Courtesy of the “VIRUS”!

These images were taken from the window of my car this morning, May 21st 2020. The site is Braye Park Hill. When I was a kid there were frequent treks from 90 Georgetown Road Waratah, up the hill to the lookout. Three sixty degree views for as far as the eye could see. On those occasions when my Missionary Priest Uncle was home on holidays, it would be a race to the top, a race back home, jump in the Holden Special ( CDS992) and straight up to Hexham Oak for “Caramel Malteds” all round.

I love this place. Its managed to earn itself a sort of sleazy reputation in recent years. Such a shame. The view remains magnificent, though much has changed in terms of spread to the West, pollution from BHP towards the East. The aerodrome just a bit before the “gully line” intersection is completely engulfed by whatever the stadium is currently called, but the ocean is the same!

I chose to go there to view the a funeral. My cousin’s husband Gerry died. They lived in Canberra. My cousin Maureen is the daughter of my Mum’s brother Jack (John). He was the first of that generation of Grandma’s and Grand Dad’s children to die. Quite young. Perhaps only a little bit older than I am myself! The rest of them lived for decades! Mum was the last one. She made it to 96!

Maureen and her older sister Anne were part of the “older cousins” when I was a kid. Their Mum, Aunty Vi, was a stunningly interesting person to me. She laughed like a drain, she smoked, her sense of fun was a source of fascination to me. The “clan” would often come together usually around a celebration of another stage of development in the Vocation journeys of four of my siblings. Receptions into religious lives, ordinations, professions etc etc etc. They all turned up to my wedding – Aunty Clare and her husband Uncle Maurice, Uncle Frank and his wife Aunty Cath, Uncle Maurice (the priest), Uncle Kevin and his wife Aunty Thelma, Uncle Jack and wife Aunty Vi, Aunty Kath and her husband Uncle Tom.

The names could cause confusion. Boland was the family name BUT Aunty Clare married a man whose surname was Boland. Having “ Maurice” as his christian name doubled the confusion. Of course the confusion could have been solved if the tendency to call their children by their second name rather than their given name was not a choice Grandma and Grand Dad made! Their first-born Aunty Clare was actually Elizabeth Clare. Their son – Maurice – was actually James Maurice. Their daughter Pat (my Mum) was actually Mary Patricia. Grandma herself was actually Mary Anne but she thought the name sounded too plain so she renamed herself Mary Kathleen. Their first born son, Uncle Frank, Francis Leonard, had his name and gender wrongly recorded when his Grandfather, heavy German accent, was misunderstood by the public servant doing the job and recorded him as Frances Leonora. This was not discovered until he registered to sit the public service entrance exam at a time when females were not allowed to work in the public service!

As I grew older I began to realise how much of a challenge it must have been for the wives of Grandma’s three married sons to find their feet in the “dynasty”! My three “in law Aunties” were a source of endless fascination to me. Uncle Frank’s wife Cath was always referred to, in the “inner circle” of the gene pool, as Cath Jones until one day she said enough and the “Jones” was dropped. Aunty Thelma was a school teacher. Highly intelligent, greatly respected . Probably a bit more clever than the apple of Grandma’s eye , her husband Kevin! Aunty Vi was a hoot. Whenever they were around there was laughter and fun.They were wonderful. Whenever Aunty Vi and Aunty Thel would light up, there would be almost inaudible tut-tut-tutting from the gene pool elders! Aunty Clare smoked too. Usually (in my childhood days) from a long cigarette holder! Just before she was born (end of the 19th century!) Grandma and Grand Dad, a policeman, moved from their home in one of the little terrace houses near Nobbys to Carrington. I remember her telling me how disappointed she was that Carrington rather than Newcastle was recorded as their place of residence. I always wondered if she was a long lost member of some royal family!

The one thing that I remember had them all – in laws and outlaws- fiercely combative without doing physical harm was a card game!

It just seemed the correct place to go to today to watch the live stream of Gerry’s funeral. It surprised me and it still surprises me how connected I felt to the Liturgy. I wrestle with the Institution. For me its in its death throes but I also feel a connection with something still and there is was again today.

Watching from a panoramic back of the church view, in the front row I was stunned for a second to see the back of my Mum’s head. Hair colour. Head shape. Position of the shoulders – all my Mum! It was my cousin Maureen! I had noticed this similarity the last time I saw her and we had laughed about it and there it was again. On the other side of the 20 person gathering there was my cousin Ruth. Tall, regal, beautifully groomed, wonderful silvery white hair, daughter of Elizabeth Clare but of course it was my cousin Mary , daughter of Mary Kathleen, Mum’s younger sister.Maureen’s daughters read – Liz, the image of my memory of her Grandmother, my Aunty Vi. Margaret reminding me of Maree – daughter of the apple of my Uncle Kevin and Aunty Thel! Just astounding!

The technology was a little temperamental at times. The sound dropped out a bit. I did not miss the Priest’s enquiry as to how long Maureen had been married to Gerry and her response, loud, proud, clear and strong was “sixty years and four months.” So reminiscent of a response my Mum would have made even in such heart wrenching circumstances! Such a proclamation of the generations of strong, resilient women of our Boland gene pool, past present and future!

A most beautiful offering of “Amazing Grace” unaccompanied, from a most beautiful young man, Lachlan. Margaret’s son. Facial structure designed for singing. High cheekbones, tall frame, strong stance pitched perfectly for the entire hymn. No mean feat at the best of times, incredible in these circumstances!

Gerry Daley was hardly known to me.I met him probably less than ten times in my life. What a legacy he has provided. What a life! Well lived and so well loved.

“I Love Little Pussy“

It was Mother’s Day Eve, 2020. Excitement hanging in the air almost blotted out the pain of COVID19 lockdown. We were going to “ Zoom” together courtesy of our first born!

The day before we had received a message from south of the border to introduce us to “Mollie” the rescue cat. “She’s a bit old and a bit tubby” said first born son in a group text. “ Her name is Mollie”. How serendipitous I thought. Molly was the pet name my Grand Dad had for my Mum. “ He always called her Molly” my return text gushed at him! “ and old and tubby? It’ll be like me coming to stay at your place!”, chortling as I wrote!

There was a family photo Mollie, son, daughter in law and grandson. A love portrait study of son stroking the cat – sunlight streaming through the window and a somber, reflective “ Mollie sort of does Mona Lisa” moment captured by the photographer.

The day dawned with a group text from south of the border “ the cat got out”. First born daughter offered sage advice “ don’t let her out for at least the first week. A photo of the long legged, athletic grandson running – giving chase as Mollie made her break to freedom!

Time for the Zoom meeting arrived. Text message” have you found her?” “not yet”! And then “ she was in the tree” ! And there she was! Relief bordering on exuberance permeated the house!

And so the Zoom Meeting began. There we all were. Hundreds, more than a thousand miles apart by heart linked by insoluble love! First enquiry: ”How’s Mollie?”

“Well”, he who was eleven pounds thirteen ounces at birth begins “we have to tell you about the cat…..” I can already feel that anybody who has seen pictures of the cat has been wondering . “The cat it not real! Its been the best thirty bucks we’ve spent in the two dollar shop EVA!” SYNCHRONISED exhaling from all the attendees at this particular “meeting”!

“No, seriously Mum, we had to do something about the kookaburra. Someone said they are frightened by cats and so we put this in the window to keep it away!” Not even giving themselves one split second to make any further attempt to convince us they were serious, there was much showing and telling of the “Happy Mothers’ Day” box in which Mollie had been “wrapped”. They hugged and squeezed Mollie to show how her eyes bulged and her tongue stuck out to the accompaniment of howls of outage and gales of laughter!

I felt stupid for having cranked up from my memory bank, a kindergarten song from 1955 “I love little pussy, her coat is so warm and if I don’t hurt her, she’ll do me no harm. We’ll sit by the fire, I’ll give her some food and she’ll love me because I am gentle and good.” That led to a discussion between the cat owner and spouse and my older daughter remarking that they are the last generation who will remember The Benny Hill Show and be able to laugh about it, followed by a disclosure that the Benny Hill Theme music was going to be their (son’s and spouse’s) wedding music!

First born decided it was time for a drink. I had my water bottle and had just taken a massive gulp when I saw her return to the “control panel” with a bottle of champagne. I was mid swallow with the second gulp when she proclaimed “How do you open these things” which shocked me so much ( in her youth she had been referred to as “The Fish” – not because of her swimming ability rather as in “drinks like a fish”) that I guffawed with laughter – inhaling and exhaling at the same time. I began to choke! I could not breathe. I had water coming out of my mouth while trying to get down my throat, it came out of my nose. I was terrified. Family on line and in the room thought it was screamingly funny and at one stage there was a suggestion I may have lost bladder control! I DID NOT!

I couldn’t speak “Oh she gets these coughing fits every now and again…. you know your mother” chirped in Long Lean and Loveable. My whole life flashed before me and strangely enough I felt a sense of relief because I knew I was dying but at least I was not alone in a corridor waiting to be attached to a respirator having been triaged as too old and with significant health issues. I was surrounded by those I love most in the world.

What a way to go. But I didn’t! I am glad! Most of all I am thankful! I had no idea what I was getting into in 1971. My first grand daughter came to see me today. She did not go past the front fence. A friend of mine was waiting for the result of a COVID19 test. I had visited her recently. I was staying away from outsiders till the test results were in. The thing I had been most looking forward to was having a coffee with my first grandchild. I had been very miserable about not being able to do that. But there she was this morning. Flowers and gifts and a discussion across the fence.

Nearly 22 years ago, she was in the arms of my own Mother and it sets me to wondering how wonderful life is. There has been much waxing lyrical about how we are all in this together. I’m not too sure about that I have to say. Cynicism grabbed me round the throat this morning as I watched political commentators go on and on about curves and lock downs and budgets and unemployment and economic collapse and bloody football.

Having been immersed to the point of drowning in laughter, love, story, and silence; those awkward moments that happen when parents and their children and their children’s children, meet each other as adults, face to face and eye to eye. In that meeting I am reminded that this place, this moment, this time is where and when and why I am alive!

Thanks Molly!