Lessons from an Aunt

Today sees me with a bit of spare time and I wanted to take advantage of that and do some catch-up work in the shape of this post and so I am writing today about the last of my Aunts to have passed away whom I have not yet shared anything about – my auntie Pat.

Pat pictured 9 May 2008

My Auntie Pat was born Patricia Ellen McNama on 26th November 1940 in Ashton-under-Lyne, Lancashire, England, the eldest of 4 children born to my Grandparents.

Auntie Pat as a baby,1940
Auntie Pat as a young girl

My memories of her are mostly generated from and associated with days I spent with her during the last few years of her life when I would go and spend the day with her every week. She would struggle with her arthritis and needed help during the day with some odd jobs and I was available but usually less work was done on those visits and time would be spent chatting, telling stories and sharing memories. I grew to love those visits very much and reflecting back on them I gained so much from my visits with her.

My Auntie Pat was a lover of nature and all things horticultural. She was a keen gardener when she was able and she would take me on “tours” of her garden pointing out and naming every plant and flower and telling me her plans of what to put where, what hadn’t been successful and what she was going to “try out” next year. I am a rubbish gardener myself but loved to hear her talk about hers with such enthusiasm and impressive knowledge. I know what plants I want in my garden if I ever get one and they all remind me of my Auntie Pat because they are plants she had.

When not out in the garden, we would usually be sifting through endless photographs musing over stories about her and the family or helping her with her family history but she in fact helped me with mine in ways I don’t think she even realized. My Auntie Pat was a people person in ways that I am not. She had a confident approach and wasn’t afraid to make herself known or introduce herself to others whereas I am very much a “sit back on the sidelines and watch the action” kind of person. This quality really gave her an advantage in finding out information from distant cousins never met  and she became a mine of information when gathering family history facts and photos. She had a great love for photos especially and was excellent at recording dates and people on the back of them and our family will be forever blessed because of her efforts. There are many photos in our family tree that have come to us because of her acquiring what she can and recording details for posterity.

Not all the photos she shared were of ancestors long since passed. Many of them were of herself and her family on holidays. She was well travelled and I got a strong sense from her stories that she had an adventurous spirit. She didn’t seem afraid of trying anything and I admired her for the “go-getter” she was and her “have-a-go” attitude. She died aged 70 on the 24th March 2011 but right up until her going into hospital not long before her death that adventurous spirit prevailed within her trying new hair and nail colours. She was plucky and feisty. I remember painting her nails for her for the first time and she had the biggest bag of polishes to choose from in every colour imaginable. I was nervous of making a mess because I don’t have nails to cheer about and so wasn’t confident in doing hers very well for her but she just said “Go for it – if it goes wrong we can wipe it off and start again!” Such confidence – I loved it! I felt more confident trying out new things around her because she made me feel like I could. Sounds almost silly but she had me make her milky scrambled eggs with cheese for lunch one day, something I had never made or tried for myself until then. She shouted step by step instructions through to the kitchen for me and I have no idea if what I made was right because she never let on but we ate what I made and we enjoyed it together.

She was fiercely competitive, a trait that has definitely come through the McNama/Metcalfe line. I remember her stories of when she was younger and how proud she was of her efforts in winning different sports events at school and have seen the pictures to prove she was quite athletic back in her younger days. A desire to be the best and give of her very best in every pursuit is something I know she has passed on to her family.

Pat at Ashton Grammar School in 1954 (pictured middle row, far right)
Pat is pictured sitting just forward of the centre row of girls positioned between the 2 boys on the right end of the front row.

I loved her for the courage she demonstrated in her convictions. She hated injustice and had a strong sense of playing fair and wasn’t afraid to stand up and state her opinion or stand up for someone else if she felt they weren’t being heard even if that meant she would be ridiculed or ostracized for her beliefs. She stuck to her guns and never bowed to popular opinion or refused to give voice to something for fear of backlash. She was brave and pioneering in her own way.

She was a woman of faith, joining the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1976, the last of her siblings to join and even joining after her parents but never looked back, with that aforementioned sense of conviction in what she believed to be right and true making her a powerful missionary and teacher. She served well in her church community and also within her family. Family was everything to her. She provided a clean, happy home and thrived on happy memories. Her success lay in their well-being and she left behind an incredible legacy – an extended family to be proud of.

My Auntie Pat was a fixer – she didn’t like to see people alone, seemingly unhappy or broken in any other way. She was forever on the lookout for a partner for me whilst I was single even setting me up on a blind date that didn’t quite work out. This quality coupled with her forthright personality would probably often mean she was misunderstood but I know her heart was always in the right place. My life has benefited from having this lady’s influence in it. She was a beautiful woman and when she smiled her whole face smiled. Bless you Auntie Pat – I like to think I’ve learned a thing or two from you.

Treasured image of myself with my Auntie Pat
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