Auntie wasn’t actually an aunt, although there was a blood kinship through grandma, whom she always called “Vi” (short for “Violet”). To me, though, she was simply the very old woman who had lived with us for a long time.
Or at least, a long time from the viewpoint of a six-year-old.
She was blind from cataracts, but could spot a coin on the ground next to her foot. And she loved Christmas because she could stand in front of the cardboard fireplace we put up every year and warm her hands next to the piece of coloured paper with a Christmas tree light behind it.
Where she thought the fireplace disappeared to the rest of the year I never knew.
But then, she was used to large items appearing and disappearing without rhyme or reason — such as her room upstairs.
“Vi! Vi!,” she would yell from the top of the stairs. “Someone’s replaced all the furniture in my bedroom with a toilet and bathtub!”
While life with Auntie had its rewards in entertainment value, by the time she reached her 90s it was becoming too much of a burden on a household already containing my grandparents, my mother, and me. Grandma found a very nice seniors’ home for her, and we visited on a weekly basis.
I don’t remember many details of the home, but I know it had a lot of stone work, and a curved marble staircase in the main foyer. Mostly what I remember is that there was a corner store nearby that sold UFOs: those rice-paper candies shaped like flying saucers. It was also where I got my Wooly Willy — a face to which you could add hair by moving around iron filings with a magnet. It was a simple toy, but it provided minutes of fun (apologies to CC readers who heard that joke before).
While Auntie loved her new home, she still found herself hounded by the mysterious furniture movers. As a change of pace, however, they no longer replaced her furniture with toilets and bathtubs, but with different beds, tables, and chairs — complete with different old women occupying them.
A few months after moving into the home, Auntie fell down the stairs and broke her thigh. My grandmother was called, and the doctor met her at the door. There he explained that because of the cast, Auntie would be confined to bed for months, and due to her advanced age, she would probably get pneumonia and die.
He was just leading my grandmother to the foot of the stairs when Auntie appeared at the top and began stomping down in a rage.
“Vi! Vi!” she said. “They want me to stay in bed!”
After getting her laid down again, the doctor examined her and found that by stomping so hard on her broken leg, she had effectively set the bone firmly in place. Providing she didn’t fall down again, he said, he could forgo the cast, which would allow her to be up and walking again in a few days.
Auntie didn’t live much more than another year or two, but she remained mobile right to the end.
We were thankful for that: it allowed her to continue chasing after those devil furniture movers.