Receding years and fatal memories. ( For seniors)

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My Mother on the left, Aunt Agnes on right, her brother in the middle

Those with more receding years behind than advancing years in front, might still remember visiting Aunts and their endless talk about illnesses and ailments. As a child it made me almost sick having to accompany our parents to visit ancient Aunts. My hair would be duly roughly brushed up and my nails scraped clean. I had to wash my hands. For some reason, they were all called Aunts, even when not related. I think my parents underestimated my observation skill in detecting lies.

On top of everything else, we were forced to kiss them on arrival and again on departure. One Aunt had facial hairs sprouting, another a permanently dripping nose. I was bored shitless and had to sit still. I remember passing time staring at Aunts and listening to their litany of ailments with detailed frailties enthusiastically regaled in all its minutia. My mother told us a very old Aunt sat on a chair that held a toilet. We were strictly forbidden to stare at this. Of course we stared at nothing else. We never forgot anything to do with toilets.

We had one Aunt running a grocery shop in Eindhoven. A couple of lollies did relieve the visits somewhat, but only just. She had a very large and frightening nose. Another Aunt was better and used to send me cut-out copies of a very favourite Newspaper strip, ‘Erik de Noorsman’ or ‘Eric The Norseman.’ She was Aunt Agnes and very kind. No hairs that I remember!

It was when I turned twelve or so that those obligatory visits were finally done away with. I became stronger in my resistance but am sure it left permanent damage.
Of course, migrating to Australia when I turned fifteen, pushed all visits to Aunts permanently into the annals of our family, even though a couple of Aunts did visit us in Australia.

Seventy years later and the shoe now fits the other foot. However, even though I am still no Aunt, I have facial hair. No toilet built into my fauteuil as yet. I do consider my grandkids. I love seeing them, but leave them mainly to their own devices when here. I have taken to reading again those crime stories by Henning Mankell. I was a third down reading one, when the book just vanished. I turned the whole bedroom upside down. It got taken by someone, and I reckon the fifteen year old grandson snitched it. I am so proud if he did. Stealing books is to be encouraged. I don’t want to ask him. In fact, if the book is stolen, I will leave another Mankell (unobtrusively) again for next time.

This is what was lacking in those time long gone visits. Kids were expected to behave. Why did they not give books or toys to kids visiting aunts? Where were the uncles? I cannot remember a single uncle. Did the war claim them? Was it smoking related? Where did they go?. In jail perhaps? How odd.

It now reminds me of ‘The Book Thief.’ Life during those Aunt visit seems to have stood still. Yet, it is all so magically and reverently coming to the fore now. I read a book about the Death of a Moth and named our flower shop in Sydney’s Balmain, ‘Bloomsbury.’ Bloomsbury was a group of English writers, philosophers, intellectuals and eccentrics that included amongst many, Virginia Woolf.

The simple and inevitability of life. How wonderful.

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35 Responses to “Receding years and fatal memories. ( For seniors)”

  1. Yvonne Says:

    I had some wonderful Aunts. However, there were oodles of cousins to play with while the big folks visited and gossiped, so we were able to escape. An Aunt in Belgium gave me a wee dram of brandy (I think), when I was 12. That really kept me quiet!.

    The Book Thief, what an excellent book that is.

    Liked by 3 people

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      No, Yvonne, never a brandy foe us. I remember my mother liking Advokaat. It is a drink for lawyers and is made of eggs and alcohol. The aunt with the inbuilt toilet in her chair fascinated us more than anything. We actually waited for her to use it and was about the only thing we looked forward to. It seems cruel but it was just children’s curiosity.

      Of course, now Aldi is selling all sorts of aids for the old including hydraulic toilet seats. And why not? It is nice to finally get a lift in something.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. lifecameos Says:

    Our family knew a number of women who had no husband / partner, some of them were said to have lost boyfriends / fiancees in the war (s).

    Liked by 2 people

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      That is right, my father’s sister, Aunty Mart, lost her husband in Indonesia. His jeep ran over a mine, complements of Sukarno. She was given a very good life-long army pension but had to bring up three young children. She was a nice aunt and cooked terrific Indonesian meals for us when my mother was having another baby.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. rod Says:

    I have no experience of aunts, apart from one whose hedge I used to cut. My wife remembers visitng an old relative who use to have a a jar of sweeties in the shelf. One time this lady forgot to offer her one, so my wife came up with the marvellous formaula ‘Did you offer me a sweetie, Auntie Anne?’

    Liked by 2 people

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Well, Rod. Some people have nice aunts. I remember some good ones too. I think that question about the sweets was very astute.

      During the war I was farmed out to an obscure aunt and uncle. They had food. He was a tailor and used chalk.

      My cot was placed on stairs with the bottom part being propped up to compensate for the slope. I had to be kept hidden. I never understood why that was so. I vividly remember scraping away bits of wall-paper to pass the time.

      I asked my mother why I was kept on the stairs. She never gave me a satisfactory answer. I will just have to accept it now. Life is always on a bit of a slope.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Curt Mekemson Says:

    The only aunt I truly remember Gerard, owned a candy shop, not a bad aunt to have. (All the grandkids, nieces and nephews love Peggy.) But I am wondering about you being farmed out and hidden… –Curt

    Liked by 2 people

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Not all my aunts were bad. Aunt Agnes was an angel. She never married and became a teacher. The kids loved her. As adults many ex- students still visited her in Amsterdam.
      She also used to spoil us with ice-cream or sweets.

      Like

      • Curt Mekemson Says:

        Teachers may be the best. Peggy’s many years as a teacher and principal obvious reflects her love of kids, and they know it. I used to watch them run up at give her knee hugs at the elementary school where she was principal. –Curt

        Liked by 1 person

      • gerard oosterman Says:

        Aunt Agnes was one of those rare breeds, a natural and very good teacher. No one mucked up with her, yet she was not strict. She never married and never had children of her own.

        Like

  5. kaytisweetlandrasmussen83 Says:

    I’ve lived with a number of my aunts Gerard, which is different. When you live with them, you can simply slip away when visitors get boring. I love Mankell and would be pleased if a grandson lifted it or anything else in the literary world—I could give you a new audience by leaving an Oosterman in plain view.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Yvonne Says:

    Well, that’s rather “mondane”! 😦

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Big M Says:

    I used to be frustrated as a child, all of the aunts used to get together and talk the same old shit (still do). The uncles seemed more practical, so retreated to the garage for a quick oil change, or check on the plugs ‘n’ points. There were some really old aunts. One used to spend six or eight weeks with each family every couple of years. She never owned a toilet chair, but did her business in a bucket at night!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Yes, visiting aunts feature in many children’s lives. I walked past Vinnies in Mittagong a couple of days ago with Helvi, and they had a mouth watering gleaming second hand chrome toilet chair for sale. A steal at $ 40.-
      Helvi often get very good books at the Mittagong store.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. gerard oosterman Says:

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    Liked by 1 person

  9. gerard oosterman Says:

    I like the ‘non scalpel, Advanced Open-Ended. How can that be? Do they use a small cloth- peg on the outside, or what? It wasn’t around when I had mine done. ( Barbara Simcock)

    Liked by 1 person

  10. kaytisweetlandrasmussen83 Says:

    Yes, “mondane” and “luring”

    Liked by 2 people

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      You are my literary Master, Kayti. I’ll never reach your level of language skill. I put the ‘luring sentence’ that I used on Google and only the segment of my book came up. It is either glaringly wrong, or the sentence is so unique that no one used it before.
      I think it is the former.
      Is it a matter of Syntax?

      Like

  11. Patti Küche Says:

    My mother and aunts talked so much about Jackie (Kennedy), Liz (Taylor) and Grace (Kelly) that I began to think they were aunts as well. I do remember the ancients in the family with hairy chins with their husbands the drunkels.

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Yes, Patti. Here it was Princess Diana. It went on for years. The magazines found something to do with her life and marriage so meaningful and which endlessly fascinated the public.

      Her head was always featured tilted sideways giving her a look that many could not resist and associated it with sainthood,an almost religious fervour.

      People in shops used to faint near the cash registers whenever another detail about Diana was promised in a magazine.

      Like

  12. Andrew Says:

    Auntie Florrie & Auntie Bessie were our dreaded aunts. Older than time and twice as deaf. They were actually Great Aunts. They just weren’t great. Merely ancient.

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      The aunt with the toilet chair wasn’t even an aunt. She was the mother of Mr. Van Dijk who migrated to Australia in the early fifties.

      When we arrived in 1956 we lived with them for a while giving us the chance getting back on our own feet.

      It must have been during the war that we were dragged along to visit her in bombed-out Rotterdam. I remember her toilet chair and a strong perfume smell.

      They were difficult years.

      Nice to see you again, Andrew.

      Like

  13. kaytisweetlandrasmussen83 Says:

    Regarding the word in question, I think it’s an example of original thinking. Now you just have to create a definition.

    Like

  14. kaytisweetlandrasmussen83 Says:

    On second look I think you said exactly what you meant: a luring wink made it very clear . I first saw “leering”, but it would be the same thing, a sexy enticement!

    Also, I would NEVER presume to change anything. You are far too good with words Gerard.

    Like

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