Aunty Christina died yesterday. She was 84. Twenty five years older than her sister my mother was when she died.
I was in the hospital as her breathing faded and her life ebbed away. And a life it most defitely was.
My mother was girl next door pretty. Big boobs and great legs. Fun, lively and popular.
Aunty Christina was beautiful. Model beautiful. Ghost beautiful. Distant beautiful. A shoreline in winter.
And she broke hearts. Wrecked marriages. Ended lives. One of her lovers throwing himself under a train the night she left him.
She married three times. To an artist, a theatre director, and finally, a banker who loved her devotedly for nigh on three decades. I once commented on the longevity of their relationship, saying Tony, her husband, was a good man. “Yes” she agreed. “A good one, and a gay one too. That’s why it works, darling”.
She and my mother were not close. Unalike in temperament or in looks. Hardly surprising as Aunty Christina was, it transpired, adopted. The truth emerging one tumultuous Christmas.
Aunty Christina died yesterday. I rarely cry. Yesterday, I did.
One weekend long ago, when I was a boy, Aunty Christina came to stay. I was going up to my bedroom and had got to the top of the stairs just as she came out of the bathroom, naked.
She saw me. Saw me looking. Smiled and walked slowly back to her own room. Unashamed.