Tuesday, January 09, 2024


My aunt passed away yesterday.

She had been ill and we had heard she was not doing well for the past few days, so - when we received a call late last night - I knew it was going to be bad news.

Eileen was part of my mother's side of the family. That side has suffered a lot of deaths over the past few years. My mother lost a brother in 2022 and sisters in 2021, 2023 and now 2024.

There are pictures of me as a toddler at Bristol Zoo with my American relatives. That was likely the first time I met her although I do not recall doing so at that point in time.

1987 is the year I'll consider first 'meeting' her. It was when my aunt's husband was serving for the American Air Force and was based over in Germany. 

We went to stay with them for three weeks that summer. It was one of the best holidays I have ever had.

My aunt was working when we landed, so we were met from the plane by my uncle Dennis and one of my cousins - Johnny.

I recall seeing this huge lanky form of my cousin. Heavy metal t-shirt, long blonde hair and GIANT Reebok basketball shoes. 

That was memory one of many from that holiday.

After leaving Frankfurt Airport, we travelled to the base to pick my aunt up. When she entered the car, Eileen had a cup from a fast food restaurant in her hand. That was the first thing I noticed. The second: a strong American accent. I was expecting Irish because I was accustomed to hearing it from all of my mother's relatives I had met. 

But, no, she was MERICAN.

(shout out to those who got that one) 

That visit to Germany was like going to a mini America because - on the base - they used US Dollars as currency and we got to live like Americans for three weeks.

I had never been to a fast food restaurant in my life until that summer. Never heard of Mountain Dew nor Dr. Pepper let alone drank either at that point in my life (they would eventually become some of my favourite drinks even though I cannot drink them nowadays due to caffeine no longer being a friend of mine). Never read a proper American comic book. Wasn't keen on horror films and the horror genre in books until that summer. And more.

When it was time to travel back home, I feigned an illness on the day we were leaving. I thought - if I were to pretend to be sick - I wouldn't be allowed to fly, so I could stay a little longer

The trick didn't work. 

It also didn't work when I tried the same stunt a year later following another three weeks in Germany!

A couple of years after that, my uncle was stationed in England, so we travelled down to Lakenheath and Mildenhall.

We stayed with them some more, and - due to how closer they were to us than when they lived in Germany - were able to go there at other times of the year. One such visit was Easter of 1991.

During that holiday, my aunt gave me something called 'Peanut Buddy'. They were little coins made of chocolate and peanut butter.

I loved them.

I have never eaten a 'Peanut Buddy' since that holiday, but - in my pursuit to find those chocolates - I came across Reese's products. 

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Considering all the above evidence, it's safe to conclude that - thanks to my aunt and her family - part of my character, and habits!, have been shaped from the times I spent with them.

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