Ninety Five Years Have Passed…

… since my wonderful Dad, their last born child, was gifted to Theo and Chrisanthe, welcomed into the family in their home at Aberdeen, NSW.

Catsoulis home at Aberdeen till 1927

All the siblings, all 10 of them, had been born in their home at the time. Five of his siblings had been born at Aberdeen, though sadly one had passed at just thirteen months old.

Today, you would have been 95 years young. Happy 95th Birthday… I’m so sorry you aren’t here to share it with us.. we miss your shy smile.. the delighted look on your face whenever family or friends came to visit. We miss your warm hugs and or welcoming hand shakes ..and of course, we miss that ever ready cup of tea.

The last birthday we celebrated with you was your 91st… you were a little puzzled by that.11081007_10206141400596819_6813175772305495619_n

You kept asking me how old you were, you couldn’t quite believe that you were that age.

 

 

You always had a sweet tooth, and thoroughly enjoyed a small slice of your birthday cake which followed fish and chips. Not that you ate much that day, or many others following that. After fighting so many illnesses over the previous few years, you quietly left us just over a month later on the 18th of October, surrounded by family.

 

Dad, we could never thank you enough, not just for the years of hard work to support your family, not just for the practical help you gave all in need, not just for the advice you wisely shared, though it sometimes took us some time to realise it was wise, but for so much more… your sense of humour, your personal standards which you set so high, your willingless to put aside your own needs when others could do with a hand, but most of all, for teaching us the vaue of family and friends.

Today, we will remember you even more so than on all the other days… we know you are watching over us as promised…please give Mum a big hug from me also…and I do hope there is chocolate cake in Heaven.

©Crissouli 12 September 2018

Photos ©Crissouli

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LETTER TO MY FATHER

Hi Dad,

I know it’s Father’s Day, and I can hear you saying that you don’t want any gifts… that you have everything you need. However, I thought you might want an update on how the gifts you gave us have been passed on.

sm Ashley Max & Great Grandad Vince

 You gave us the gifts of love and caring, of looking out for each other, whether known or strangers… You taught us to be generous in kind and spirit… something we do have to remind ourselves about now and then. However, even when we do lose our way at times, we only have to think of how you and Mum led your lives and it seems to help.

The last Father’s Day we shared was in 2014…you were a little puzzled by the fuss, but then, you weren’t one for fuss, at least when it was around you. Your family has grown some since then…your first born grandson now has a beautiful wife… one of my favourite photos is of him and you on your bed, while he showed you some photos of his special lady via his phone. You were right Dad, he did marry her as you thought he should…you told me that you loved the look in his eyes as he described her to you. I know you would love her and would love to see how happy they are. 

Your second grandson now has three wonderful boys to look after… and your third grandson is happily working and making his own way in life. Your first born granddaughter’s family are no longer the young children you knew, but young adults or close enough. You would be so proud of them and their parents. Your second born granddaughter is a happy, family orientated young lady…

As for your children and partners, we’re all healthy and happy, but miss you as much as ever…as do many others who loved you. Knowing you and Mum are together again is what keeps us going… we had such great parents to look up to.

So, Happy Father’s Day, Dad.. and thank you for a life well lived.

Love always, me xxx

 ©Crissouli 2nd September, 2018

Image©Crissouli 2006

Memories wrapped in love…

Screen Shot 2018-07-30 at 9.59.56 AM  On the 29th July, 1996, it was with great sadness that we learnt of Aunt Heather’s passing … here we are, 22 years later, and our all our happy memories remain wrapped with love. My last time with her was when I drove her to the airport so she could go to Melbourne to visit her much loved family. It was a strange time, different to all the other times I’d done the same.

Firstly, she asked that my husband meet us in a coffee shop for morning tea… before we left. I said she could stay with us the night before, so that would give us plenty of time… she’d stayed with us more and more over the last year. She was not just my Aunt, but a dear friend, with both of us, as she had been with my mother. However, she insisted that we went out for morning tea, her treat. All went well, lots of chat, but not  so much laughter as there usually was.

When we got to the airport, she was insistent that I didn’t stay with her as I normally would, rather just drop and go. It had never bothered her before, but she was getting quite upset, so I agreed. I was worried about her as she’d not long come out of hospital after an operation, though she didn’t seem to be ill, just very quiet.

I wasn’t to know that that would be the last time I saw her… a little while after she passed, I wrote the following…

FAREWELL, AUNT HEATHER

How do I write a farewell to our much loved friend and Aunt

Do I talk about the many years of companionship we’ve shared

or each other’s troubles we’ve tried to share and lighten..

As I recall the warmth and hospitality, always given without a second thought..

or the understanding phone calls  “just to see if you’re ok”

perhaps the shared recipes, Aunt’s famous apple pies..

the helping hand with sick children

or just the offer of a few hours to take a break.

All of these things and many more..

and yet, none of us were prepared to say goodbye.

Rest in peace, dear Aunt and thank you for sharing our lives.

©Crissouli August 1996

Image: Heather, with her father, Tom

 

NEVER REALLY GOODBYE…

Three years have passed since we said Goodbye..
Did you hear us, Dad?
Did you know that it would be for the very last time..
You did react when I held your hand and told you that it was ok,
Mum was waiting for you.
You also reacted when I thanked you, yet again,
for all you did for us, for the love you showed and the guidance you gave us.
We were with you on your last journey..at least for as long as we could be..
just as we had been with you as your mind played tricks on you
and you forgot us at times. That was ok, we understood ..
and we never forgot you.

You have been our rock, our comfort,
and yes, at times, our disciplinarian..
We are who we are because of the love and caring
both you and Mum showed us always, in good times and bad.
We try not to shed tears as we delve into memories..
and can’t help laughing as we ‘see’ you beneath the mango tree
firing an air rifle at flying foxes feasting above.
We smile when we remember you stopping near a road sign,
staying for what seemed like ages
as two excited children waited for our watch..
after all, that’s what the sign said ‘Watch for Children’.
I still have the shivers when I recall diving deep into my bed,
screaming with fright, as you chased me with a live mud crab.. then calling me out some time later, saying it was all gone.. and presenting me with the crab, now bright orange, fully cooked.

I remember telling Mum, in as serious a tone as a five year old could muster,
that when she was finished with you, I was going to marry you when I grew up!
High praise indeed from a little girl who adored her tall handsome Dad,
especially when he played the guitar as Mum and I sang..Peg Theo Chris Vince Catsoulis c 1959well, ok, mostly Mum, she had a far better voice than I did.
I loved to sing with her though…and she taught me the words of so many songs.
Memories tumble by, one after the other and I find myself smiling often..
at the hospitality and generosity that came from you both..
at the willingness to drop everything at a moment’s notice to help someone in need, whether near or far.
Nothing was ever too much trouble..you expected nothing in return.
That wasn’t your way..

©  Crissouli 1959

You welcomed our friends and their friends and treated all like family..
then when our family grew, you were so happy and so proud…
You delighted in grandchildren and then the great grandchildren,
that Mum longed for, but never got to see…how you would love seeing them all grow.
Ninety one years .. and yet that wasn’t enough. We had more love to share..
more memories to create, more stories to tell..
We do our best to honour your memory, to be the people you wanted us to be..
So, never really goodbye, but rather, just for now..
You will live on in all that is good in those for whom you paved the way.

© Crissouli 18th October, 2017

 

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© Crissouli 2013

Last photo taken… Dad’s 91st birthday, at the nursing home. How he loved the birds..

 

 

Love, Laughter and Apple Pies..

Twenty one years ago today, I received the dreaded news… my beloved Aunt Heather had passed away of cancer. I grieved so much, not just for her passing, but because I wasn’t able to be with her and her children at that time. Her children were grown up, her daughter with a family of her own, but my cousins and I have always been very close, as were my mother and my Aunt.. It was, and is, as if we were an extension of the one family.

Heather Crombie was born in Tamworth, NSW, on the 7th July, 1930, to Thomas Crombie and Juliet McQueen. She was their third child of four .. and the only daughter. She was very proud of her Scottish roots, her father having been born in Aberdeen, Scotland… her mother was born in St. Pancras, London. Heather and my mother, Peg (Margaret) met as girls in Dorrigo and went on to marry brothers, George and Vince Catsoulis.

Heather with her father

MumGranddad.jpg

This was a relationship and friendship that was to last all their lives… no matter where they were living.

It wasn’t till the 1960’s that they were all living in the one city again. Heather and George had three children, sadly the first daughter died at birth.

They went on to have a daughter, Kris and a son, John. Kris was my youngest bridesmaid, John is my godson, so the ties are still there in so many ways. 

Screen Shot 2016-01-11 at 7.46.49 am.jpg

John’s christening, Aunt Heather with baby John. Peg and Vince Catsoulis behind her and Uncle George to the left.

Heather became a widow in 1971, Uncle George passed the night before we brought our son home. He had been so excited that we were to have our first child. It broke my heart that he never got to meet him. I will always remember Aunt’s bravery and determination to do whatever she could to raise her still young children to have the best life she could possibly give them. She took on any and every job she could and devoted her life to their welfare, always smiling and always so welcoming. She was so proud that they both went to University and that they were making their own way in life. Her joy as they graduated, then when her daughter married and presented her with her first grandson was overwhelming…

When my own mother died in 1982, Heather grieved as if she were her sister, rather than sister in law.. I remember her coming up to me at the wake at my parent’s house and giving me the biggest hug and telling me that though she couldn’t replace my mother, she would always be there for me… and she was. We became even closer, if that was possible… I did have to laugh at times when she would talk about when we were girls in the depression years and I’d have to remind her that it was Mum, not me.

1981Fiona was 8.jpgMy memories bubble over with visions of picnics and long drives, of numerous family occasions, of the wonderful roast dinners, and apple pies, oh, those famous apple pies…never forgotten.

Memories of Aunt Heather and my husband spending hours here watching old movies. They didn’t care if they already knew the scripts off by heart, that only added to their fun. She loved the music of the 1940’s, she loved to garden, and to cook, she loved sewing and bingo.. and any outings that included family and/or friends.  Her love of children was known to all and she would often stop a mother with a pram to admire the baby. Earlier memories of us all as we joined in cake decorating classes, spending as much time laughing as we did icing, are never far from the surface.

There is so much more to Aunt Heather, but today the tears flow, making it hard to focus, so I will leave that for another day. Rest in peace, Aunt, knowing that 21 years on, you are still so fondly remembered.

©Crissouli 29th July, 2017

© all photos belong to the Catsoulis family

 

I SHALL BRING YOU FLOWERS!

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(Image courtesy of Pixabay)

Eighty seven years ago today, the fourth child and the third daughter, Margaret, later to be known as Peg, was born to a young Dorrigo couple, Roy and Biddy (Bridget) Swadling. Roy was working in the saw mill and Biddy was caring for their young family.

Pat  was five, Mary, also known as Molly, was three and a half and Betty (Elizabeth), was two. I’m not sure whether Pat had started at the convent at that time, but the rest were at home. In that year, the Great Depression began. I have often wondered just how the family managed, though it was difficult for most in those years. From what my mother told me, they were a happy family, despite Biddy’s indifferent health. Her sister, Molly (also Mary) was a frequent visitor and the two sisters were known for their lovely singing voices and their sense of humour… after all, they were Irish. I was fortunate enough to know Aunt Molly, how I loved her Irish brogue… she was always so kind to us as children and though we didn’t see her often, she filled a little of the role of our Irish grandmother whom we never got to meet.

Mum lost her mother when she just eleven, to TB.

Biddy Swadling, with daughters Mary with cousin David Hamilton, front Betty, Peg.jpg

Biddy left her young family just a few weeks short of her 41st birthday. Mum always thought that she, too, would die young – though she lived longer than her mother, passing away at just 51.

Biddy, daughter Mary, holding a friend’s baby, Betty and Peg, taken not long before Biddy died.    © Crissouli and family

Chris & Mum Peg Catsoulis c 1951.jpeg

 

One of my favourite photos with Mum. I was about three, carefully examining the appliquéd leaves which were tan, on Mum’s white dress. This was taken in Aunt Mary’s yard. I always thought Mum looked beautiful in that dress.

©Crissouli and family

 

 

So many birthdays we missed out on, but we never forget. We smile at the memories of all those we shared.. you shall never age.

Thinking of you as always, Mum, with love and gratitude for the unconditional love and caring you gave us all.

©Crissouli 10th July 2017