The International Writers
As I got older we
became more equal. I grew up and moved out of her shadow. Then two days
after my forty ninth birthday my Mum died of a brain aneurysm. Doctors
assured us that she never suffered; she never knew what hit her. I didnt
know what had hit me and I suffered. How could all that love just disappear?
She had been dead for four years, but to me it felt like yesterday.
does all the love go when someone dies? Mum said I was the best
thing she ever did. I was loved with such a fierce burning love
that sometimes I got scorched. Our separate selves blurred and
merged. She only ever wanted the best for me, even when I did
not realise. I was pushed and shoved to do well at school and
ending up outshining her but she was my sun, my moon, and my stars.
Mum would like this or worse I must tell Mum
those thoughts clouded me every day. We used to read the same books. Since
Mum died I have avoided reading, Ive taken up knitting.
Is that why I have just paid £30 to see a medium, because I need
to speak to Mum again? That I cant accept that something I want
most in the world can never happen. I want my Mum.
I remember a few
years ago- Id guess it was five years ago but it was probably
more like 10. We- that is Colin and I were spending an evening
with my parents. We had shared a Chinese take away so much simpler
than sweating over the stove. This fashion for dinner parties is clearly
aimed at people that do not have the drudge of cooking every single
day. And dont get me started on all this sipping a glass
of wine whilst preparing a three course meal for ten of my closest friends
Mum and I had plenty to say about that rubbish. Anyway it was
still light, I think it must have been about July, and we sat out on
the patio overlooking the green of the garden flecked with white blossom,
mauve lavender and the delicate pink bells of fuchsia.
Did you know that Sylvie has got tickets to see that John James
at the Playhouse? Mum asked me. We were sitting side by side on
the wooden swinger. Colin and Dad were in deep discussion about football.
What that bloke on "Crossing Over"? I didnt know
Sylvie was into that rubbish." John James was a celebrity medium
who had his own show on one of the satellite channels.
Well, I think she just views it as a night out. Shes not
expecting anyone to contact her. Mum took a sip of her water (whenever
she drank wine she would drink gallons of water in the hope she would
not get a hangover. It never worked.) Those mediums make me sick.
Making money out of peoples grief. Like say I died if I
would contact anyone Id contact you - not some one I didnt
know. Not someone I had no connection with I hope when Im
dead, Im dead. Mum said.
Blimey youre being cheerful Meg. Dad must have caught
the end bit of our conversation. We all laughed and started to talk
about something else.
My car was in the garage for its service, so I had to get the train
home from work. Seeing I had a half hour to kill and to shake off the
irritation that I had to wait half an hour for a 15-minute journey,
I bought the evening paper. I sat on the station bench, valiantly ignoring
the young couple next to me necking, reading the paper.
It was a typical right wing oh lord arent times bad- local
paper. The letters page was funny, full of indignant rants of how the
town was going to the dogs and being overrun by hooligans. I then saw
the advert. John James was visiting The Playhouse later that month.
Tickets were £30.
I told myself not to be so silly. If there was anyway Mum could contact
me she would have done. These mediums were just actors with a keen sense
of reading body language. Everything they said was so vague it could
be anyone. Mum had told me herself that she had hoped death would be
the end. She wouldnt want me wasting my money on this rubbish.
I told myself all this as I left the station and took the short walk
to the theatre. I bought one ticket at the book office. I paid cash.
Colin and I had joint accounts and I didnt want him to know what
I had done. I spent the journey home thinking how to go out for the
evening with out Colin realising where I was going. I knew that Colin
would try and talk me out of it. And I very badly wanted to go. I did
not view it as just an evening out. Later as Colin and I ate our dinner
on our laps in front of the telly (now Julie has left home I dont
have to worry about standards) I racked my brain. I suppose
it should be a good thing that I was not used to lying to my husband,
although I couldnt share the good news with him. (Guess what Col,
Im finding it really difficult thinking of a good lie Colin
is not exactly going to be over the moon with that news is he?) I was
trying to think of somewhere where he wouldnt be able to call
me on my mobile.
That night as I was cleaning my teeth it came to me- going to the cinema!
I grinned at myself in the bathroom mirror. It was perfect. Colin hates
the cinema and I sometimes go with Becky. Becky was an old friend from
the antenatal classes, when I was pregnant with Julie and she was expecting
Calum. We have a weakness for horror films and Grudge2 was out. I frowned,
if I pretended to see that film then it would be awkward when I did
want to see it. A voice popped up in my brain dont specify
the film, dum dum. And of course at the cinema I would have my mobile
switched off. I was so pleased with my ingenuity I forgot to feel guilty
or wonder why I so badly wanted to keep it all secret.
It had been years since I had been to The Playhouse; I think the last
time was when I had taken Julie to see Snow White. I remembered it as
being a tatty place, all worn out leather seats and frayed carpets.
The theatre hadnt changed but that night it was crowded. There
were some men there, but mainly it was women. There seem to be lots
of groups of people, all chattering excitedly as we moved to our seats.
I scanned the crowds to see if there were any other loners, but I couldnt
see them. There were a lot of young girls, with their dyed black hair
and tattoos, flirting with death. I couldnt believe they had lost
Is this your first time to see John? The lady sitting beside
me asked. I assumed by her age that she was probably a widow.
Yes. Is it that obvious? I attempted a light laugh, but
it sounded strangled to me.
She smiled, ignoring my question, I see all Johns appearances
that I can travel to. Ive even spoken to him a few times.
I smiled and thought- and how many things have you blabbed to him in
your little chats?
Do a lot of people follow Johns appearances? I asked.
Oh yes, she smiled. I usually see the same faces.
To prove her point, she turned to scan the people milling to their seats.
See theres Ken, I see him at all Johns evenings. Hes
trying to contact his wife.
I followed her gaze. I know him I whispered, excuse
I quickly got out of my aisle, I wanted to catch him before he sat down.
Dad! I called. Dad!
Were a right pair. Dad said. We had left the auditorium
and were in the bar. It was a dingy place that smelt of stale smoke,
the tables were scratched and the upholstery was faded. Dad was nursing
an orange juice and I had a coffee. We would like to have had something
stronger, but we were both driving.
That lady I was sitting next to, she said you were a regular.
I tried to keep my tone from being accusatory. I kept telling myself
Dad had a right to privacy. I could hardly talk, the lengths I had made
to keep it all secret.
That was Dot. Shes got a big mouth. Dad looked up
from his glass, Your Mum..Ive never heard from your Mum.
He looked very sad. I had always thought of my dad as a big man, hes
over six foot tall, but sitting in that chair he looked shrivelled.
I shrugged. Come on Dad. Of course Mum wouldnt come through.
I bet Dots has had lots of I dont know the name for
Messages, they call it messages when you hear from someone who
has passed. Yeah Dot gets her fair share
But Dad she talks to John. She told me herself- shes probably
fed him all this information with out even realising it.
Dad looked at me. Annie my head knows that but my heart doesnt.
Its the same for you isnt it?
My throat got tight and I blinked back the threatening tears. I nodded.
Does Colin know youre here, Julie? Dad asked me and
I just shook my head.
Dad and I sat, our glasses empty and we talked and talked. We talked
about how lonely we felt, how much we missed her and how we had hidden
our feelings trying to protect each other. And how that had made it
so much worse. We were, indeed, a right pair.
Did you know Ive still got Megs ashes? Dad said
as he walked me to the car.
No, I thought the funeral parlour dealt with that.
They were going to, but Dad faltered, I could hear the catch
in his throat.
You dont have to explain Dad. I said quickly. We had
got to my car and I fished out my car keys. Dad put his hand on my arm.
I looked up, we have never been a touchy feely family.
Annie, I want to bury the ashes in the garden. I want to get two
lavender bushes one for you and one for me. I want to bury half
of the ashes in my garden and half in yours. Well have a lavender
bush each, and whenever well smell lavender itll be a way
of remembering Meg. Dad said in a rush, as if I was going to interrupt
him or disagree.
I think thats a great idea Dad. And I kissed him on
his cheek. Mum as compost.
We both giggled.
We talk a lot more now. Not just about Mum, although we talk about her
a lot. Dad doesnt go to see mediums any more. We both know that
we have to make do, the thing we want most will never happen. We have
to cope without her. We planted the lavender bushes over the buried
ashes. Its comforting, I like to feel Mum is close by.
Do you know what I did today? Let me tell you. I went to Waterstones
and blitzed my credit card. Ive got a lot of catching up to do.
When I got home I upended the carrier bag on the bed, closed my eyes
and picked a book. Then, with a cup of tea, I sat out in the garden
and started to read.
© Gina Robertson Jan 2007
gina at shoebury.net
Gina is studying with the Open University
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