Hearing the news that my beloved aunt had passed away is shattering. We have always had a special relationship. I remember being banned from seeing her by my mom. Mom and I did not have that bond one expects between a mother and child – perhaps because I wasn’t with her between the age of 2 and 7. She always seemed to be jealous of the strong women in my life and would accuse me of wishing they were my mom instead of her. Mom never seemed to get over losing me for those years.
Aunty Kay was a character – fun and boisterous, mischievous, generous and willing to give people a second chance. She was a kind, strong, smart woman. She rarely got angry but when she did, you had to duck for cover. She lost an eye as a teenager but if you didn’t know, it was hard to tell the difference between her real eye and the glass one. It did not hold her back. I remember a time when one of her brothers had a broken leg and they would time each other racing up and down the driveway on his crutches. She was invariably the winner.
Aunty Kay was the one who came with my father to collect me from Uncle Norm’s, where I had been living for the past year. I was around 3 and she had the unenviable task of taking me away from what I thought was my family, to my actual family. On the way home, we hit a deer. It was dark and raining and I was asleep on the back seat. She was the one who made sure I was safe and unhurt. I loved her fiercely. I cannot explain the bond we had.
At fifteen, I had one of the toughest years of my short life. In the middle of the year, mom had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She had to go to Salisbury (now Harare) for treatment for 3 months. My dad was away for work Monday to Friday and would come home Friday afternoon, take me shopping for food for the week, pack and go to see mum for the weekend. I was left to run the house and make sure my brother was fed and got to school on time. Dad would return Sunday night and leave again Monday morning. It was a scary and uncertain time.
At the end of the year, in which I had written my RCE exams (school leavers) and somehow passed, some friends took me to South Africa for a month. My mom declared I was not to visit my aunt, who lived in Johannesburg at the time, even though I would be staying close by. I did not listen to her and did indeed visit aunty Kay. I never understood the rift between them and still do not know what it was about. All I know is, that it never interfered with that bond between us.
One year, my aunt and her family came to visit. Their daughter was 4 or 5 at the time. Her husband’s name was George so we taught Bronwyn to sing George of the jungle and she ended up singing it all the way back to South Africa.
Aunty Kay didn’t hold a grudge. She gave my folks a place to stay when they needed one. She loved her family without exception. Mom and aunty Kay reconciled and were much closer by the time mum left South Africa. She is going to be missed a great deal.