Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Thirteen years later

WARNING: Contains traces of sadness

In May 2000, my mother died suddenly. She was 61.

Emphysema crept up on her in a matter of weeks, and she turned from an energetic, active grandmother looking forward to retirement to wheelchair-bound within a few days. Then, as we were arranging for someone to come along and measure up the house for a stair-lift, she had a turn for the worse that proved to be terminal, her heart giving up under the strain of her destroyed lungs.

My abiding memory of the last days of her life was of barrelling up and down the M4-M5-A30, covering the 260 miles between my house and hers again and again, getting to know every skid mark, every service station on that stretch of tarmac and concrete. And then, one week before she died, we arranged to kidnap her from the Royal Cornwall Hospital with a wheelchair and half a dozen oxygen tanks and took her to the other end of the country for my brother's wedding in a country hotel.

It was a wonderful, celebratory weekend, and one of those very rare occasions that I've been together with my brother, sister and their own families in happy circumstances. It's not that we don't get on. We do. We just know where we all live, and that's good enough for all of us.

On the way back to Cornwall, as she dozed, this is the last song - a thing of beauty from an otherwise uninspiring album - that I played in the car, and it still gives me the goosebumps today to think back to that moment, knowing that time was running out and there was not one damn thing I can do about it.

Then, a horribly confused week, all of us thrown together, me sleeping in my childhood bunkbed, dreading the worst. And when the worst came, I was on a motorway somewhere at the moment of her death, travelling in hope to find all hope dashed as I arrived.

There were so many thing left to say.

So many things left to apologise for. Apologies that went unspoken.

And are still unsaid today.

And I don't know what I'd give to say them.

Thirteen years later, and I still love you.

Waltz away...


Steve said...

You've got me thinking now. I'm lucky enough to still have both my parents around and I'm older than you. I've always had the same attitude as you, we know where we all live and that's good enough for us. That said, my little sister has just been diagnosed with breast cancer. You just never know. Makes you think.

Adam Binnie said...

Amazing, devastating writing.

Richard said...

Have recently had gentle reminders of the mortality of my parents, both of whom, thankfully, are still with us. I swear in our last phone call at the weekend my Dad said he loved me. Something I'd never heard him say before. Shit, something in my eyes.

Anonymous said...

I lost my mum 13yrs ago too, 2 months after you did. Oddly similar but reverse direction - I was going from Cornwall up the motorways. I did get there in time but ridiculously had to leave a few hours before she died to get back to work next day. Was then told the news by my brother while on the road.
Thanks for this posting, it's brought back some memories


isolator42 said...

Nice, SD, a fitting tribute.
I'm so lucky to still have both parents, although, like you, from a generation of people where so much remains unsaid. So long as there is love, all is good.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful read, but very sad indeed. I'm lucky enough to have both of my parents and I wish I could spend more time with them while they're able to enjoy things that are universally exciting - not just having to settle on a day to the park. Time has always dictated that there's something better to do, but it seems I should rework my priorities.

At least you saved on the stairlift though.

Kompani said...

In tears thinking of my departed parents. Beautifully written. Great song. Thanks

Steve said...

Just to add to my previous comment. I spoke to my little sis on the phone tonight and she was so upbeat. Spoke to a friend of my missus ten minutes later, also on the phone. She sounded so depressed because she had been passing Brown Windsor soup, due to a tummy bug.