Many moons ago, my grandfather’s brother married an Australian woman.
Her name was Betty.
They must have been together for a few decades – they certainly had quite a few children and even more grandchildren, my lovely cousins.
By the time I was old enough to remember meeting them, I discovered they were no longer together. Aunt Betty still came to family gatherings though. I remember how her face lit up the first time she saw me as a young woman.
‘I’m your aunty Betty! I was Tony’s wife’ she said with a warm, inviting smile, holding my hands.
‘She looks just like Jacqui (my aunty)’, she would say to my mother.
Later she told me how she understood a bit of Arabic – ‘you have to learn or they’ll gossip about you’.
It turns out that Betty and Tony hadn’t been together for more than 20 years.
They told me that Betty was heartbroken and wanted him back. She stubbornly refused to give up and never stopped believing he might come back.
She was also my grandmother’s best friend – comrades in arms in being married to difficult Joseph men. They would call each other regularly. I remember my grandmother telling me about it.
She would say to Betty, over and over again.
‘Why don’t you go with someone else? He goes with others, why don’t you?’
‘I like Tony’, Betty would say.
Betty waited for Tony for 27 years. I wrote this down when my grandmother told me. I thought it was the sweetest thing I’d ever heard.
When my grandmother told me that he finally did come back to Betty, I couldn’t believe it. My heart soared at the news. I saw them together at a funeral. They were happy. Uncle Tony had no idea who I was but Aunty Betty was thrilled to see me.
Today I had a little cry at the news of Betty’s passing and the thought of her little frail body. I will always remember how she would see me at family gatherings and come over just to tell me I was beautiful and she loved me, even though she hardly knew me and we weren’t blood relatives. This didn’t matter to a woman like Betty. You were always the most important in that room – when really she was the most important all along.
Rest easy now, sweet little Betty – you were the best little woman. I’ll never forget you.