Friday, 27 January 2017

Death in the family

As I was packing for my weekend visit to Kenilworth, I had an email from sister June to tell me that our Auntie Ivy had died in the Heath Hospital aged 104 having outlived her eldest son Gareth by two years and three months. She was married to my father's nearest younger sibling Roy, who died just before world war two ended, leaving her with two young sons to raise. She subsequently remarried and had sixty years together with her second husband Bill. Of my parents generation, only Auntie Mary remains alive, and at great age, she's in a nursing home near Warwick.

It seems Ivy had a stroke about ten days ago. Her younger son Alan returned from Nice and kept vigil with her in hospital. Her passing marks the end of an era. Sixty five years ago I first visited their house in Cadoxton, Barry, a memory that remains vivid, of my cousin practising the piano, of a fish tank containing pet terrapins, and Barry's golden sandy seashore. It was a thirty mile train journey to Barry from Ystrad Mynach. Strange to say, I can't remember if we visited for the day or stayed there. In those early years before post-war reconstruction got going, Barry was striving hard to pick up as a holiday resort. It seemed a cleaner and brighter place than grey Ystrad Mynach with its permanent film of coal dust over everything and acrid smoke in the air. I can remember wishing that we went to Barry more often than we ever did. 

Sister June and Alan have remained friends and stayed in contact with each other throughout their lives, so he was in touch with her by phone while his mother was in hospital. I emailed several cousins, phoned sister Pauline  with the news, and sent a message of condolence to Alan himself, before setting out for Kenilworth finally, at midday.

There was no early deadline so I drove at a leisurely pace, listening to lunchtime programmes on the radio, munching a couple of sandwiches, rather than stopping to eat. I had an hour or so with Kath and Anto before Rhiannon returned from school, ready for the respite of the weekend. We had a meal together before Kath and Anto set off for the three and a half hour drive up the A46 and M1 to get to Stockton on Tees, where their two performances take place tomorrow.

Rhiannon went to her drama group for an hour after supper, in St Nicholas' school across the road from home, the one she used to attend. For me, a quiet evening for me, mostly on my own, as Rhiannon just wanted to relax in her room, sending messages to her friends on her tablet, as one expects a teenage girl to do nowadays, only surfacing to request a toasted bagel before turning in for the night. Another quiet day for me tomorrow, as she has plans to got out with her friends during the day. It's important just to be there for her as and when needed. In the meanwhile, I get an opportunity to relax and re-charge my batteries.

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