Travels with my Aunty [July 13]
Sometimes you get lucky with family. I have an aunty who’s taught me so much about the world, it’s hard to know where to begin. When I was a child, she spent an hour with me every Sunday evening, introducing me to the joys of pop music. She loved the classics too, and together we listened to the great works of Bach and Beethoven, Mozart and Mahler on the radio.
My aunty also knew heaps about science. Stars, planets, birds, whales, ozone depletion; she kept up with the latest research about all of them and shared her knowledge with me. She stayed abreast of current affairs, too, and educated me about political parties and elections.
Hard to believe, I know, but my aunty was also an arts aficionado. She’d seen all the latest movies and plays and gave me potted reviews of the books she was reading. But our interactions weren’t all about education. We both loved a laugh and my aunty introduced me to the genius of The Goon Show and those Clarke and Dawe interviews.
As I grew older my aunty looked out for me in different ways, offering me interesting jobs and showing me how to tell engaging stories. Eventually I moved on to other work, but everything she taught me has proved to be useful in everything I’ve done since then.
My aunty has always been great in a crisis. I don’t know how our family would have got through the catastrophic bushfires last summer without her, or the COVID 19 lockdown. She’s been calm and clear and comforting.
Mind you, not everyone in the family is enamoured with her. Some envy her talents and resent her popularity. They bad-mouth her all over the place, claiming she has more money than sense, even though they know full well she’s never been wealthy. Secretly these detractors in the family must be wondering how our aunty has achieved so much with so little.
Recently things have taken a turn for the worse in Aunty’s life. Some of our less savoury family members have gained access to her financial resources and have been siphoning money off, leaving her struggling to stay afloat. Some have even started campaigning to eject Aunty from the family forever.
Let’s call a spade a spade. It’s elder abuse. Unless more of us are willing to stand up to the aunty-haters in the family, she could soon disappear.
(Sian Prior has worked for ‘Aunty’ ABC as a reporter, producer and presenter on radio. This column first appeared in the Sunday Age and the SMH in July 2020)