There are Great Aunts and there are ‘great’ aunts and Aunt Anna was both to me.
She was born in 1900 and died on June 29th, 1991 ~ just a few months short of my wedding day.
Anna was my maternal grandmother’s young sister and one of those ‘forever young’ people. She was more like a sister to my mother than an aunt and I find it very difficult to describe what she was to me ~ I think I’d simply say ‘Anna.’
I have never met anyone remotely like her. She was about as fun-loving as it gets; mad into sport; generous to a fault and a supreme romantic.
She married for the first time, aged 72, and was the best ad I ever came across for marriage. She relished every moment of the eight years she had with her husband.
She lived half way between Dublin and the various homes my parents had when I was based in Dublin. I’d always call into her on my travels home at weekends and we’d spend hours chatting. She was always mad to hear about the latest romances in my life and if she got a sniff of anything serious, she’d teasingly ask me ‘where’s the ring?’ I was in my twenties then and would tell her that I had nearly 50 years to go to be in the same league as her ~ getting married at 72.
I think of her with special love tonight as we shared a passion for both playing tennis and watching Wimbledon (which starts tomorrow.) She was the person who bought me my first decent tennis racket ~ a swish wooden Maxply ~ when I won my first tournament aged 12.
She spent the last 4 years of her life in a nursing home here in Tramore, where she had spent many holidays with my parents between 1948 and 1963. Whenever I was home, I would head up to visit her and, as she was a real night owl, I tended to go up to her late in the evening.
We talked about absolutely everything ~ nothing was out of bounds. She was an avid reader of Cosmopolitan right up to the end, smoked like a trooper and had an eye for a good-looking ‘young man!’
She was all set to come to my wedding in September 1991, but got a very bad dose of shingles in the June and went into decline very rapidly. I was with her when she died in the early hours of June 29th, 1991, holding her soft hand which had always been such a comfort to me.
I’ve never been a person for rings. However, when it came to my wedding day, it seemed more than appropriate to wear the slim golden ring with a sliver of sparkling diamonds that Anna had given me shortly before she died.