pat have only moved into town from their small property, a few years back. They had no electricity out on the farm. Uncle Pat didn’t last too long in town and a series of strokes killed him just when he should have been enjoying the fruits of his life of hard work…but there it is…She watches television voraciously. “The Bobby Limb Show” and “Reg Lindsay’s Country and Western hour” are favourites, but she does not like it when the girls twirl about and show their legs and underpants.
She says to me, then about fourteen, “The men are all covered up in suits, why should the girls be made to look so cheap?”
Now at fifty-one I finally comprehend what she was saying.
But tonight her lounge room is quiet. The television is off. Her still shapely lips move within the silence. Aunty Annie prays a lot. She prays genuinely. She prays for us all and I wonder now as a middle-aged adult, who ever prayed for her?
Maybe her family all in heaven gave her their combined prayers. I hope so.
Then she speaks out into the silence,
“Throat Cancer, the doctor says. It’s been sore for a long time, for years in fact. But I am eighty-six, why would I want to do anything about it?
I won’t be telling anyone until I have to go to hospital. It’s getting hard to swallow these days and it’s so painful, but I cannot tell anyone.
Margaret’s husband has just been killed and has children to raise, all alone. Poor little Margaret. Some of her children are a bit too wild. (I was one of those wilder ones)
I somehow thought I’d be here for Vera’s child. I promised my little sister when she died all those years ago not to worry Vera, I will be here for your little girl, no matter what.
And I have been Vera. It’s been wonderful for Pat and me to have her and her children as our own. Losing you Vera was so dreadful…you were so young, but we were given such a gift… a gift we never expected, neither of us having our own children. I never expected my life to be so full of children.
I haven’t been able to eat for days. But thank God I can still drink Tea. Tea, lovely Tea. Stewed and black and hot. Maybe that’s what gave me throat cancer. So what if it did. It was worth it.
What will become of my cat when I go? I know it won’t be long now. There’s not much more of me left and I feel so weak, I’ve never felt so weak.
Strangely I feel calm. I hope I can do this dying with dignity
Poor Margaret. Poor little thing, I wanted to be here longer, especially now. At least she’ll be able to sell this little house and make things a bit easier for her.
She bent and wept into her sleeve.
“Oh Mamma and Pappa… I feel so alone and so old.”
She stops in her speaking out loud and then began to slowly, silently mouth her night’s prayers. The same prayers she’d said all her life. Only the names of the people she prayed for changed.
She crossed herself, “ In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost”.
She leant back and went to sleep, this last night in her own home. She was too tired dor the first time in her long life to perform the rituals of going to bed.
Not to worry Annie… God has a bed for you, Annie’s mother breathed down on her daughter and enveloped her in her warmth.
“Not long now little one. We’ll all be together soon. Not long now.” Her mother said, ever so softly into Annie’s ear.
Therese Mackay 12/11/05