Friday, January 01, 2010

A scent of laundry. Part 2.



See Part 1 here.

She was there for a little party business I started to supplement my low female wages in Cork back in the day, when she invited all her well to do friends to her house so I could sell them a record amount of Tupperware.

She was there for my wedding, making all the bridesmaids’ dresses including fittings and arranging for shoe dyeing and matching hair bands.

She was there when my baby was born, making ridiculously fancy and gorgeous velvet dresses with lacy collars in every colour imaginable.

She was there to hold my precious mother, her sister, as she went through horrific chemo treatments and multiple amputations.

She was there but not so much when I would visit her after my mother’s death.

She was very much less there at my sister’s wedding. She kept disappearing to the ladies’ room and when she was at our table, she was oddly incoherent and inappropriately cynical.

I noticed a strange vinegary odour coming from her any time I would meet her when I went back home. I could not engage with her like in the old days. She had a remarkable lack of interest in my life and she forbade me to mention my mother’s name.

One night, when I asked my cousin, her daughter, what was going on, she silently gave me a tour of the house that had been the scene of so much laughter, community, and feasts fit for a queen.

Her dressing table, her pride and joy, laden with Waterford Crystal perfume bottles and handcut face cream jars, was the first stop. Each and every container was full of vodka.

The toilet tanks, the hot presses under the towels, the back recesses of the sideboard, even the opened yawning mouth of the piano: every nook and cranny held a bottle or a mickey full of alcohol.

Later, I sat down with her beautiful teenage granddaughter at a party in a cousin’s house and described her grandmother’s heyday to her. She looked at me blankly, almost disbelievingly.

“I’ve never known her to be anything but like she is now,’ she said softly.

16 comments:

  1. oh my. the stories we know that the next generation has no clue of.... i'm glad you're there to tell the good ones. i hope the granddaughter listened.

    i think of this sometimes with my sister, who died at 52. what do her sons not know about her? what do they wish they knew? what should they know?

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  2. Maybe you could write a little chapbook about her, Laurie, I did this for my mother who died so young too, so that her grandchildren and even my young (then) sibs could learn about her.
    Oh we need to get these stories down before it's too late!
    XO
    WWW

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  3. I'm sorry there is a sadd ending to your memories of your aunt Betsy. What happened to her?
    I've started tapeing my 86 yr old father's stories, as he's the last of his side of the family. We've had a great time doing it and learned a lot as well.

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  4. A very sad decline from the wonderful woman she used to be. Do you have any idea what caused such a dramatic change? Something must have given her a real psychological battering.

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  5. this has left me with a lump in my throat. How sad to see the way age & the demon drink changes people. I am so glad you were able to tell her granddaughter about the real person that daisy was.

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  6. I, too, have seen first-hand the ravages of that dread disease, alcoholism. They call it 'the family disease' as it truly effects everyone near and dear to the afflicted. There's rarely a happy ending to such stories.

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  7. Oh! That was unexpected! Like Nick, I wonder what triggered the change in her. Do you know, WWW?

    I'm doing some research into my own family history and bewailing my lack of knowledge about a couple of grandfathers. Such mysteries are frustrating, but your writings will ensure that the same thing doesn't happen for those who pass by this life in future generations of your family. :-)

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  8. What a tragic story. And a tragic waste of a once wonderful woman.

    Poor you to lose her on top of your mother, albeit mentally rather than physically.

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  9. I am with Grannymar, without your input, her granddaughter would have had quite a different picture of her.

    I emailed you on your hotmail account, did you get it hon? Let me know.

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  10. Brighid:
    Great that you are capturing the essence of your father.
    My aunt had a very sad ending with wet brain, the result of chronic alcoholism.
    XO
    WWW

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  11. Nick:
    she loved to be busy so when her family moved on in life and the mother and mother in law died, she was left with just her husband who worked hard in his businesses. She began to play cards and drink in the afternoons and it escalated from there. Loneliness.
    XO
    WWW

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  12. GM:
    Yes, and to many other younger people in our family who never knew anyone else apart from the nasty and hopeless drunk she became.
    XO
    WWW

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  13. RJA:
    As an alcoholic myself, thankfully sober now for over 23 years, I know whereof you speak.
    XO
    WWW

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  14. T:
    Like I explained to Nick, boiled down to two words loneliness and usefulness.
    I think alcohol had such a hold of her later that she was unable to engage with her granddaughter.
    good luck on your search!
    XO
    WWW

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  15. Yes Laura, actually it was a triple loss as my mother's mother deteriorated desperately following my mum's death.
    XO
    WWW

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  16. Hull:
    Yes, I got your email, I will reply privately.
    XO
    WWW

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