'Be yourself, everyone else is taken.' Oscar Wilde
Tuesday, 27 July 2010
ABC Wednesday B is for Bee
My sister's name was Beryl but her husband always called her Bee. She was a very busy person, full of energy and enthusiasm. She met her husband at a dance and three weeks later they were married, rather to my parents' consternation. They need not have worried for the marriage was long, happy and fruitful and they were well matched though she was sometimes driven to distraction by his refusal to engage in arguments. They lived in a small caravan for a few years while he was still in the Royal Navy – no naval married quarters then! – and one day he so infuriated her that she threw a bag of tomatoes at him, one by one. Every one of them missed and she had to clean up the mess afterwards. Mick sat and laughed which made her even more furious.
Beryl was a beautiful child with dark curly hair and big brown eyes and grew into a striking woman but she was rather accident-prone. There are few photographs of her without a bandage in evidence. As she grew up she fell prey to various illnesses and mishaps. She had a tubercular gland in her neck which was removed, leaving a noticeable scar. When she broke her back, falling off a stool (!) she was encased in a plaster cast from chest to thighs for several months but this didn't prevent her dancing. She and Mick were very graceful dancers and were often complimented on their style. Beryl found the cast quite useful on the dance floor. If another couple carelessly barged into them she would make a point of crashing back, making sure the cast was felt, all the more surprising when it was not visible!
Beryl was fifteen years older than me and enjoyed taking me out at the weekends when I was little. Indeed, she would often ask her boyfriends, of whom she had a long succession, if she could bring her sister along on their dates. She would describe me, quite accurately, as a brown-eyed blonde, and enjoy the look of amazement on their faces at the rendezvous when a little girl appeared, holding her hand. Needless to say, I loved her boyfriends! I also loved watching her getting ready to go out – it all looked very exciting and grown-up and I couldn't wait until my turn came. Even now, I often enjoy the preparations for a formal evening out more than the event itself.
Despite her illnesses and accidents Beryl never complained, carrying stoicism to sometimes ridiculous levels. In her sixties she fell down the stairs and broke her wrist. Rather than call an ambulance or even sit down and wait for Mick to return home and help her, she carried on 'as usual', preparing their evening meal. When Mick arrived home some hours after the accident it was obvious she was in great pain and he took her to hospital where the surgeons had a difficult job setting her badly broken wrist. It was never the same thereafter, for it didn't heal straight.
Beryl was always a very slim woman. She was an excellent cook and enjoyed food, for her appetite was good, but she had so much energy that she burnt calories at a terrific rate. During her stays in hospitals she would be prescribed milk stout, rather like Guinness, to 'build her up' which she never drank but poured into the plant pots when backs were turned. The plants thrived!
Mick always bought her clothes and he had excellent taste, knowing exactly the style and colour and cut to emphasise her good looks. As a couple they were extremely good company, readily and frequently turning acquaintances into friends and living life to the hilt on a modest income.
For the last twenty-five years of her life she had cancer though none of us, apart from Mick, knew until the last three years when it became impossible to disguise or wave away. After several serious operations she finally underwent palliative surgery twelve years ago and spent her last months at home, being cared for by Marie Curie nurses, amazing her doctors by living longer than their expectations, and dying peacefully and as she had lived, with a smile on her lips. She was sixty-nine. She was Mick's soul mate and in the ensuing years he has taken great comfort from their three children and seven grandchildren. Their two daughters have her distinctive voice. His cheerful personality and natural optimism have ensured that he has never slipped into a slough of despair but there is no doubt that Beryl was his shining star as he was hers. It was a true love match.
Thank you to Denise Nesbitt and her wonderful team who organise and host this weekly meme. To see more Bs please click here.