Patra's Other Place

I started out with Patra's Place, primarily dedicated to my linen collection and stitching projects. But I kept getting side-tracked, so I decided to create Patra's Other Place for anything not related to embroidery topics. So you now have a choice. If you are interested in me, read this. If you only want to see my linen and stitching, visit Patra's (original) Place! (Please note that by clicking on any of the photos, they will be enlarged to fill your computer screen.)

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Location: Melbourne, Vic., Australia

I am married to Ken. We have no children except a cat and a collection of Australian parrots, finches, canaries and a dozen hens.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Vale Atsuko Fitzpatrick, 1919 – 2010

This is the eulogy I gave at the funeral on Friday.
I met Atsuko in 2004, through the Do Care volunteer program. Anne Broadbent, the co-ordinator, asked me if I would be interested in visiting a Japanese lady, because she knew I was interested in the Japanese culture, and could speak a little of the language. On my first visit, I took a bunch of flowers, and my Japanese-English dictionary. When Atsuko opened the door and I said “Hajimemashite”, she had a big smile on her face! She showed me into her lounge room, and for the next hour we made limited conversation with frequent references to my dictionary. She told me firmly not to bring flowers again, no gifts, she insisted. Do Care’s policy is for volunteers to visit their clients fortnightly, but Atsuko said she only wanted me to visit her once a month, so that is what I did for the next couple of years.

As we got to know each other better, we found that despite the 30 year age difference, we had much in common. I have had a penpal in Japan for about 35 years, and in that time, Aiko has sent me many beautiful souvenirs. She came to Australia for my 50th birthday, and brought a number of gifts, including a wedding kimono. So every time I visited Atsuko, I took something to show her from my Japanese collection. I wrote to Aiko about my visits to Atsuko, and from then on she sent me two calendars every year – one for me, and one for Atsuko. Atsuko wanted to write to Aiko to thank her, and asked me to buy a box of chocolates to send her, so I organised that, and sent Atsuko’s letter with the chocolates. Aiko wrote back to me, and sent a separate envelope addressed to Atsuko in Japanese. Atsuko didn’t read the letter out to me, but she smiled as she read it, and said that Aiko sounds like a very kind person.

After I’d shown all my Japanese things to Atsuko, I started taking my embroidery projects to show her, as I had admired the embroidered pictures on her wall, and she was interested to see what I made.
She would always ask after my husband and his mother, and our pets. We have had dogs, cats and various birds in the six years I knew Atsuko, and one day I invited her to my home for afternoon tea so she could see them. At the time we had one cat Topsy, and a variety of budgies, finches and bantam hens, and she was delighted with them all. Every time she asked after Topsy, I would say ‘She is such a naughty pussy!” and Atsuko would laugh and laugh.

I was always happy to be able to help Atsuko with any problems she had around the house. I would change light bulbs for her, ring up tradesmen when something needed fixing, and when she had letters that she didn’t understand (mostly advertising) I would explain what they were so she knew what she could throw out and what she had to keep. One day I knocked on the front door and found it ajar. I called out to her, and heard her voice calling to me from the kitchen. I went in there to find her sitting cross legged on the kitchen sink! She had climbed up on a chair, and on to the sink, because the Holland blind had stuck and she wanted to free it. I helped her get down, and told her not to do that again – ring me if you need help with something around the house! I took the Holland blind down, re-rolled it and hung it up again. To my great amusement, she spent the next half hour testing it every few minutes to make sure it was working properly. She only stopped when I warned her she could mess it up again with all the pulling!

My husband’s mother is nearly 98, and she lived with us for a while before going into an aged care facility last year. She was like me – very interested in things Japanese, and when I asked if she would like to meet Atsuko she said she would love to. So I asked Atsuko if she would like to come to our place, but she said “Please bring mother-in-law to my home”, so I did. Well, my MIL is never short of something to say, and for most of the two hours we spent there, she talked about herself and her family almost non stop. Atsuko sat and smiled through it all, although there is no way she would have understood most of it!
Afterwards I asked her if she had understood what my MIL was saying, and she just smiled and said “She is a very nice lady!” Which she is.

Atsuko did not speak about her family in Japan, except to say they were angry when she married an Australian and came here to live. I asked her if she remembered the atomic bombs, and she looked sad, and after a minute she said “I saw the flash. But I don’t talk about it”. So I never mentioned it again, but she did say one day that she never hated the Americans for the war. She said “They had to do something to stop it”. She was very astute when it came to politics, and had firm opinions about the world leaders. We had many discussions about George Bush, Tony Blair, John Howard, and the Japanese prime minister and his family.

Sometimes she would ask me to take her to medical appointments, so I could help translate her wishes to the specialist and vice versa. One day she had to have some tests where she was required to lay on her tummy and have her back prodded with an instrument. The doctor was a bit rough, and I noticed her flinch now and then, but she never said a word. In the end I said to the doctor “I think you are hurting her” and he said “Most people would be jumping out of their skin by now. She must have a very high pain threshold”. I was so angry, but all I said was “When you have survived the bombing of Hiroshima, there’s probably not much else that can hurt you”. He stopped and looked at me for a few seconds, and when he resumed working on Atsuko, I noticed he was much more gentle.

Atsuko also like to visit Suzuran, the Japanese food shop in Camberwell, and I learnt a lot about traditional Japanese food during our visits. Atsuko always insisted on buying us some lunch to take home and eat, although in the last year, she didn’t have much of an appetite. She would tell me she wasn’t hungry any more, and that she just wanted to go to sleep. She would point up to the ceiling and say “Soon, I go”. Now she has gone, and I will miss her terribly. We had so much fun in that six years, and I will never forget her.

4 Comments:

Blogger Finding My Way said...

Gina;
I hope it went well. I don't understand your pain exactly. I do understand losing a friend. I lost my friend last month. I miss him so much. Sometimes I catch myself crying but it's because I miss my friend so much. I knew him since I was 17. In a strange way, I can find peace knowing my friend is not suffering anymore. I hope you get to feel better soon. I'm truly sorry for your lose. HUGS -patty

Monday, 04 October, 2010  
Blogger Merle said...

Dear Gina ~~ I am so sorry for the loss of your friend. You did her proud with that wonderful eulogy and
I am sure her daughters were pleased.
What a lovely time you two had with the same interests, She sounded a lovely lady. Take care and feel better soon my friend. Love, Merle.

Sunday, 10 October, 2010  
Blogger Pear tree cottage! said...

Dear Gina, you had me reading this beautiful post twice..........I am deeply touched by the way you wrote it and the true feelings it expressed.............you are a true gentle sole my friend and it is no wonder why so many of us out here love you. Lee-ann

Monday, 11 October, 2010  
Blogger Gina E. said...

Thank you all for your comments.

Monday, 11 October, 2010  

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