Normally, at the end of the year I write a review of the year and then attempt to forecast the future ladened with hope and optimism. Since July 2019, I had been caught up in a toxic work situation which stripped me of any positive energy. It sucked the light out of me and left me a shell of myself. It’s been a while since I encountered such an unpleasant professional environment. I lost my annual review mojo. The future looked dank.
January 2020 opened with a perfect storm of the unexpected and tumultuous. First of all, Aunty Pat died. Then I parted ways with the toxic team, and shortly afterwards my estranged father contacted me out of the blue; hardly a coincidence as my protector Pat had passed away and he would want to exploit a chink in my emotional armour. The combination of this terrible triumvirate of events triggered an episode of crippling anxiety, which flooded my brain and drowned my body in misery and despair. Immediately, I reached for the cigarettes and then for the Prozac. I could see the thick, heavy shadow of the black dog around the corner and I fought to keep him at bay.
But I don’t want to oxygenate the narcissist, or the toxic team. Instead, I want to celebrate Aunty Pat’s glorious life of ordinary awesomeness, which kept me upright and laughing in the darkest of days, but also the lightest too. Aunty Pat wasn’t just my heroine in a life, which she filled with laughter. She was a heroine to many but that is their story to tell and not mine to plunder.
In 1974, when my mum, Aunty Pat’s sister Sue, died and Aunty Pat was catapulted from middle child of four children to the eldest of three; my gran hustled in on Pat’s life and promoted her to eternal sidekick. Her new job was to work alongside Gran and ensure that all members of the family were fully bolstered by the Betty and Pat tag team in order to prevent further tragedy. Part of this deal was to create a safe space for me to never be abandoned. Part of this deal was that Pat had no choice, but to step up into a role she felt woefully ill prepared to do, and to be honest, would really rather not. But nonetheless step up she did.
Aunty Pat was a gorgeous, ebullient, larger than life soul with an ample bosom and infectious laugh. And how we laughed. We laughed when the chips were down, when the chips were up, when the sun was down and the sun was up. In fact, laughter embodied us. Since the dawn of my cognitive memory Pat and I have chuntered, chatted and giggled. Since I was child to an adult, our friendship grew with the years. Aunty Pat was an everywoman. She had the knack of befriending the youngest of children and holding onto that friendship into their adulthood and her senior years.
On two separate occasions she kept her word to gran and stepped into my life so I wasn’t abandoned. On both occasions she graduated from Aunty Pat to Graunty Pat, as she took the role of surrogate parent to my children. First the Grenade, when I worked on the Velux 5 Oceans and we travelled the world together, and later, when I moved into t’chateau, to help me look after the Menace so that I could work. They in turn fell in love with her too, and took delight in hanging out with her, while she spoiled them rotten and filled them with glee.
As I handle my own grief at Pat’s passing, I hadn’t prepared myself for having to help them with theirs. For their young grief feels more raw, wet and real, whereas mine is about dealing with the cavernous, giant Aunty Pat sized hole in my life. The irony, of course, with the tragic triumvirate of now, is that it is Pat who I would lean on to talk me down and talk me round. She would pick me up and push me forward. Willing me on.
‘On no you don’t,’ she would say. ‘You listen to me Clarabell – you get up, get in that shower, get dressed and you do what you do.’
I can see the black dog. He’s just around the corner but I am keeping him away. I am keeping him at arm’s length so he doesn’t engulf me. The ghost of Aunty Pat and gran are with me now. Their words are echoes in my ears. They believed in me. I believe in me, so I am going to carry on, carrying on. For me. For them. For my children.
Aunty Pat starred in these blogs:
Rest in Peace in Aunty Pat. Forever missed by me and many.