Aunt Voula

Aunt Pareskevoula (Voula) scooted around the house atop an old soft rag, her toes gripping the material through her worn slippers.  With a strange see-saw motion, she waded over to the kitchen sink to make uncle George his lunch. Her inner voice reinforcing her “kill two birds with one stone” motto.  Why just walk across the kitchen floor, when you can polish it at the same time! 

With deft movements and typical Cretan ability, she slipped lunch, effortlessly in front of uncle George with a meek smile.

The strong, silent uncle George sat ready with his spoon upright in hand and dove hungrily into the bowl of stew, splashing and slurping in great gusts, letting the sauce dribble down his unshaved chin.  No acknowledements were made for his lunch, it was what was expected from his lady wife, nothing more, nothing less.  

His muddy boots left clods of soil in piles as he scraped his booted feet below the table.  Aunt Voula said nothing.  She glanced at the lottery tickets under the fridge magnet, and tentatively mentioned that the draw was today.  Uncle George grunted his disapproval at such ridiculous trivialities. “Damn waste of money”, he barked. Quietly, he could only think that the 500 drachmas his silly wife had spent on the tickets would have bought him a damn fine evening getting drunk in the local kafenion, and play a hand of cards too.  

Old school uncle George was a “tough-love” giver.  No frills, no fancy stuff, just tough love.  Taking pride in the fact that he took his seriousness, very seriously, he metered out conversation in dribs and drabs, rarely endearing or kind, just truths, or truths at least as he saw his lot.  Aunt Voula knew this, but ever lived in hope that her ill-tempered hubbie would one day relax and smile, perhaps even express a little gratitude for the food they had on the table, and give thanks for their two healthy grown children.  

The fact that neither of their children had brought home potential future spouses, niggled away at both of them, despite their heartache never being voiced, to each other, or to their offspring.  

Truth be told, should old school, tough-love giver, uncle George learn which way his son`s inclinations leaned, he would have fallen into deep throes of shame. His mother secretly knew, or suspected, a mother knows these things.  Ever protective of her testy husbands reaction, she shielded her son from any rigorous interrogation, redirecting the conversation expertly, in another, more favourable direction.

Later that evening, uncle George pulled on his jacket, his indication that it was time for his nightly saunter to the kafenion, aunt Voula quietly said she would accompany him down to the village centre where the Lottery shop was, to check her tickets.  He grunted his acknowledement and strode across to the door.

In the Lottery shop, checking the board, aunt Voula stood still, staring fixedly at the numbers.  She read and re-read the number, as her brain wouldn`t comprehend the fact that she was in possession of the winning number.  She remained rooted to the spot, mouth slightly apart – speechless, quite unable to believe she was holding the equivalent of 20 million drachmas in her hand.  Paled and light headed, she steadied herself on the nearby table.  The proprieter noticed something amiss and stepped forward to assist her.  

Pretty soon the whole village was abuzz with the news of the winning lottery ticket.  A scruffy urchin like boy shot to the kafenion and blurted to uncle George between gasps of air, that “aunt Voula was feeling faint due to the millions of drachmas she had just won on the lottery” and he was to go immediately to her side.  He dismissed the message as some child`s prank and curtly told the urchin to get lost. Shortly, two or three drinking companions shoved the kafenion door open and excitedly asked George why he was not with his wife.  

In years to come, uncle George remained his grumpy old self. However, should the opportunity ever arise for him to relay the winning lottery ticket story, he`d push his cap back, clear his throat and smiling slightly as he reminisced, tell the story in intricate detail. Leaving nothing aside.  The words flowed as if he was reading from an old, well worn book with dog eared corners.  Re-running the story, he adorned embelishments and flourishes, to enhance the tale.  Aunt Voula always liked to listen to her husband when he relayed the tale.  It was the only time she saw him take pleasure in anything – and she needed that.