My Aunt Betty was my mother’s older sister. My dad had, in fact gone on a few dates with her before he left Ottawa to attend McGill. This is not about that.
Aunt Betty was also my godmother, although my actual mother was more of a believer than Aunt Betty. Golf and curling were the main preoccupations of Aunt Betty and her husband, my Uncle John. Uncle John, too, was my godparent.
Theirs was a successful marriage that paralleled my parents. They had three girls and a boy, and my family was three boys and a girl.
Cancer struck both our families at roughly the same time. The kids were all either independent or in University. My dad’s cancer was treated successfully and he lived another twenty years. Uncle John was not as fortunate. He became bed-ridden and suffered for a drawn out nine years with my Aunt Betty essentially as his nurse/caregiver. Indentured servitude; Duty; Nine Years; Love and suffering; and being housebound were the words that spring to mind from my perspective of Aunt Betty’s life then.
When Uncle John finally succumbed, we were all sad, but relieved as well. Aunt Betty was very pragmatic and rebounded quite quickly. I understand because my mum had a lengthy illness and the mourning came long before her death.
Aunt Betty and Uncle John had many friends, among them a man named Alex and his wife. They would play golf together, bridge, curling, share dinners and vacations. Alex had assumed the same role as Aunt Betty in caring for his spouse as she faded and died around the same time as Uncle John.
Aunt Betty and Alex, who were already friends, leaned on each other and started to date. My cousins were scandalized. My mother horrified. I thought it was great! I had seen The Dead Poet’s Society and learned about Carpe Diem (seize the day). I never could understand cultures where widows wore black for the rest of their lives and just accepted their widowhood as defining them. Way to go Aunt Betty! Choose life! We did not usually talk about anything deep EVER! She loved me, but thought I was a weirdo and did not understand music and the arts at all. She took me aside that day and told me she was grateful for my support on this as “everybody else” was against her moving so quickly. I cherish that bond. Ever so slight.
My first love was a young woman who I fell hopelessly for while home at Christmas vacation while in my senior year. I was usually away at a boarding school that year(Don’t get the wrong impression. It was not posh, but more for boys who were struggling. Run by Religious Brothers. Not club med). She was in her first year of college, and home for the break as well. We saw each other for about a week and then carried on with a furious exchange of letters (hers scented) and in our young minds we really were over the top in love. We managed to see each other every other weekend and each time our attraction and affection grew deeper and deeper. I was 18 and was legal drinking age. We would stay out later and later and I’d drop her off and linger at her house. My girlfriend’s mum was a single mother and worked late as a waitress. Some nights she’d get home and would all sit around the kitchen table and we grew quite fond of each other. I liked this new arrangement. It had started to concern my parents, however. One very late night as I was driving home and unbeknownst to me, my mother called their home.
There was a decided shift in my relationships both with my parents and my girlfriend from that time forward. The “we don’t do that in MY family!” attitude threw a major blanket on our fire. This is the stuff of classic novels of love between people who were not on an even social footing. Romeo? Juliet? We remained friends for a while, planning to rekindle when I got to university, and we both admitted that the timing was not right. Regrets? Yes and no.
When I heard Last Train Home by Pat Metheny I was captivated by the melody, the harmony, everything about it really. I loved the 16th note chugging rhythms of the bass and drums, The track is perfect.
I always wanted to perform it, but slower and jazzier so I wrote lyrics melding the two stories of my Aunt and myself. I imagined that it was me getting together with the first love the way my Aunt was able to retrieve a life without loneliness. I am happily remarried, so my last train home doesn’t fit the story and the song doesn’t really pertain to me anymore, but I think there is a universality to the message of people finding either a soul mate that they didn’t seize in the past or a new mate that they never dreamed existed. All aboard!
Music By: Pat Metheny Lyrics By: Ian Hanchet So many years since I saw your face So many tears since our last embrace Hidden love, forbidden love And now I know the time has come We both know where to go Take the last train home So many miles of railroad track So many years of looking back A taken love, forsaken love The time to pay was yesterday A big mistake, it’s time to take Take the last train home Second-hand love was a masquerade The lives we built were a cheap charade Those days are dead, now look ahead The seeds are gone, the birds have flown Fret no more, regret no more Take the last train home