Remembering Anna Jane....

ANNA JANE

 

Nearly 62 years of friendship is something to be treasured.

 

So, how did it all begin? Well, I returned to Swansea University College (as it then was), to start my second year, to Beck Hall, the college’s home for young ladies. I checked to see who I was rooming with, and found this strange name... Anna Jane...  I didn’t remember anyone of that name from my previous year. Up I went to the room and there was greeted by a friendly girl with a FOREIGN accent … American, no less! This was different: but as time went on, it became very enjoyable. Anna Jane had come for a year from Elmira College, to join our first year students, so our paths did not cross in lectures or tutorials during the day, but back in our room we were able to report on our day and share our thoughts and opinions on what we had been doing. The year sped by and ended all too soon. Anna Jane did a bit of touring round the UK, taking in my home town and endearing herself to my family in the process. 

 

She then returned to the USA but we kept up a steady stream of letters and the occasional phone call (no email in those days). In due course we chose our careers and I heard about her teaching; then the wonderful man called Warren; marriage, and eventually two little girls. I married Roy and was pregnant when A J brought Warren to visit us, bearing BabyGrows and Fisher Price toys – both a novelty in the UK at that time. A few years later they were back with Laurie and Jenn, and met my Alison and Christopher. 

 

I followed A J’s busy and happy life and career over the years until retirement came and she and Warren moved to the house they had designed and planned together. The sudden death of Warren not long after was a cruel blow, but A J showed her courage and fortitude as she continued to build her life there. Always there was news of and pride in her daughters, their careers, weddings and grandchildren, all of whom filled her with such delight.

 

Fast forward to the end of 2011, and the exciting news that A J was coming on a grand visit to Europe and the UK; of course, she must come and visit me in the apartment I had moved to in 2004, a few years after my Roy’s death. Plans were made and excitement mounted. Other college friend Dilys and her husband Robert booked their hotel in Malvern so that they could meet with us. And the day came … I stood on the platform of Great Malvern Station: would I know her after all these years? 

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 Well, of course I did; the hair might be grey-er, but the smile was the same, and the wonderful greeting. Talking began … and hardly paused except for sleep. She showed that same interest in everything and everyone that always characterised her. Evening meal with Robert and Dilys in the Italian restaurant down the road; church, and meeting many of my friends on Sunday morning, then lunch and a long afternoon stretching into the evening in Robert and Dilys’s hotel. And still we probably only covered a quarter of what we’d meant to say and ask about. All too soon, it was time to put her back on the train as she set off to link up with her friends to finish their European adventure.

On my balcony: she was very complimentary about my plants!!

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In the hotel: Robert, me, Dilys, A J

The years went on; news every Christmas of her family’s exploits and her continued pride in them. Hints that it may be time to leave her home for pastures new. Always it was obvious that she was as busy as ever, and as positive in her approach to life.

 

Eventually the news that she had been very ill during the past year, but still the positive: how fortunate to receive such excellent medical care, and how supportive her family had been.... One had to read between the lines in that news. Then came the packing up of her home, one move followed by another and then the almost casual “However, after Christmas I noticed my energy was on a downward trend and it has continued to move in that direction......” That was the way she told me that her life was nearing its end. We kept in touch, with Laurie’s help until that sad message told me that her suffering was over and she had left us.

 

Many memories of her will live with me through my life: her wonder at some of our English phrases, including “that takes the biscuit” meaning “that’s beyond anything we might expect”. Her not always realising when we were being ironic in a British way; always, her generosity, her eagerness to learn through new experiences and her cheerful nature.

 

So we come to Sunday 28 June: I walked around some of the places I had taken her on those happy days. This is the hotel where we met Robert and Dilys on Sunday. After lunch we sat in the room to the left of the front door for that lovely long conversation. 

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 And then the church where she had met my friends. They still remember her. Sadly, at the present time we cannot go in because of COVID-19 restrictions, but I sat on a seat outside and remembered.....

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So now it is time to say “Au revoir, dear friend: and thank you for all you have meant to me over three quarters of my life.” I shall never forget, and I know I am not alone in that.

 

Elizabeth

Elizabeth Dunnett

Malvern, UK