My Aunt Flo lived three doors up from me. She was an unsightly woman. She was unwashed so much so she was never invited to our house until mum had been to her house to supervise aunt’s bathing. Her house was a pigsty and that was being kind to the house.
Aunt Flo had lived there all her life and had a sentimental attachment to the place. It had been the home of her grandparents; my great grandparents and Flo had inherited it via her parents will.
That included the silver service my mother had coveted all these years and secretly wished to have should Aunt Flo pass away at any time.
My mother was a bit like that, she wore her heart on her sleeve and in matters of family she was loyal as loyal could be. Aunt Flo was one of us and she needed protecting and care and my mum was the one to see to it.
Every Tuesday mum would go up to Flo’s house change and wash all the linen, for Flo did possess the best of linen it could be said.
Aunt Flo maintained that we came from royalty. If Lord Whatisname, she’d say, hadn’t been beheaded in 1067, and if the King in 1645 hadn’t invaded France or somewhere in France then we might have been on the throne instead of the present lot she maintained.
Of course there was never a grain of truth in much of what she said.
Aunt Flo was a font of information about the family. For example if you wanted to know the origins of the great family grudge Flo could speak for hours on the subject. In 1878 Great Great Uncle Alf had upset Great Great Aunt Maud by marrying Esme O’Dwyer a catholic girl from Frog Hollow.
In those days our family didn’t marry anyone who was catholic. Papists were treated like the plague. Identified and driven out of any respectable society. Not only that but Alf was given land by his father and the family didn’t think he deserved it for breaking with tradition like he did. The grudge lasted for years before it became like so much within families a part of the numinous history built around the romantic stories that families like to maintain as part of their rich tapestry.
I spent a lot of my youth sitting with Aunt Flo listening to her many stories. One was about the locket she wore. She claimed it was from royalty, passed down through the generations, and she’d finger it as she spoke as if taking from it the numinous qualities she thought it possessed. She said it brought her luck in life that she’d been loved once, a love she called true love cut short by a malady that ended her lovers life years before it should have.
I don’t think Flo ever recovered from that blow. As the years went by and her health deteriorated I watched as this once feisty woman slowly wilted from age, her get up and go brought to its knees as the years took their toll.
She carried that love which never died to her grave. More than once she told me of the man she had loved, describing him, remembering him as the young man who won her heart and whose death stole her life from her.
It was partly the reason for her untidiness. She stopped caring and lived in a place that once held such promise that never eventuated. In Flo’s world love was alive, just never happened, she waited all those years for death to take her, believing she would be reunited with her one great love.
Aunt Flo was eighteen when her lover died, she had to wait eighty years before her reunion occurred.