Marty had stopped smoking. I still had the odd puff only when around other smokers but that was generally more out of habit than addiction. It made a huge difference to our budget. When I think of it now, I can’t believe wasted so much money. My step father Bill, had stopped years before and he used to put fifty cents in a jar everyday. He would say things like, smoking brought me that and point to his boat or some other luxury. Financially we were going to be so much better off.
Life was looking up. Jenni was still with us, doing things I never knew 14 years old did, certainly not in my day any way. Simon was settled in school and Suzanne was doing fine at IHC. I still felt guilty as hell that she wasn’t home with us, but I knew it was a better place for her.
One day I visited her at school and they went on a class trip to the nearby intermediate. As we walked up the drive, some one on the neighbouring property called out to me. I looked up and saw my Aunty Sybil. I waved back and promised to visit her.
Aunty Sybil was my maternal grandfathers baby sister. She was a real character always smiling and laughing. She married George who had fought in the war and settled in the Wairarapa. When they retired they moved to Welcome Bay and when my family were together we would visit them. They had an orange orchard. When ever we went we came home with lots of fruit.
When my parents separated, he lent Dad a trailer to take Mum’s furniture to Levin. On its return, he threatened my Dad with a shotgun. That is what Dad said any way. He certainly got the impression that my mothers family weren’t happy with him. I have no idea if it was true. I always thought Uncle George was lovely.
Aunty Sybil was a widow and she lived in a huge house with her daughter Cynthia. She also had a son Warren who I remember from my childhood. His nickname was Buff or Bluff, I could never remember which. He was the same age as Mum’s younger brothers and spent a lot of time at the farm.
Aunty Sybil had been a tap dancing teacher and the only person I knew that could dance the Can can, though I must say I never saw her do it. Mostly I remember that she was very like my grandfather to look at, and she laughed a lot.
So I went to see her. Her place was amazing, full of interesting antiques and knick knacks. She had a corgi who used to fart something chronic. When he did, she would complain about the smell and shame him outside.
She was so interested in what I was doing and I would visit often. We would drink tea and talk about the world. Later I would take Marty and Simon to see her. She was always open and welcoming.
She was one of the few people I missed when I left Tauranga. She died suddenly of stroke. Marty and I were able to come to her funeral. It is one of the few extended family funerals I have attended. And it was fun.
Just the way she would have liked it.