Today, I saw my foster mother buried. As I write this, my heart is filled with a swirling mixture of good memories, pain for the loss and pride because I knew her. This sort of post may seem at first not part of the purpose of the blog but this is the eulogy I was privileged to give:
George Orwell said there were a number of reasons why writers write. Apart from fame and making money (which is always good) one was immortality which he called ‘sheer egoism’. Cos once it’s in print it is forever. Writer use, often, what they see around them. I ‘immortalized’ Ailsa firstly in Runaway. She was Mrs C. I won’t tell you who The Major was. [at this point I nodded to my darling foster father Martin].
Why? At the beginning of 1982, Ailsa and Matin became my foster parents and, though I only stayed nine months, that title and its significance has stayed with me always.
For my entire adult life, Ailsaisms, as I call them, come to me on an almost daily basis. You see, Ailsa and Martin are to blame for me becoming a dedicated tea addict.
However, despite huge effort on her part to teach me to make and drink a proper cup of tea, I have never been able to make anything other than what Ailsa called “piss water!”’ In fact, I often hear her deep chested chuckle each time I make my tea. One time, I wanted to please her with a cuppa in bed. ‘What is this?’ she said. ‘Did you wave the tea bag over the cup?’
I used to cut her hair and once asked her what it meant to be in love. She told me she thought it was commitment and companionship. ‘Martin in my mate,’ she said. And, over the years, I have watched them and endeavoured to follow their example in my own life and marriage.
She always told me how shy she was as if that was a weakness. I told her a few years ago that one of the greatest things about her was her sharp observation skills. Whenever Ailsa spoke, truth, wisdom and, sometimes wickedly funny jokes, where on her tongue.
Over the years, I have made infrequent visits: once with my new husband; another with my children. We have always tried for catch ups when in Christchurch. I am sad that there were not more catch up times.
Thank you, Ailsa, for the hugely significant input you and Martin had in my life. I was changed because of you.
I love you and look forward to seeing you again.