Moving on

August 5, 2010

My Mam died six months ago now. 20th January 2010. I It was a cold day, the start of the snow,  and I wasn’t there until it was too late. She had never understood me moving down south, even though I patiently explained that there weren’t any advertising agencies up north, so I would be a fish out of water.

‘Nonsense, son, your cousin Kenny’s in advertising.’ Well, he was, and still is, but he is selling ad space to car dealers for the Advertiser. Sometimes I tried to explain it wasn’t the same, most times I just smiled and nodded and offered her another cup of tea.

Even Kenny, bless him, tried to tell her the difference .

‘Auntie, Alan makes them ads that’s on the telly, the ones that make you laugh,’ but she was having none of it. She never said anything, but I expect that deep down, she thought that advertising was about selling folk stuff they don’t want, don’t need, and can’t afford. And it is, of course, and I sometimes wonder that the reason we have so much fun is because we know that. I don’t think she disapproved, but I’m pretty sure she didn’t exactly wholeheartedly approve.

Anyway, I was telling you about Mam. She had carers coming in three times a day, to get her up,  give her lunch, and get her to bed. Her legs went a couple of years ago, and she hadn’t been out of the house since the summer of 2008. It was that cool rainy one, and we went out to one of her favourite pubs that she and my dad had courted at.

He was back on shore leave, and he borrowed his brother’s Morris Ten and took her up there for a drink. She was a bit cagey about the exact date in 1955, but I’ve often thought maybe I was conceived in that cramped little car up there on the moors.

Anyway, he didn’t stick around for very long after the wedding, and he was off again to the Far East. He’d come back every so often, religiously at first, and then less and less as I got older. he must have come back one more time, though, because my sister looks like me and has much the same bad habits, which is probably why I don’t like her much.

Sorry, you don’t need to know that, not just now, anyway, so back to Mam.

She hadn’t wanted to move as she got less and less mobile, and she certainly didn’t want to go into a home, so she stayed in the little bungalow that she had scrimped to buy in the early 60s with her savings and my dad’s gratuities, when he didn’t spend them on beer or three-legged racehorses.

Her friends, such as they were, were dying off, and when she did get out of the house, it was to go to a funeral. And there she stayed. Gradually, the house changed shape to meet her changing needs. She moved downstairs, her bedroom going where the old dining room had been, a relay of carers coming in and messing the place up.

I would go home as often as I could, which wasn’t all that often. We would sit and chat, or at least I would chat, and she would nod, or doze.

And the, one day, she wasn’t. The hospital called, but my mobile was out of battery, and by the time I had recharged it, picked up the call, and spoken to them, she was gone.

I went up that evening, sat waiting for the police (they have to witness identification), and then there she was, in a quiet, blond-wooded sideroom, covered in a purple robe, rather resplendent.

I kissed her, said what I had to say, stood for a moment with the two young coppers and the middle-aged mortician. And wept.

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