Aunts and Uncles

On New Years Day one of my Aunts died. Or passed away as it is more usually softly called.

My relationship with this Aunt was not close. In latter years I would never visit, at most send her and her husband (my mother’s brother) a Christmas Card. We did live hundreds of miles apart but this was not the reason for the distance between us. This description could apply to nearly all my aunts and uncles, whatever the geographical space separating us.

I do have fondness towards my aunts and uncles. But ‘fondness’ though a warm word is not as warm as ‘affection’ let alone ‘love’.

I have nieces and nephews myself whom I love and love spending time with. I did not get much nephew time with my own aunts and uncles. And wonder why.

Most of my aunts and uncles have children of their own and I do not. Perhaps then this is why I am able to spend more uncle-time as I have no father-time with sons and daughters to consume my love, time, energy, affection.

But I have an aunt and uncle who do not have children and did not spend too much time with them either.

The distance between us may be related to the geographical miles between us. Certainly with social media, and Facebook in particular, I am able to keep in a more constant contact with my nieces and nephews than if we did not have this access – I live in Scotland and have one set of nieces and nephews in London England and another on the Gold Coast in Australia.

Had their been social media in the decades I was born and schooled in (the 1960’s and 1970’s) perhaps this would have held those avuncular and – what is the equivalent for aunt?! – bonds together.

But if I think about it the most likely reason for our emotional distance are the relationships between those aunts and uncles and my own mother and father. Their own sibling rivalries which ebbed and flowed over the years. Nevermind the added in-law dimension.

As children our adult relationships are naturally siphoned and routed through our parents. And so if they are not getting along with one of their own adult relatives then quite likely we children are not going to be allowed to get along with those adult relatives either.

Husbands and wives can get divorced. Brothers and sisters as adults are not so required but in all but name and legal statute they can be too.

I opened by noting that I was out of the habit in recent years of visiting my aunts and uncles. Sadly there is one event that remains a notable exception that will always bring most of us together again. A funeral.

And with age they occur more often. They become less shocking and grievous and more resigned to and contemplative. And we resume our conversations with each other. Some polite small talk, even more nostalgia and sometimes we go deeper too. We usually end by promising to keep in touch. And then we don’t….until the next funeral.

I close with a photograph featuring my recently departed aunt (we are at our most euphemistic with death – the one area we are perhaps even more euphemistic about is a bit of what you fancy?!). The photograph is the wedding of another of my aunts and uncles but one of the few I possess with her in. It is the after-reception you are seeing.

Family Wedding photoMy mum’s parents are in there and so is my mum but I am not telling you which. You are free to guess! My dad is in there too but has stood behind someone taller and only the hair of his head can be seen. I don’t know whether this was his intention! The photo is filled up with other aunts and uncles too.

There are a number in this photograph I do not recognize which I think is typical of old family wedding photos. I am presuming/hoping those unknown to me are all friends of various family members and not family members who I cannot make sense of in their younger state!

They are stood outside the home of my grandparents.

Desperate Housewives – Death on Wisteria Lane

Gabrielle Solis Desperate Housewives Come on Over for Dinner

Gabrielle Solis – Spotted Ghost from her Past

The final episode of Series 7 of Desperate Housewives Come On Over for Dinner aired in the UK on Channel 4 and E4 this July – and inevitably for at least one cast member it was a fatal ending.

You might expect the highest body counts on TV to be in urbanscapes of high crime and low hopes like Shield or The Wire, or even a hospital city-based drama like ER. But no the highest proportion of murders per capita is Wisteria Lane – no coincidence perhaps that its narrator is herself a ghost of that place.

In the UK we have Midsommer Murders set in a seeming rural idyll in a Mid-England Shire and where again the per capita murder count is far higher than London based crime dramas such as the now deceased The Bill and the very much living Luther. Should you live in Midsommer then death will be sure to visit you soon and if not you then your loved ones or neighbours.

Desperate Housewives Series 7Desperate Housewives is the USA equivalent of these Suburban Murder stories.

I imagine the house-prices in Wisteria Lane are much lower than similar sized homes in nearby neighbourhoods.

In the penultimate episode And Lots of Security we see the appearance of Gaby’s step-father who she believed to have been dead and whom also raped her when a girl. Gaby’s step father Alejandro is played by Tony Plana – you may know him as another much more benign and cuddly father Ignacio Suarez to Ugly Betty. And the second Ugly Betty cast member to have shown up in Wisteria Lane following Wilhelmina Slater still resident as Renee Perry. Perhaps America Ferreira herself will yet find herself in Wisteria Lane.

Desperate Housewives - And Lots of Security

Gabrielle confronts Step Father

In the final episode Come On Over for Dinner Gaby’s past has caught up to haunt her where she lures her step-father to a clearing and confronts him at the point of a gun. This appears to us to have done the trick but he re-appears in her home when she is all alone bar her two young daughters. This time she is unarmed and he sets upon her again to repeat his terrible act – but fortuitously her husband Carlos returns home to nip this act in the bud by grabbing a lead-based candlestick-holder – always much more than a near-redundant household ornament! – and hits him hard on the head with it. It turns out that Carlos has done more than knock out Alejandro, he has killed him.

Desperate Housewives Come On Over For Dinner Gabrielle Step Father

Step Father confronts Gabrielle

During this episode a dinner has been thrown for Susan and Mike Delfino, in honour of their returning to their Wisteria Lane home, but with a difference in that each course takes place at the home of one of the guests. Desert is to take place at the home of Gabrielle and Carlos Solis yet it is child-abuser Alejandro who has got his just desert. The remaining residents though are on their way. Bree Van De Kamp is one of the first to arrive and on discovering the dead body and following their explanation suggests that she herself will be the fall-gal or at least help cover-up this murder for them. And why this seeming selfless gesture? Because her son Andrew was responsible for the death of Carlos’ mother Gloria several years earlier in a drunken road accident which she herself had covered up to prevent her son being sent to prison. This led to Carlos and Bree being estranged and this neat-story outcome allows them to become unestranged again.

Desperate Housewives Paul Young

Paul Young

In the previous episode Then I Really Got Scared Felicia Tilman behind the wheel of her car, on the run from her past crimes catching up with her, sees an urn containing her daughter Beth’s ashes fall off the passenger seat to the footwell and on moving to recover them loses sight of the road and veers into the path of an oncoming articulated lorry which totals the car and the end of the line for Felicia.

And the ashes of her daughter were they from natural causes? As if! – she had committed suicide in the Everything’s Different Nothing’s Changed episode by shooting herself in the head so as to provide a kidney for Susan Delfino feeling her life was worthless and this giving of her life to save another her one last chance at salvation.

And from what crime was she fleeing – from her near murder by lethal injection of Paul Young – who was only saved by the good fortune of neighbour Susan Delfino interupting her in the act. And why was Felicia Tilman attempting to murder Paul Young? Because as regular viewers will know he had murdered her sister. And why had he murdered her sister?! Because Felicia’s sister had murdered his wife Mary Ellis Young, the Ouija voice-over of every Desperate Housewife episode.

Also remember Larry Hagman’s brief appearance as Frank earlier this series when Lynette Scavo’s mother Stella re-marries Frank, himself a serial betrother, only to later expire while visiting Lynette’s family to have a family photograph taken and where ‘Cheese’ were the last words ever to be uttered from Frank’s lips! – at least death by natural causes!

Desperate Housewives Felicia Tilman

Felicia Tilman – be very afraid

And lest you have forgotten in Series 6 there was Eddie the Fairview Strangler and his serial killer trail of death and destruction – not strictly on Wisteria Lane but on an adjoining suburban street. In this sixth series were also the Witness Protection couple Angie and Nick Bolen and her ex-boyfriend and eco-terrorist (as too she was) Patrick Logan (played by Torchwood‘s very own John Barrowman). In another episode in this series a pilot has a heart-attack and the plane descends towards a built-up neighbourhood – naturally it should be Wisteria Lane!

And then in Season 5 Serial Killer Dave Williams.

I shall not list and catalogue all the other death and destruction in Wisteria Lane – save to remind you of the Tornado which laid waste to the whole of Wisteria Lane in Season 4.

I look forward Season 8 (commencing in the USA on ABC in September 2011) just be sure to note that if there is a new character on the Lane there is a more than even chance they have a murderous past to conceal or a murderous future before them.

£400 Blood Test to reveal your life-span – would you take it?

Would you want to know how long you had left to live if let us assume the above test is nearer to science fact than fiction?

£400 is about the price of a certain Apple tablet – knowing the extent of my remaining mortality or enjoying the myriad delights of an iPad?!

This test made me think of the film The Bucket List which I watched recently for the first time on ITV – one of the items on my bucket list was to watch the fine 2007 Rob Reiner film The Bucket List starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman – sorry could not resist!

Scene from The Bucket List

In that film the Carter character opines that a survey revealed that if we could know the exact date we would die 95% of us would not want to know. The Edward character replies that ‘if life has taught him anything is that 95% of people are always wrong’!

I though would be one of the 95% here – there is the Latin expression and wise advice Memento Mori – Remember You Will Die – to remember that life is indeed not a dress-rehearsal, that one day tomorrow will not come and that very knowledge should cause us to live our lives more fully, not to squander our time but to cherish it.

That said, accepting I will die is one thing, knowing the exact day or even week month or year is knowledge I would rather not have.

This particular test is based on established scientific work on the length of telomeres – briefly a correlation between their length and the lengths of our lives – hint we would want our telomeres to be as long as possible!

The Nobel Prize Winners

This is Nobel winning science – the 2009 Prize for Physiology or Medicine for ‘the discovery of how chromosomes are protected by telomeres and the enzyme telomerase”  – but the recent media interest such as this article in The Independent is due to commercial interest in its application – most obviously offering us the blood DNA test for a fee. This clearly is information that insurance companies would want too – where here the shorter our telomeres the higher our premiums.

It could also be of use in health practice prioritising care and or prejudicing care depending on your viewpoint. The science is moving along a pace and as often is the case the ethics are left lagging behind.

For me I can think of a lot of other things I could spend £400 on – and not just an iPad!

Cry me out

Blogging Dangerously

I recently came upon this post ‘The Crazy In My Head: The Empathy Edition‘ on The Living Dangerously blog. The author opens with the line ‘I never cry’ and describes how in her personal and professional life tears are rarely wrung and when they are they are like blood from a stone. Except that is when it comes to her fictional world – books and television dramas in particular – then the tears flood.

It struck a chord. I did think to post a comment in response to it but then considered that the rambling words I would likely enter would be better suited to a post of my own! The blogger can have a pingback instead!

And it did not just strike a chord with me – all of the post’s comments expressed similar sentiments.

It is the same with me. I have lost close family members in the last three years and I certainly cried but I still wonder whether I should have shed more tears. Have I let it all out I wonder or am I still brimming with unspent emotion.

And it is not that I have a heart of glass. I can shed tears quite easily – but like this blogger at fictional melodramas not my own real-dramas.

The Grey Whistle Line sung by June Tabor and Maddy Prior or Over the Rainbow sung by Eva Cassidy and my tears can flow quickly. Likewise nearly any episode of Cold Case. Jane Eyre whether the Charlotte Bronte book or a TV or Cinema adaptation will always get me going.

Perhaps it is because it is emotionally easier? It pulls on our empathy whilst not overwhelming us in a way our own heart-aches and heart-breaks might.

But the tears that dry on my own tend to be of sadness and loss – the warm uplifting feeling I have when watching, for example Frank Capra’s ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’, or listening to Emiliana Torrini’s ‘Today Has Been Okay‘ is not then confined to the screen or the vinyl record – these feelings I feel fully and freely with my own family and friends.

Perhaps then it is about vulnerability? Being able to empathize with another’s but not wanting to expose my own.

Perhaps I need some professional therapy.

Too much at ease in the second-hand daylight of my imaginary world, too little at ease in the first-hand daylight of my own trials and tribulations?

But as The Empathy Edition blog post amply illustrates it is a condition of the heart widely shared and which I take comfort from it not complete solace.

Green Burials – Back to Nature?

As I get older I naturally think more of my own death, and mindful of the attitude Memento Mori (Remember You Will Die) strive to ensure I live out all my dreams.

Thinking about death I also reflect on my own funeral. I have attended both funerals of my own parents in the last few years and most recently an uncle. All these funerals were Christian burials – two internments and one cremation.

I do not believe in God – or I believe this is what I believe anyway!

My father did not believe either yet his final farewell was within the setting of a Christian service. This is traditional in the United Kingdom – familiar and comforting. My father did leave a will but it said nothing about his funeral wishes. I went then with the traditional arrangement. To arrange something secular might not have been something he would have approved of, perhaps also difficult for me to arrange and difficult for those in attendance to deal with. Perhaps.

Back to nature

I have many years considered that I would like a secular burial – to be laid to rest underneath a tree in non-consecrated ground. I have indicated this in my own will.

It is something I am able to do because The Natural Death Centre, an organisation established in 1991, set themselves up to provide alternative responses to religious funereal ceremonies. And one of their means to this end is the setting up of Burial Grounds throughout the UK – this page on their own website explains this in more detail.

I am sharing this here as I have just read a beautiful blog post in Scientific American ‘My Dead Mother, the Tree That Never Was: The Psychology of “Green Burial Practices” by Jesse Bering.

I write this blog post not sure how it will be received. In Britain in general we do not like to talk about death so by extension to write and read about it in blogs but I feel and believe we should discuss it more than we do, whilst not morbidly obsessing over it, and I hope this post resonates with at least some of you reading this.

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