The Infamous, Larger-Than-Life Gerry!
Its seems only fitting that I should end this day by writing about Gerry Fairless, Auntie Gerry, as she was known to me. In the early hours of this 4th of July 2014, in a hospital in Montevideo, Uruguay, Gerry began the greatest voyage ever.
Ninety one years ago a little girl was born to Ada and Alf Hill. I can’t help but think that from her very first breathe she stole hearts and had a captive audience. Four years later she became a big sister to her baby brother, Geoff, my father.
Nellie as she was known in her earlier years lost her Mother to cancer at age 14. Life could not have been easy. During World War II she was to meet a handsome pilot, Colin Fairless, whom she later married. Colin was from Montevideo, Uruguay. And so began her first of many trips to Uruguay (and back) and a new life there, half way around the world.
Gerry was big on family. She wrote on aerogram letters every week to her ‘Daddy’ back in Brierley Hill, England. Her Daddy eagerly awaited each letter and wrote faithfully back too. They numbered their letters in case they were lost. Gerry was very fond of her baby brother, Geoffrey. They wrote, then telephoned, then at 80 she entered the technology age and learned how to email and finally to Skype. Their friendship has spanned 87 years. Today my Dad not only lost his longest and closest friend but last connection with the past.
My earliest memories of Gerry are at around age 3 or 4. I remember sitting in the back of my Dad’s delivery van as we drove her back to Southampton to take a ship home. It was dark and uncomfortable back there and maybe that is one of the reasons it was memorable. Or maybe because of the huge cruise ship although I have no recollection of that, just a photo.
I remember she smoked which in my young child like mind I found an oddity. I was never around people who smoked.
Gerry was loud and vivacious. I was quiet and timid, but my Mum says I was just like her! Throughout my life my Mum would all of a sudden look at me and say ‘Oh, that was so Auntie Gerry!’
Gerry could do the best ‘little girl’ voice, ever. It made me laugh. On one visit she called me ‘mon petite chou,’ my little cabbage! She was one of the few people who could truly pronounce my name right and she would say it with her singing, Spanish accent. ‘Teraaaza, Maaaria!’
She seemed to have mastered being fully alive in that body of hers.
In Montevideo she became part of an amateur dramatic society, the Montevideo Players. She adored acting. It literally was true that the world was her stage, darling, because you never really knew if she was being Gerry or was still ‘in character’. In a way, it’s as if she walked onto the stage and never walked off.
In her last days at the hospital the doctor asked her who the Queen of England was, testing her mental capacity. She replied ‘Mary’. When her son visited her he asked her the same question. ‘Queen Elizabeth of course,’ she replied. Mark, her son, explains that she was ‘acting’ for the doctor because lets face it what else could she do in a hospital bed?!
Oh Gerry! True to the end.
Gerry’s life was not without heartache. She lost a son Neil and her husband Colin. She has lived 25 years without her sweetheart.
A week ago her son Mark and grandson Morgan arrived in England for a visit. Four days ago I skyped with them for the first time, catching up, we chatted about Gerry. I talked about visiting.
I had so hoped to see you, Gerry, just one more time.
And now she is gone.
We play Russian roulette with the possibilities and probabilities of our lives. So many times we hold the things that matter most, hostage, to things that matter least or to things that don’t matter at all. Why do we do that? Why do we let this life whiz by us half-lived?
Maybe my brother said it best of all; that in her infamous way, Gerry has gone out with a bang, stealing the show on the 4th of July. Because lets face it every 4th of July I will think of Gerry and celebrate her crazy, beautiful life!
When all is said and done we are shocked she is gone, it almost unthinkable. She was in her own way iconic, a legend. Yet we are glad she did not linger suffering in this body that wouldn’t work for her; this body that wouldn’t let her completely be ‘Gerry.’
I like to think there is a grande reunion in heaven today. Gerry, her Mum and Dad, Ada and Alf, her son, Neil and sweetheart, Colin. And guess what? She is stealing the show again. ^_^ ‘Cheers, darling and goodnight Auntie Gerry, till we meet again.’