I have an aunt who is 95 or 96. I’m not sure which and it’s rude to ask a ladies age. Recently she had an operation on her left eye to remove a cataract. The operation on her right eye is scheduled for early August. Before this operation this lady, who glories in the beauty of things she sees, was left with little but her memory of colour and shape to warm her daily life. When some person, unthinking of her condition, pointed out some particularly delightful object she would exclaim, “I’ve always loved roses” or ” the harbour is so pretty” depending on what had been pointed out to her . She fumbled round the house as best she could but still insisted on living on her own, and delighted that objects in the fridge were always laid out in such a way that she could find the milk or bread without having to search for it on every occasion. The cost of the journey prevents me from visiting her but such was her reticence about her condition that I was largely unaware of it until she was on the brink of having the actual operation.
Her left eye is now perfect and when I ring her she is always talking with delight as she rediscovers the world around her and speaks in a voice filled with the excitement as one who has been given a present beyond their wildest dreams. She mentions what she has got and not what she hasn’t; has immense dignity, and when voicing concern is only talking of others not herself. My sister mentions her as being “an inspiration” and indeed she is. Born well before the war she was in Vienna when Hitler’s troops marched in. She lived through the Great Depression and its stark effect on her family and the various crisis and difficulties which beset us all on our journey. In her sixties she was skiing and joining us in dancing at a disco through till two in the morning. She revelled in the snow, loved her food and her eyes always glowed with mischievous anticipation when she spied a cake. Her breezy cheerfulness was unfailing and to be gloomy in her presence could only fill you with shame. She ran a school most of her working life and her motto that you should always be a “plus person” taught her pupils to look forward. I have never heard her complain.
Music is her passion, and as a young person she went to music college before becoming a school teacher. Like us all, on my journey through school I came across teachers who disliked their job as much we dreaded being taught by them but every now and then some individual would rise above the drudgery of their day and give our boyhood spirits a special lift. My aunt is such a person and her infectious enthusiasm for life still pours down the phone when I talk to her
I am faced with numerous practical difficulties myself but as I wade through life’s challenges, and the questions they ask about me. I often think of her, and her infectious enthusiasm for living always spurs me on to have another go. I salute her for it.