Wednesday, August 14, 2013

yet another trip north, part 1

We stayed at Lovell's motel in Corowa last Thursday night. It's a rather old but clean, comfy and rather cheap motel. Most rooms have a kitchenette, so it was bacon and eggs for brekky, then off to visit TO's Uncle D, 84 years old.

At the moment he's doing well in his ongoing battle with prostate cancer, but recently had a horrible shock when one of his daughters collapsed in the main drag of Corowa and was dead a week later. Apparently she'd been suffering with liver cancer for yonks and it was way beyond metastasised.

No one knew; she was always visiting people and running messages for others, never once mentioning feeling seedy. 
R, on hearing about her sister, set out from Melbourne to say goodbye only to get a call herself somewhere near Wang, to say her own husband had, a few hours before, been killed in a road accident.

When shit like this visits people in bucket loads, I can hear my own grandmother say "He must have killed a Chinaman in a previous life". [Got to blame someone, why not the Chinese?]

Cleaning out J's house, Uncle D has been shocked even further. J had had a touch of the family Aspergers, and was one of those extreme hoarders that fascinate me so on pay TV docos about hoarding. [50 is the new 40, water the new oil, and Asperger's the new depression?].
No, Asperger's is just a name we can finally use to gain insight into some of the odd behaviour on various branches and twigs of TO’s family tree. The hoarding thing - not necessarily something that afflicts everyone with Asperger's - should be a good hint in this family… now that we know. But I digress.

TO's mum is on the right.
Uncle A [another extreme hoarder] is the bub on the left.
Uncle D did not come along for another six years.

The man on the right was a despicable brute -
something TO's mum and Uncle D finally discussed,
including the reasons Uncle D was sent away from home at a very, very early age.

The house was chockers, dangerously so, and the dirt and dust and grief have exacerbated Uncle D's asthma badly. He'd filled two skips with rubbish before the housing commission finally stepped in and said they would take over - someone was desperately waiting for accommodation and they could do the job quicker.

TO had been unable to visit people because of her pneumonia and bugs, and had missed her own mum's 92nd birthday. We took Uncle D across to Jindera to visit TO’s mum, [his big sister] grabbing some pies and cakes from the bakery to share lunch together in the hostel dining room.

Forget other people's issues like cancer and death - I was disappointed with my pie! I'm not a great eater of pies, but mine had dried out for a week in the pie warmer from what I could see, and someone had tipped a packet of salt into it before putting the pastry lid on. I take back all the nice things I've ever said about Jindera pies.

After lunch at the hostel, TO pulled out lots of hitherto unseen old family photos. She'd recently met yet another bunch of cousins through Ancestry dot com [I keep wanting to call it Amazon.]

The photos are good for jogging TO’s mum’s long term memory, and distracting her from her confusion. It also gave Uncle D and TO’s mum a chance to discuss some elephants in the rooms of their past: Uncle D's story reads like Albert Facey's A Fortunate Life, and the photos prompted TO’s mum to help him fill in some gaps.

Yet what a lovely man Uncle D is, with not an ounce of bitterness about any of it.

Another photo of TO's grandmother.
It's hard to credit this is the same woman who looks so unhappy in the photo above.


  1. The 'man to the right' looks like a despicable brute FC, there have always been a lot of them about! I fear my older sister may have a touch of the 'aspergers'.. must have a chat and make sure she's not feeling depressed, thanks for the heads up :)

    1. Perhaps I shouldn't make light of the aspergers, or connect it to hoarding. Nonetheless, it's nice that you want to check up on your sis - depression is always a secret, you know.

  2. Too many bad things for too few people. Uncle D sounds like a rock.

  3. Ahh, those horrible family skeletons everyone pursed their lips and kept schtum about.
    Great that TO has made connections and found more history, so sad for her family :(
    Hopefully the memories will be warm and happy for TO and her mum xxx

    1. TY, Jayne. It has taken a long time for TO to find out much about her mum's family, life being overshadowed by her dad's family.
      Although her short term memory is deteriorating, there have been moments when mum-in-law has been quite excited to find out new things.

  4. oh my god those photos are amazing. The furthest I go back photo wise in my family is like 1950 or something. And that's only passport photos.

    1. An aunt of mine spent years [before the internet] putting together the pieces of a family tree, and dug up some astonishing photos. Like you, though, there is only a small handful of photos of her generation and mine.

      But, old photos are fascinating for a million reasons. It's almost eerie sometimes to see a photo of someone 5 generations ago who is a doppelgänger of someone in my own generation.

      TO's collection of all her own relos' photos is phenomenal.

  5. Bummer about the pie ... there's another bakery to cross off the list!!! I once visited a country town museum housed in a building that at one point had been an asylum. The records showed admissions for such things as delirium tremens, unwed pregnancy and something else I interpreted as 'high spirits'. Pseudo-hospital crossed with detritus-repository - with those who actually needed mental health help probably not admitted!!!!

    1. For a minute there I thought you were going to tell me the asylum was now a bakery!
      The whole 19thC asylum history [and all the way to "bedlam"] makes for appalling reading. And yes, God forbid anyone who actually needed/needs help filling up places reserved for inconvenient females.

      Saw the remnants of a dreadful "women's factory" at Ross in Tassie - far more haunting than Port Arthur.

      Well, there's a topic to put me off me tucker!

      I'll stick to small town museums like the one at Jindera, I think: Repository for all the "old" stuff not-really-hoarders can't bring themselves to throw away. [some of it in the we had/used/ still have one of those category. Old indeed!]