A mother figure and a friend all rolled into one. Someone you can always count on being there and the best keeper of secrets. A perfect partner in crime and a real-life superhero.
If ever I had been told that one day I’d be writing a tribute for Aunty T, I’d have scoffed at them and said, “Never!” Perhaps I would even have gotten irritated at anyone for suggesting such a preposterous thing! And now… here I am, staring at my screen with tear-dimmed eyes, wistfully trying to cobble something together in her honour and memory. I cannot attempt to deny the brokenness and heartache I’m enduring as I process these words. Hers’ was a life well-lived and when the time came, just as she’d always said to me, she went through an open door into the next room. In my possession are pictures of various places we explored and visited together and each picture paints a thousand words.
Aunty T was a mother figure and a friend rolled in one. We had a special relationship, a bond wherein we laughed at many things and shared many thoughts. Many a time spent with Aunty T in Paris was always an experience and a joy. Being by her side for moral support, when she was elected as the first female African on the Executive Council of UNESCO, listening to the Beatles in her cozy Parisian study which had wonderful views of the Bois de Boulogne, or discussing her wonderful and exquisite collection of antiques and art and their history, which she proudly displayed in her vitrine and on her walls.
We discussed and planned table settings for various luncheons and candlelight suppers, watched films and she’d share her life experiences. In quiet times and deep pensive moments, I’d sit and listen, enrapt with wonder and amazement, as she reminisced about her beloved Winky, whom time stole from her abruptly. Very often, I thought I spied a glistening of her eyes, as she hastily brushed off a wandering tear. I learnt so much from Aunty T, and my life story could not be told without mention of this great lady.
There are so many “Do you remember when…?” questions that I can’t ask anymore. Going for walks in the gardens of Villa Borghese in Rome, or spending sultry Italian summer evenings watching an outdoor Shakespeare comedy, are some of the milliard memories that will eternally linger in my heart.
A woman of high social standing or refinement, especially when viewed as dignified or well-mannered and well-spoken, a woman of refinement and gentle manners.
Aunty T may have been of a certain age, but was always young at heart with a wonderful sense of humour. She got on well with everyone regardless of age, and was always full of good advice when sought from her. She graciously welcomed my friends into her home and always had time to talk to them. She even agreed to be the ‘marraine’ for one of my friends, Theodora, who was terribly enamoured by her grace, elegance, benevolence, charm, wit and beauty. When Theo asked Aunty T if she could help her cut her wedding cake, Aunty T protested and said she couldn’t as she was a divorcee. Theo would hear nothing of her protestations and prevailed on her.
Then there was Willy Garofalo a young 14-year-old Italian boy, who spent a lot of time at the residence in Rome and also called her, ‘Aunty T’. Twenty-eight years later, two weeks before Aunty T’s demise, Willy had a facetime chat with Aunty T, announcing and inviting her and Geta to his impending wedding at the beginning of October in Valencia, Spain. Willy was looking forward to a reunion for auld lang
syne. Regrettably, that was not to be. He has found consolation in the fact that he was able to introduce his wife, Maria Grazia to Aunty T.
Aunty T was an avid reader and would often share what she was reading with me. I can remember when she picked up Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code, she called me from Accra and excitedly told me about it. ‘You’ll love it, Eddie and you won’t be able to put it down till you’ve finished it!” I promptly got myself a copy, and she was right! I couldn’t put it down till the end.
She also told me about John Le Carre whose books she couldn’t get into. I don’t
know about you, but she was right. I could never go past the first page of the only book of his that I picked up from Aunty T’s shelf.
Sandrine and I won’t have the pleasure of hosting you anymore in our home. I won’t experience the excitement of meeting you at the airport anymore. Pierre-Emmanuel, Iskandar and Camille won’t have the pleasure of ‘Grantie’ anymore. I was especially looking forward to you visiting us in Abu Dhabi later this year.
I may not see you again in this world of mortals, hard as I may seek you, but I know we shall see each other in my castle of dreams and garden of remembrance. When in a blink of an eye, I see myself in that Golden City we shall laugh again as we join the heavenly throng wending their way to the Throne of our Father.
Good night, Aunty. Bon nuit. Arrivederci. God be with you till we meet again.