Monday, December 29, 2003

looking death in the eye

I went to see my sister-in-law's great aunt yesterday, who is almost 94, and in hospital with a tumour. I've only met her a dozen times, but I really didn't expect that I wouldn't recognise her when my mother and I were led into her ward.

It was embarressing actually, though probably not for Auntie B, who is quite deaf and wouldnt have heard us telling the nurse that the woman we came to see wasn't in the room (plus her vision is not great ).

But there was a huge extended family just opposite, there to visit another patient. They looked at us and watched as though in amusement and bemusement. After all, Auntie B is white and my mother and I are not. And just how well can we know her when we don't even recognise her?

Auntie B is a really cool person - never married, she was an artist, an individualist, and swam in the cold Wellington seas even into her eighties. And she liked my paintings.

By now, she will have gone south to stay in a nursing home in her home town. I will probably never see her again.

As we left the hospital, I almost told my mother that I didnt want to live that long if it meant getting that frail. But I didn't, because she herself in in her eightieth year and nowhere near as active as Auntie B was at the same age. My mother stresses the hell out of me, but I didn't want her to take it the wrong way.

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