The little brown Mitsubishi Lancer trembled.
In the back seat, with mixed fear and excitement, we children trembled
just 1 m away, through the rear window, a strip of rubber dangled from the boot.
The lion spotted it, tore it loose and gulped it down.
Orana Wildlife Park, with its drive-in lion reserve, was a highlight of our trips to Christchurch
we went to see our great Auntie Maisie,
never married, she was a second grandmother.
Her house our second home
Auntie Maisie radiates compassion.
She spent her life helping others.
She worked for the Leprosy Mission
raising funds for hospitals in India, Nepal, Bangladesh.
So, typically, she wasn’t worried about the damage to her car
but would the rubber hurt the lion?
At the gate on the way out, the keeper simply laughed, "madam, you’d be surprised what they eat!"
Back at the safety of Auntie Maisie’s house, mouth-watering, heart-warming aromas announced another hearty dinner.
The kitchen was cramped, but Auntie Maisie did wonders
her pumpkin-cutting strategy was crude, but creative: on the concrete garage floor, and chop it with an axe!
On our last night there, before flying back to Auckland, she’d ask us what we’d most like.
For me, probably her shortcake, with lashings of cream.
But the gooseberry, or the black current?
Heartrending decisions of childhood …
when not cooking, Auntie Maisie was knitting, pinning, hemming, stitching.
We’d take our clothes for her to patch, mend, lengthen, shorten
She sewed a full-length dress for my mother, and from the same material, a matching purple dress for my sister’s doll Sally.
The house was full of stuffed toys, made for the Leprosy Mission fair.
A big Snoopy dog, little woollen snowmen, all sorts of bears.
As kids, we sat them all on rows of chairs in the lounge and played bus drivers.
more recently, she helped me sew a little teddy bear myself for a friend.
You’ve maybe heard the riddle,
what goes on all four at dawn, two legs at mid-day, and three at dusk?
The answer, of course, the human: the baby crawls, the adult walks, old-age leans on a stick.
A few years ago, Auntie Maisie graduated to 3 legs.
My cousin Tim called her the "white haired wonder."
one birthday party, Tim bit into a rich looking desert.
Beneath the cream, he found the macaroni cheese she’d made for lunch.
He never let her forget it!
Visiting became hazardous, as pins and needles from sewing scattered the floor
Two years ago, another fall, another break, and living alone became impossible.
Auntie Maisie moved to a rest home
and advanced to the next stage: from three legs, to 4 wheels.
Since then, I’ve noted life’s strange reversals.
Old age is a kind of second childhood.
The little brown Mitsubishi Lancer is still going strong.
But now I drive and she’s the passenger
two summers ago, my cousin Tim and I got her old pikelet recipe
how many pikelets has she whipped up for us over the years?
we mixed up the batter at home, took her frying pan,
and set up on the balcony outside her rest home room.
From her bed, she was the master chef.
She directed, as we fried them up, flipped them over, spread on jam and cream, shared with her neighbours and nursing staff.
Last summer, I had to sew a name tag on the neck of her dress, so it wouldn’t get lost in the rest home laundry.
Trying to remember how she taught me to tie it off.
Strange reversals – I sew for her – Or try!
Nowadays, some days are difficult.
some days her hearing aids won’t stop squealing and squawking, or are just stone dead – and where are the batteries?
Writing on her whiteboard is so frustrating.
Sometimes, she’s confused, can’t quite focus, can’t connect
I miss the good old days.
Time bears away all things.
But love conquers all things
her caring heart stays the same.
She’ll see a neighbour in pain and hold her hand, "she’s a poor old thing."
And some days, things still come together.
Again, this last summer, I found in her house an old book of A A Milne, Winnie the Pooh poems
as she lay after dinner, tucked up in bed like a baby, I read some verses she once taught us.
Her face lit up.
The beautiful old wrinkles beamed
"oh, he’s a lovely little bear isn’t he" she said
she half recited the poems as I read
a precious moment.
Doubly precious, because there may not be many more.
Because she’s been through all those stages now: 4 legs, 2 legs, 3 legs, now 4 wheels.
the time likely draws near, when Auntie Maisie will pass on to the next stage.
A blessed release for her – losing her freedom has not been easy
but a sorry loss for us.
Truly, it has been said, "grief is the tax we pay on the loves of our lives."
4 legs, 2 legs, 3 legs, 4 wheels.
Maybe soon, she’ll join her Lord, with