Goodbye Sis

By: Anne Corke

Feb 21 2022


Category: Life stories


February 14, 2022. Valentine’s Day. When the phone rings early in the morning, you just know it’s not good news. It was my niece calling to tell me that her mother, my sister Claire, had died in her sleep.

Claire married young in the late 1950s. Not long after, she and husband George moved to the country, just past Morpeth on highway 3 to open a business, ‘Sunny Acres’. They had a garage, gas pumps, small cabins to rent, a lunch bar and a store. George looked after the garage. Claire pumped gas, prepared and served lunches, manned the store, cleaned the cabins, looked after her home and produced four children while doing so! I was convinced that when you got married, you were always pregnant and always working. No wonder I didn’t marry ’til I was in my thirties!

Claire was 11 years older than me. When I was a youngster, she liked to ‘mother’ me. But as I grew up our relationship changed and we became best friends. We talked often and got together whenever we could. We shared tea and recipes and laughter. We enjoyed theatre and concerts. (Our last trip in 2019 was to Stratford to see Billy Elliot and Little Shop of Horrors.) We dreamed of travelling to Wales where our Dad was born. We discussed it for many years but when we finally got around to actually planning the trip, life interfered. First George became ill with dementia and required constant attention. And then my husband Gary was diagnosed with terminal cancer. After many years of caring for then losing our husbands we never returned to our plan and the dream died.

Claire was a complex person. Like me, she was quite shy. But when she moved to Morpeth, she volunteered with school and church activities to get to know the people in her community and to build her confidence. Later, when her children were older and more independent, she went to work at the Village retirement home as activity director, another boost to her confidence. As a result, she became a valued and loved member of her community. But she always felt that she was given short shrift in our family in spite of my reminding her that, to the end of her days, our Mum always said she loved and enjoyed each of her children. Nonetheless Claire was the ‘middle child’ and she never felt ‘special’. Try as I might to convince her otherwise, she wouldn’t believe me. Yet she was indeed special in many ways. She was so generous with her love and her time for her family and friends.

However she did have one serious fault: she was cheap! No doubt there were reasons for that which we will not go into at this time but her penny-pinching ways drove me crazy. A few years back, she called to wish me a happy birthday. ‘I was going to send you flowers’ she said ‘but they’re so expensive, so I didn’t.’ Well, I guess it’s the thought that counts.

My husband Gary, my son Jeremy and I loved to visit Claire at her cottage in Port Stanley. We love the beach and the village. We’d ride the train, catch a show at the theatre and stop for ice cream at Broderick’s. And we’d go to the fish market to purchase fresh perch for a fish fry! Over the years, we made many happy memories there with Claire. We still love to visit Port and will always remember the special times we had there together.

Whether we visited her or she visited us, there was always fun and laughter when Claire was with us. I’ll give you an idea of the sort of shenanigans that occurred when we were together. Claire loved to shop. On one of her visits, Gary and I took her to Winners to browse. She was looking for some new plates, square ones preferably as they were in fashion at the time. She decided on four dinner and four luncheon plates and checked out. On the way home, she held the plates carefully in her lap. Coming out of the parking lot, I turned rather quickly on to the Parkway and Gary said to her ‘Hang on to your china, Anne’s driving.’ Claire misheard and thought that he had said ‘Hang on to your vagina, Anne’s driving.’ We laughed all the way home. I probably should have pulled off the street as I was almost breathless from laughter.

Claire and Gary were very fond of each other. Gary would often joke ‘I wonder if I married the wrong sister.’ At least I think he was joking! When Gary bought himself a sports car as a reward for surviving his cancer surgery, he named her Claire after his favourite sister-in-law! I’d like to think that the two of them are sharing laughs together again.

Valentine’s Day will now always be tinged with sadness and remembered forever as the day I lost my big sister. She’s off on her next adventure now, joining Gary, sister Kay, brother Peter and our parents in another dimension. But though I’m sad for myself and all her family and friends, I’m glad for Claire as I know how unhappy she had been lately. Dementia had muddled her mind and she seemed to be living again in the 60s. Every time I talked to her, she insisted she wanted to go home. Perhaps now she finally is home.

I have you fast in my fortress
And will not let you depart,
But put you down into the dungeon
In the round tower of my heart.

And there will I keep you forever,
Yes, forever and a day,
Till the walls shall crumble to ruin,
And moulder in dust away!

Copyright 2022 Anne Corke

4 comments on “Goodbye Sis”

  1. What a beautiful send off Anne…. I adired Claire, the few times we spent with her were filled with laughter and joy. BIG hug…. x

  2. I’m sorry, Anne, to hear your sister has passed away. A lovely post.

  3. This is quite beautiful Ann. Again, sincere sympathy to you and the family.

  4. So lovely, Anne. I know Claire will always be with you in your heart. xx

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