Postby ciderman_nz » Sat Oct 07, 2023 10:17 pm

The Uncle
The uncle in question was my mother’s younger brother, Dennis. He was, I am told, a shy boy at school of no great academic prowess. My grandfather was a successful businessman in the East End of London and Dennis was sent to Sir John Cass school in Bethnall Green. I have old photos of a trip to Scandinavia undertaken by the school and in them Dennis is having a fun time so he must have socialised well with the other children. When he left school he was apprenticed at Scammel Lorries and learning the trade of a motor mechanic became his passion. Towards the end of the apprenticeship the second World War broke out and Dennis volunteered for the navy as a motor mechanic. He was posted to experimental motor torpedo boats, delighting in squeezing a few more knots out of an already fast motor boat. One of my earliest memories was visiting my grandfather’s business when Dennis was home on leave. It sometimes took him a while to remember that he still had earplugs in! In those days before ‘ear defenders’, small plugs were the thing to fend off the incredible noise of the 16 cylinder Packard motors which powered the boats. By the end of the war Dennis had risen to Chief Petty Officer motor mechanic.
After the war my grandfather sold his businesses and bought a farm in Norfolk and Dennis went with him to maintain the farm machinery on the farm and also many of the local farmers equipment. My grandfather died in 1955 and my grandmother and Dennis decided to move to New Zealand and join us in Auckland where my family had been since 1953. Dennis never married and he and my grandmother bought a house together in Birkehead and Dennis started working for Auckland Motors where he remained for more than 25 years even receiving a gold watch and commendations.
After my grandmother died in 1971 Dennis continued to work for Auckland Motors until he retired at the age of about 70 and live in the house alone but every Christmas he would arrive in his bright yellow car with the boot full of large presents for everybody but particularly the children who always looked forward to his arrival with delight. His hobby was model trains. One of the bedrooms was a veritable railway station with tracks on several levels, model stations, houses and hotels, lorries and warehouses with such astonishing attention to detail.
In 2001 one of his neighbours contacted us with the sad news that Dennis had had a stroke. We quickly travelled to Auckland to find he had been placed by his doctor in a care home in Birkenhead as he was too badly affected by the stroke to care for himself . We made arrangements to transfer him to Waipawa’s Rathbone Facility which was then a rest home. We were all very fond of him but we did not have the skills to look after him at our home and hoped that frequent visits would make him feel cared for and loved. Dennis was at Rathbone for nearly three years and often I would take him out for a drive. On one occasion I stopped and bought us both an ice cream. After we had sat in the car eating our ice creams , I reached across with a tissue to wipe a dribble of ice cream from his chin and suddenly remembered when I was a small child, that Dennis had taken me out in London, bought me an ice cream, had trouble understanding my childish chattering and wiped my chin of ice cream dribbles! Full circle!
Towards the end of his life I thought it would be nice to take Dennis out in his own bright yellow Chrysler Hunter car and as we drove, he smiled so I knew I had done the right thing although I was having difficulty understanding what he was trying to say. The stroke had affected Dennis’ motor skills to some extent and his speech was very hard to understand. When we finally arrived back at Rathbone, I could give him my full attention after I parked the car. I then found what he was trying to tell me. He pointed in the direction of the motor and had been saying, “The timings out!” The expert motor mechanic was still in there!
When Rathbone closed they went to great trouble to find a suitable rest home for him but at the age of 84 change was not what he wanted and after a couple of weeks he refused to eat or drink for four days and the inevitable happened.
It was only years after his death during my genealogy research, that I found he was not, in fact, my uncle. His birth certificate indicated that his mother was my grandfather’s sister and there was no father listed. Never mind , I loved him whatever he was and my memories of him will remain with me all my life with fondness.
(My daughter Lucy's poem)
Sleep my dear uncle,
Follow the angels before you.
Unpack your suitcase for the last time.
You are home.
Your voice will flow, like it did once before,
Without restriction.
Your hands, no longer frail,
You can paint your model trains,
You are released of your suffering,
Free again to laugh.
Forever I will remember
Waiting for your little yellow car to appear,
My heart filled with excitement,
On Christmas Eve,
It’s boot filled with giant presents.
Christmas will never be complete without you.
I will miss you Christmas Uncle,
But we will meet again,
And I will once again hold your hand
But this time I will not let go.
Sleep my dear uncle
My love for you is eternal.

Last edited by ciderman_nz on Tue Oct 10, 2023 8:13 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Civilisation is a veneer, easily soluble in alcohol.
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Re: Uncle

Postby widget » Sun Oct 08, 2023 9:36 am

Ah what a lovely sad story.
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