My Aunty Audrey died last night.
Bronnie and I had last seen her years ago in St. Lucia when a combination of his work, air miles and the guts to be separated from our children and leave them in another country conspired with the universe to make the visit happen.
It is almost fitting Aunty Audrey should pass away two days after Bronnie’s birthday this week since they became fast friends after a very inauspicious start. This is an abiding memory for me and one I have been sharing with my own daughter today as we travel on the train to London to support her Grandmother – Aunty Audrey’s sister and my mother.
Going back to my first meeting with Aunty Audrey, I remember Bronnie and I had been on the island for about a week settling in with my sister and navigating Bronnie’s business when we decided to pay Aunty Audrey our first visit.
While I cannot recall the occasion now, my certain memory tells me there was a tremendous fete taking place in Aunty Audrey’s sitting room that afternoon. ‘Fete’ (pronounced ‘Fet’ in West Indian patois) with a lot of people sitting around drinking, talking and laughing…a lot of laughing.
My aunt was holding court in that almost invisible way the matriarchs in my family seem to do, and while no-one was actually on bended knee in homage, it was evident that no dispute, friendly or otherwise, could be considered settled in that room until my aunt had ruled on the matter. Great fun.
So it was when Bronnie and I entered my aunt’s presence that hot and humid Caribbean afternoon. An entrance that could not have gone unnoticed since Bronnie was a very white, blonde and blue eyed 6ft something male being escorted by what looked like a 2ft island Pygmie – me – under his arm.
“So, Melinda, Bronson, y’all eventually decided to come and see me? Ya’ll been on the island how long?”
This to a now hushed audience teetering on the brink of laughter, fight, flight or freeze, but happy to wait it out to see which way Aunty Audrey went. At that moment tings weren’t looking too good, man.
“Oh, Aunty Audrey, don’t do us like that. You know we had some things to do before we could come.”
I looked across at my husband – now turned native island man judging by that accent – but too late. Bronnie was now seated firmly beside my Aunt. He was courting her royally and being rewarded for his bravado by her easy acceptance of him that day, turning into easy friendship then mutual love for all their days after.
And old curmudgeon or no, that was the great thing about my Aunty Audrey. She told you what was what to your face, no matter how many faces were also there to witness your tongue lashing.
Since that first meeting, and after Bronnie’s own death, we continued to laugh and get on famously, albeit over patchy transatlantic phone calls.
This week I had resolved to call Aunty Audrey since we had not spoken in some little while. I deeply regret that call never happened as I travel with my own daughter to London to support her Grandmother – Aunty Audrey’s sister and my mother.
RIP Aunty Audrey…or give ‘em hell. I’ll go with whatever you decide to do.
I love you,