My favorite Aunty died last Thursday. There were an awful lot of 'Aunties and Uncles' where I came from in Queensland. It is a term of respect and endearment used for an elder whether you be related to them by blood or not. Some I have loved dearly and some have barely received a second thought. I had been thinking of her the day before she died. I thought of her often. I had a trip to Queensland planned during June (de-railed by Covid 19) and I had arranged to spend time with her. She turned 93 in April and she was still bright and JOYful and beautiful. Beautiful in the way some who age with spirit and grace are. I have felt intense sadness in her passing and the aftermath of that sadness lingers.
Some profess the passing of time to be the greatest of healers and that eventually, some form of closure will come but I really don't follow that line. I believe death just as grief (and grief shows itself in many ways) is never finite and nor do we ever fully recover from it. It stays on with us simply because we adjust our lives to slowly become accustom to bearing its weight.
I know people have said she had a good life but that is not entirely true. Just because your life is long, that does not equate to it being good. She had a bloody harsh life yet she of all people deserved so very much more. Her husband was a violent, snake mean drunk. One night, after many years of abuse, he beat her so badly she was barely able to flee. She did however, manage to put a few good miles on foot between her and her abuser. Unable to go any further, she collapsed and hid in a patch of pumpkins.
So badly beaten, the farmer who owned the patch did not realise she was human, let alone a small woman when he found her huddled there the next morning. And so good and kind was this man, he refused to let her return to her home. Instead, she lived on at the farm with her remaining children in possibly the greatest happiness and gentleness she had ever known with this dear man and his equally dear brother right up until their deaths.
This happened in the 70's. A time when domestic violence was a more neglected, silent and hidden pandemic. We would go to the farm for holidays and often on long weekends. I remember the farm house was a big old Queenslander sitting on thick wood poles. It was white and it always looked as though it needed a coat of paint but it was a home and it felt really, really good to be there.
In the middle of the kitchen, which always smelt of sunlight soap and lamb fat, was a huge scrubbed wood table. A big enamel tea pot and china cups and saucers permanently placed there in its centre. From the wood beams underneath the house, small calico bags filled with a wad of what I do not know and the colour of deep violet hung. These small magical bags somehow eased the sting and itch on our feet and legs from the wild stinging nettles which grew in lush profusion around the farm.
My Aunts husband had taken to living in a small shed of sorts made of corrugated iron. We would pass by it to go to the river and my eldest cousin would always make us stop there. She would go in and clean up, make him tea and oftentimes leave food. We would always wait outside, probably whining and impatiently shifting from foot to foot because all we, my other two cousins and my elder sister wanted to do during summer was to get to the river.
I went inside only once. It was dark but there were tiny beams of light coming through from the rust holes in the tin. I remember the floor was dirt and the place smelt of stale piss and that the sheets on the metal bed were stained a light amber. I could never understand why she swept the floor just as I could not back then, understand why she wanted to care for him. When I last saw him he was sitting on a chair in the mottled dark, his head in his hand while hawking up phlegm. After a while he looked up at me and I saw that the whites of his eyes had yellowed. I think he died not long after.
When 'the boys', as they were affectionately known sadly died, my Aunty moved to a little low-set weatherboard house on the outskirts of the town. Surrounded by scrubby bush, she lived there with her beloved fox terrier named Lady. She always had a black and white foxie. The house was located along the road from a place called Goodluck Farm. My Nan had pointed out the direction of the farm many times as this was the place she and her only beloved brother and another sister were sent to live and work when they were very, very young.
When Nana had too much to drink, which was often, she would sometimes speak of Goodluck and of the events that happened there. On one occasion, my beautiful Great Uncle was bullwhipped by the owner of the farm and my Nana and her sister witnessed the horror of it all. Huddled together crying they tore up rags to make bandages for him. Once I said that my Great Grandmother must have been a terrible person to have sent them away especially when they were so young but my Nan defended her saying her mother was a wonderful woman and she had loved her children very much. My Aunty also dearly loved my Great Grandmother.
When my Aunty moved out of town, and although she was deeply loved and respected by most in the town, a hateful and vindictive gossip of her previous 'living arrangements' followed her. And I think we all know it only takes one but usually two miserable and very nasty calumniators to destroy another!
I haven't been on my laptop for a good while and by 'a good while', I mean since my last post about Bali well over a month ago. I've just been a bit overwhelmed by things. Things which are designed to wound which you have no control over and nor are you able to change. Matters such as these will often consume me and sit like a stone weight upon my chest. Injustice, inequality, racism, animal cruelty, bullying and that ill perceived belief of entitlement and privilege some have which is bred through sheer stupidity and ignorance. But hate speech fuelled by malicious gossip, well that one always has me buggered.
For some reason, the voice of maligned hate has the ability to travel far too well. Over land and sea from one big mouth to bigger ears and from there, more mouths to ears and so on and so on. With each discreditable telling, gossipy hate speech gathers speed as fast as a fart all while growing with poisonous ferocity.
As our world folds in upon itself, I cannot help but wonder why some do not have the mindfulness to be kinder. Why compassion, tolerance and basic human decency is always such a hard fought commodity.
In spite of all this, or perhaps simply because of it, I remain eternally optimistic that the alarm bells, which should ring so shrilly to some, will finally awake them from their blissfully ignorant slumber.
I have been thinking a lot lately. Thinking of those no longer with me, of those still living who I care about and miss because I have lost touch and thinking of so very much of that which has come to pass. It's okay to say you are not okay. It's okay to say you are hurting and it is perfectly okay to be solitary when hermited by grief just as it is okay not to bake homemade sourdough. To love someone be they human or animal and to pick your battles well is one of the small joys of humanity and for the moment, that may well be enough.
Once, there was a small hateful group. So unhappy and unfulfilled with their lives they did nothing but complain, cause trouble, criticise and gossip. They found no happiness and no beauty in the world and they lived their lives in a thankless and ungrateful manner. One day, the group received the gift of a beautiful horse. This horse was the most magnificent animal ever imaginable but the women complained and complained and complained of the gift.
Another woman, ostracised by the group but who lived by believing in kindness, grace and optimism received the gift of horse shit! There was enough horse shit to fill a football field twice over. But instead of whinging and complaining this woman grabbed herself a shovel and she began to dig. She dug and dug and dug. She dug because she knew beneath all that horse shit there had to be a beautiful majestic horse in there somewhere......x
16 thoughts on “The need for the invention of an alarm clock called ‘A Rude Awakening’ and Story Time……..”
Keep up the great stories, you have a great skill in telling of your travels & experiences.
Thank you for your kind and ever encouraging comment Keith and so lovely to hear from you. I hope you and yours are staying safe and well. This pandemic has certainly put a dent in both of our travel diaries but I have no doubt you have future skulking plans afoot 🙂 Take care until we catch up again one day….x
Thank you Sarahs Journey…..x
Oh my gosh. Thank you for this. I love reading your blog about travel etc. but most of all I love when you slip in a story like this.
I could see and feel everything you wrote. The kitchen, the stinging nettles, the river and your uncle in his tin shed. I saw your grandmother and her sister watching their brother being violently abused and I looked at my 13 year old daughter. My daughter is very sweet and sensitive and is how a girl of her age should be and my heart broke in two when I imagined her in that same terrible situation. It is so sad to think about what generations before all of us went through.
May I ask how your Aunt died?. I will be angry for her if it is due to Corona Virus.
I loved your finish Story Time. So sharp and clever. Take care during these rough times and more, more of your stories please xx
Story time horse is my new mantra. Love it ocean girl xox
Great comment, thank you Jess and so very glad StoryTime is your new mantra, Take care…..x
Thank you for your lovely comment Carrie. I wrote that post without much of a filter so there were some passages which may have been difficult for some to read. I often think of things witnessed or ‘stories’ told to me and I am truly saddened by it. And as with you, I cannot image the fear and horror experienced at Goodluck Farm.
My Aunt did not pass from Covid19 (thankfully). I too would have been angry had this virus taken her life however she had a fall during the night and badly broke her hip. She underwent an emergency operation however this of all things proved too much for her.
‘Story Time’ seems to have resonated with quite a few. I am so glad you enjoyed it and there certainly is a lesson there for some. Take care and stay safe and well. As with most things, this too shall pass…..x
LOVE LOVE LOVE
Thank you Hannah…..x
She was the strongest person ever. Not only was she and other women of that time expected to stay in a violent marriage, (and even though she was the classic case of a battered wife), she would often say that it was because of what her husband went through during the war that he was so violent!
A very special lady, much more than a cousin, more like the older sister I never had. We shared so many good, fun times together, holidays when I was a child, lunches and morning teas as she grew older and always – memories of happy times past.
I miss her so much already but I’m so very glad I’ve had her in my life.
I know that if there is a kind and caring God, Joycie will now be safe and without the final pain from a broken hip, happy to be with all the people she loved who had gone before her.
A beautiful tribute and definitely one of kind……xx
Welcome back to your blog. I have missed you 😊
Thank you for your lovely comment Graham. Best laid plans and all however will devote more time to my blog in the coming days 🙂
Back at ya G Hopper……x