When you make the choice to live twelve thousand miles away from your family there’s every chance that you leave someone after a visit knowing you may never see them again. Yesterday we received the sad news that this lady, Esther (Ettie) Annenberg, Neil’s Nan had died. She was 111. I heard some sharp intakes of breath there and no, that’s not a typo – she was born in 1909 and had her last birthday a few weeks ago. The photos are from her 100th birthday party.
She had an incredible life, spending many of her young years with serious health problems that left her with lifelong mobility issues (Neil told me she’d had polio and we only found out recently that he was wrong – he’s adamant he must have heard it somewhere but it’s a mystery where) but I never saw her when she wasn’t smiling. And she had what I call the Annenberg smile, one that transforms the whole face into joy. She had a very strong sense of right from wrong, especially about people’s behaviour towards each other. On receiving a card from the Queen on her 100th birthday she disdained it with the words: ‘I’ll never forgive her for what she did to Diana’. Each card thereafter was shuffled to the back of the sideboard despite Dad’s efforts to showcase them.
She was strong-willed – woe betide anyone who messed with her pile of videos (yes, VHS) and careful arrangement of remote controls, Mills & Boon books and other essentials on the desk by her lounge chair, the most essential of which was a mini can of Canada Dry to go with her daily whisky. She cooked the best roast potatoes. Most of all she was loving, great fun, and had a contagious laugh. As a solo Mum she raised two great sons who have, in turn, raised wonderful children who, in their turn, are raising great kids. Her legacy will continue in these lives and many of them have that smile, including Neil.
It’s a challenging time for Neil’s family. Only four people will be allowed at the funeral, which means most of her family can’t be where they should and want to be. The lady who has cared for her for years won’t be able to attend – she’ll be the fifth. I’m a serious rule follower but I’d think an extra person wouldn’t make much difference.
We, of course, cannot travel to England to share this sad time with loved ones. With Post Offices closed we can’t even send a card. Neil’s sister lives in Thailand and also cannot travel. His brother has immune issues so is in isolation from the risk of Covid-19. His Dad has to cope without the close presence of his children when we would all like to be there. But he has his lovely wife, Angie, and she will be his great comfort and support. We are thinking of him.