Or more precisely, Madame Gauntess.
My father’s French governess, feared mightily and adored madly. She was like a mother to my father and his two brothers from a young age, guiding them in the rigid ways of a world that was not hers. This was 1930s-1940s Cairo, a different era and one decidedly British at the time. Ice cold evening baths in winter, windows left open to toughen the boys as they slept. An iron fist, harsh discipline, rules to follow, and expectations to meet—excellence high among them. But also warmth and safety.
These boys were her life and she defended them fiercely. Unceremoniously released from her duties when the brothers reached a certain age, their attachment to her was deemed too strong and her job complete. But she’d taught them well and this wrench did not break them, though she would forever remain the true key to their upbringing, despite never seeing her again.
To me, it was a heartbreaking end. She’s included in this list of people close to me, not because I knew her (because I never did)… but because I dream of knowing her. I am immensely grateful for her part in raising the boy who would become a man and then become my father, because he is a fabulous man in all ways.