Mum: can I switch my computer off while I’m away?
Wendy: yes, there’s a button on the side…
Mum: No, I mean can I just pull the plug out of the wall, I want to use the socket for a timer and side light?
Wendy: Yes, that should work
Mum: can I switch my computer off while I’m away?
Wendy: yes, there’s a button on the side…
Mum: No, I mean can I just pull the plug out of the wall, I want to use the socket for a timer and side light?
Wendy: Yes, that should work
That night in the Turkish bar Mumzie made some witty quip that reminded me of how clever and entertaining she can be in the most unexpected way. Impulsively, I leant over, hugged her, and gently kissed her neck. She whispered
That’s what I miss
I knew she meant dad. We had barely talked of him. At that time, 6 months after his passing, I hadn’t even seen her cry. Not even at the funeral. I was amazed by her stoicism. I’d burst out in floods of tears as soon as I saw the coffin and couldn’t stop until it disappeared from view. Some people were disturbed by mum”s lack of emotive expression, some thought it meant she didn’t care. I didn’t think that. We talked of practical things, of all the bureaucracy, furniture shifting, and belongings sorting that follows a death. We worked our grief through engaging with things and doing.
Here, in Minneapolis, almost a year to the day after his death, I first saw her cry. Mum had accompanied me on a trip here to help me choose a place to live. We visited museums, historic buildings, art galleries and the American Swedish Institute (ASI). In the ASI we looked at traditional Swedish glassware, stoves, decorations, weaving. It was beautiful and very reminiscent of things in my parents home. As we walked into one room mum whispered ‘your dad would have loved this’. She was right, I could see his happy face and hear him telling us stories about his childhood in Sweden as an evacuee during WW2. I gave us a big hug. She knew why I’d wanted to come to the ASI. He’s part of me, I seek happiness in the things that made him happy. Mum and I share memories of dad’s being in a way that cannot be spoken. I think we miss him in a similar way, though I’m more prone to talking, writing, about it.
Recently, during a skype call, mumzie enthusiastically described her first trip to the Lake District. It sounded marvellous, snow capped mountain hikes (she’s 79!), lakes, windy roads, old trains, and then she mentioned the mill. An old mill “Your dad would have loved it”. This time without tears, and I smiled. I visited a Mill here in Minnesota recently and thought exactly the same thing. He’s with us on all our adventures, in spirit. Then mum started talking about the Russian formula 1 race that was on her TV. She described how it’s not as much fun to watch when she doesn’t have someone who cares more about it to share watching it with.
“I know what you mean” the words sounded weak to convey the depth of understanding. So many experiences loose their ‘edge’ when the partner you’d shared them with, enjoyed them with, even enjoyed them because of that partner, is no longer there. So many everyday things that I once engaged-in with agust, have faded from fun things to enjoyable things. As if the loss of a loved one throws a permanent damp blanket on one’s capacity to fully engage with those things.
Loss seeps through the jolly chatter of everyday things
“but where are the people? Where are the shops? It looks deserted and there’s nowhere that looks like a place I’d want to stop and shop”
Mum was a bit baffled by a drive through the heart of downtown Minneapolis, in December.
Downtown shoppers don’t walk on the streets, sidewalks. It’s too goddam cold! Why have a shop-front onto the street if there are no people to be lured into your store by that view? There are shop fronts. I’ve learned that you have to read the shop fronts in a different way. I’m not sure what I’ve learned, but I’ve learned something because I see more than mum.
Wandering, on foot, downtown in the warmer, above-freezing, temperatures of the Spring revealed some beautiful views of the city. Still no people on the streets.
The walk from my apartment to downtown passes a host of sex bars/shops, I counted 6 on one route…A depressing story that there is demand for this and women find it’s the best way available for them to earn a living. I wonder if mum noticed these places?
This area was clearly a seedy part of town, still is. The seeds of change are showing as restaurants, hairdressers, and other ‘local’ services start to emerge between the sex bars. Anyone for chargrilled Pizza?
Mum was unsure whether a ‘draft’ email had been sent or not, she was unsure what to do with it.
“So ‘Save’ is that little picture of the TV?”
This is an update on her original interpretation of the icon as a car with a football underneath. She’d forgotten her original description. Neither icon says ‘save’ to her so she keeps failing to ‘see’ it as a solution to her nameable problem
“Why do I have to give it a Subject?”
Mum uses Facebook and sends paper letters. Neither need a subject line. I showed her the subject lines in her inbox, and pointed out that if no emails had subject lines her inbox would look like a list of name
After 4 demonstrations, 2 practices, some note taking by mum and illustrated sketched steps by me, I think mum may be able to email the annual report to her colleague
My brain tumour is actually quite big, but it hasn’t got any bigger
I nearly fell off my barstool the first time mum mentioned her brain tumour. She talks of her brain scans last year, before dad died. Holding her fingers and thumbs together to demonstrate the circumference of the tumour. Golfball. Is she exaggerating? I hope so. I can hear the Doctors jargon seeping into her story and marvel at her ability to act the story
It’s not where it will affect my eyesight. She closes her eyes
It will affect my balance if it grows. She lifts her left leg and holds her ankle behind her back demonstrating her good balance.
No surgery for mum, mum thinks this is because she’s old, may recover slowly, and brain surgery is expensive. She doesn’t sound too put-out. She sounds pleased – to have avoided surgery. I can empathise with this.
The Sunday newspaper is on the Settee, help yourself. Would you like a mug of tea?
It’s a beautifully brewed tea in a large bone china mug that’s decorated in the style of Charles Rene Macintosh. Mum knows I like his designs and has taken to always giving me this mug, it’s my favourite mug without my having told her. My mug in mum’s kitchen.
Opening the broadsheet in the centre of the sun filled living room floor I read about Oscar Pistoriois‘s trial results, Samantha Morton’s description of her experience in care homes in the UK, and statistics about Scottish voting tendencies. Radio 2, concert in Hyde park, Christy Hynde, plays in the background.
Mum brings over a handful of paint colour swatches. She wants my thoughts on what colours to paint the room. Was dad’s room.. We discuss feature coloured walls, wall paper, curtains, styles. She’s pleased that I’ve given her some ideas.
My mug of tea magically refills, a bottomless mug.
This is the fabulous home that I relocated back to Britain to share, the home I’ll be leaving this autumn. I’ve left many times. This time leaving is coupled with the knowledge that coming back will soon not be possible.
Mumsie: Is there anything you want, before you go (to America)
Wendy: it’s difficult to ask because all the things I want are probably thongs that are special to you too
Mumsie: Oh, I’m going to have to get rid of lots of stuff.
Wendy: The black and white Rackham that I bought dad for his birthday?
Mumsie: Oh good! I’ve never liked that, I managed to get him to keep it in his office for a few years but then he moved it into the front room. I was going to ask you if you wanted it
Wendy: the Bullova watch, I remember him wearing it as an everyday watch
Mumsie: Oh yes, that’s probably quite valuable because it was the first of the new modern watches. It doesn’t work and might not be easy to get fixed without damaging it’s value
I love my mum
She’s 78. I’m banned from mentioning aging. She moans about her 93 year old sister being ‘needy’ wanting mum to come with her on weekend coach tour breaks. Apparently, even if they have separate rooms her elder sister is an insufferable talker who’s deaf. Hmmmmm….. it’s been remarked that I take after this maternal aunt. Must remember to listen, even when I’m deaf.
Mum and I chat a couple of times a week. This is a new thing. It started when I was made redundant in 2009 and I nominated mum as responsible for knowing that I was ok on a day to day basis. Having no regular schedule, there was no one to ‘miss’ me. I called mum at 7pm each day and she had instructions and neighbours numbers to follow up with if I didn’t call and didn’t return her ‘why haven’t you called’ calls. Obviously all this safety infrastructure was not put into emergency action. What it did do was it gave me an excuse to call mum every day, for no real reason. We’d chat if something occurred to us, or just share hello’s if not. A nice habit. One I’ve kept up on a weekly basis since then. A habit that’s been easy to increase since dad died.
Since dad died our calls have been more light hearted and chatty. I’ve enjoyed them much more. They make me love mum even more.
Over the last year the quality of her voice over the phone has changed. I can’t tell if this is my expectations and fears or an actual change. She is still a quick thinker but the ‘crackle’ that I associated with old people dominates what I hear. I hear what she says, but the voice is not the her voice of my youth, and later adulthood. It’s the voice of a delicate old lady.
I love my mum
Sampo has found herself a new home near Birmingham. Upgrading her home to a quirky Georgian house with an adult family. I’ve known one family member since 1987 when we dated for a year. We visited mum and dad in that time. I tried to prompt mumsie to remember him
Me: “The tall skinny one with a curly quiff”
Mumsie: “They were all tall and skinny dear”
Seattle, 2006, I’m 43. A weekend phone call home. Dad always triages the phone calls. One phone is next to his computer. He doesn’t chat, but I’m prepared with a question primed by my annual medical check-up
“Dad, how old was mum when she started the menopause?”
“56 and we’re still suffering!” She was 66 at the time
I was still giggling when mum picked up the extension line…
Retirement home: No onward chain
The watch I wear has a fixed-length strap. The watch tells me the time and fluctuations in my size. Since starting my new job in July 2013, I’ve lost weight. The watch used to be a tight fit, now it swivels around my wrist and slides over the nobbly bit of bone at the base of my humerus
In my previous job I’d gradually grown pudgy and the watch had tightened on my wrist. It didn’t move, the strap left pink patterns indented on my skin at the end lf the day
Dad left two watches when he died. One, a beautiful Longines watch that mumsie had secretly saved for from her meagre housekeeping budget, a birthday surprise for dad. The second an almost identical visual design, a Tissot, that he wore on a daily basis. It’s a little scratched, battered. I remember it and can see it on his wrists in photographs
When I was a child mumsie gave me t-shirt with the word “Tissot” on it. I didn’t know what it meant, but the word was on the fast cars in the formula 1 racing that we watched on the TV every weekend. It was an adult size t-shirt, much to big for my gangly teenage body, I wore that t-shirt to school, proudly. It meant nothing to my friends. To me it was a present from mum, something special to her and dad
After dad passed, Mum gave the Tissot watch to me. I love that watch way beyond it’s aesthetic or monetary value. I get very attached to things
6 months after dad’s death and I’m no longer spontaneously crying. I wonder about mum…
Mumzie just phoned to find out what TV programme I was watching and suggest that I change channels. Then she hung up. Do I need to get a life? Or is there something strangely comforting about the informality and brevity of the conversation, as-if mum had just called me from another room. Yes, I like that call from a virtual room emotionally nearby
We wandered around the computer displays.
Wendy: which one do you like mum?
Mumsie: I can only choose based on how they look dear
Wendy: They’ll all work for what we want them to do, so that’s an ok way to choose
Mumsie: This one has a big space-bar, I want a big space bar. Why is that one [an Apple] so expensive?
Wendy: It’s for people who like showing off that they can pay a lot for their computer, I can’t help you with using that one, I can help you using with all the others.
The large store was very busy in January. We asked for an assistant and were put in a notional queue, we browsed while we waited for an assistant.
Assistant: How can I help you?
Mumsie: I don’t know, we want a computer with a keyboard
Wendy: Mumsie wants to do emailing, share her digital pictures, use Facebook and write the WI minutes. And I don’t want to push her into getting anything she doesn’t feel comfortable with
Mumsie: Oh, is that what we want?!
Assistant: You want a Surface RT, it comes with Microsoft Office installed for writing your minutes
Mumsie: Wendy, is that the ‘Word’ thing that I use? I just copy last month’s minutes and make small changes each month
Wendy: Yes mumsie [turns to assistant] Do any of the others have a version of word installed, and how much would it cost to add Word [annoyed because my surface pro didn’t come with any version of Office, just the option to purchase the full version]?
Assistant: Only the surface comes with Office installed, it is a reduced version but should be sufficient for your Mum’s needs. You’d have to buy and install it on other Windows8 machines
He started talking about Bluetooth and other technical features at this point and I could see mumsie getting disengaged.
Wendy: can mum have a go with it?
He took us to see three Surfaces, each with a different coloured keyboard. Mumsie really liked the keyboard because it had a decent space-bar, but mostly because it was backlit so the letters on the keys were really easy to see. We bought the surface because the value for money and enabling mum to keep using word was important. Then on with the shopping, we wandered off to look at the winter coats. Mumsie carried the surface easily around the store as we continued browsing. Nice. It was like buying a computer had become just another thing you buy on a shopping trip. A bit scary for mum, but it was my money so it all went smoothly. The package even fitted under the table in John Lewis’s café as we stopped to treat ourselves to coffee and cheesecake. Mum doesn’t use a walking stick, but if she did she would have been able to carry the surface easily around John Lewis’s. Well done.
I was a bit scared about how right the Surface RT would be for her, I would soon find out, but that’s another blog post…
We want to buy a senior, computer-novice (Mumzie) something for emailing, sharing digital photographs, writing the Women Insitute meeting minutes and looking at her family on Facebook.
What’s our shopping experience going to be like?
To prepare I did some online searches. Would I be able to sit with mum using my surface, look through and decide between different available computers. No. The choice was overwhelming, the marketing was invariably lists of product features and Spec’s which would mean nothing to mum. There was a lot of reading required, small fonts, technical reviews. It was tedious for me and I could follow what they were writing about.
There was no way mum could choose a computer on the internet, even with me navigating and advising here.
Specialist technical shop?
I wandered into PC World (Currys) to check out what the experience would be like for mum. I wandered around the laptop displays, looked at the labels for each laptop. It wasn’t easy to choose between them even when you know a little bit about processors. A customer service person approached me and directed me towards a Surface Pro telling me how good it was. I started asking him questions and he not only didn’t know the answers he gave me the wrong answers e.g. you can’t buy a Surface Pro without a keyboard attached (which I’d done, so you can!). He was rude and condescending, he started arguments with me and didn’t let me draw them to a close. It was so frustrating that I ended up just walking off, there was no other way to get out of the conversation because he wouldn’t let it close and he wasn’t being helpful.
The company lost a potential sale because of his attitude. No way was I taking mumzie into this ignorant geeky tat-palace.
Shop specialising in service?
John Lewis’s have a department that includes computers, cameras and peripherals. The layout was similar to PC World, the staff were more stylishly dressed and so much more polite. They listened to me, they found out that I was looking for a computer for my mother. They answered my questions or said when they didn’t know and offered to find out for me. Thank you!
The store has a café with a decent menu, the store sells furniture and clothes, and kitchen stuff. Plenty of fun to be had here above and beyond the computer buying experience. A really good context. Hooray.
Mum’s coming to John Lewis with me for a friendly, well rounded, comfortable and possibly even fun computer shopping experience…
In early September 2013 I bought a Microsoft surface. The box is firm, strong and its easy to both see and feel what to do next, pull the white box out from the darker gray box. It’s a tight fit, but smoothly pulls out revealing a continuation of the simple branding, without the typical set of legal, feature, geeky must-know information. Nice.
The white box is opened by a lid, again it’s obvious and easily turned back to open. No latch or catch used because it’s not needed with the sleeve design lf the gray box. Pleasingly simple, it feels like playing pass the parcel with myself, and I’m almost at the prize… The inside of the lid is the same bright blue as the logo on the outside.
The surface is right there, wrapped in a shiny cellophane wrapper, not necessary but I loved being able to see it and having yet another level of the present unwrapping feeling. The power cable was wrapped in the same shiny cellophane, given the same gift status as the actual surface. They were Out Of the Box (OOBE) and plugged in within the minute.
At first I barely noticed the paper user-guide and electronic pen placed under the surface. I didn’t need to notice. The power cable had ‘snapped’ into position on the surface, there was only one place it could go and they were literally magnetically attracted, no need for me to be dextrously precise in placing it. Ooh! NICE! Only 2 buttons on the Surface, one looks like volume so the other must be power. I pressed both as I reached for what I presumed was either a user manual or quick start guide. It turned out to be a 3 page, concertinaed quick start guide labelling all the external hardware features. Easily digested, superfluous yet comforting.
I turned away from the packaging and logged into the surface using my ancient Hotmail account, it was so smooth, quick and immersive that I didn’t take any photographs and was finished in a couple of minutes, relaxed in my comfy chair, exploring the possibilities
There were some minor demo’s of interactions that showed how to find the side controls and search, the bottom of screen controls and the stuff on the right. Possibly some more, I can no longer remember if I was told about or discovered the pinches, flicks, pulls and long-presses. They’re not intuitively discoverable so someone, sometime must have shown them to me.. It wasn’t long until I white screened, while loading my thousands of photographs up to the SkyDrive, which couldn’t cope.
I twitted about this and then got into a frustrating bug-diagnosis discussion with the surface twitter feed. Oh dear, a great start, packaging, went down hill dramatically quickly as the expensive device demonstrated poor usability performance and ill thought-out social media use which merely inflamed my situation. I didn’t learn, over the next few weeks. I had several frustrating interactions with Surface twitter who asked me questions I wasn’t able to answer, making me feel stupid, and not making any noticeable progress to solving my problem. Compiling the anti-climax of my first experience.
Alas, Mumsies experience this January went downhill from when we turned the power on, but that’s another blog post…
Mum and dad had booked a holiday cruise through the Ukraine this summer. Unfortunately dad can’t go (dead). Mum liked the idea of my taking Dad’s place.
The internet is full of news about the rioting in Kiev. Police throwing Molotov cocktails at people protesting their lack of a right to protest. Two too-cute-to-harass elderly ladies should sneak past easily when chaperoned by professional tour guides. Mum says “we might not get to go into some buildings dear, if they’re rioting nearby“.
Kiev and the Crimean Peninsula (Odessa, Yalta, Sevastopol)…. wonderful and rather more exciting than my normal vacations!
Today, at work, in a one-to-one meeting with another woman – she interrupted the meeting to take a personal phone call. Afterwards she explained by saying her father had died in November. This was the first time I just burst into tears in a public, work, situation. She sweetly went on to explain how loosing her father had changed her life. She didn’t cry but commented on how she tended to spontaneously cry.
I told her of how my mother emptying her fridge of the stuffs that she would not eat; things she’d bought because my father liked them, had made a painful impact. Mostly because everything mum wanted to dispose of was something I loved to eat…. it’s these small pragmatic details that bind us and demonstrate the loss in such a concrete way. I enjoy eating. I remember, with
Wendy: You can ‘Save’ it in an address book on your computer. Can you see anything here that suggests ‘save’ or ‘keep’?
I look at the symbol of the floppy disk and wonder what dipstick in the Microsoft visual design icon set development team thought that a floppy disk would be meaningful to youngsters who’ve never seen one and oldies like mum who’ve never used one. While I can’t imagine a universal symbol for ‘save’, ‘keep’ or ‘store’, this symbol clearly misses the mark now and will miss the mark even more with the younger generations to come.
Wendy: What does that look like?
Mumsie: the car driving over the football?
Wendy: Yes! Brilliant, that’s exactly what it looks like, a ‘hummer’!
Mumsie: What’s a ‘hummer’? Someone in a choir who’s forgotten the words?
She’s quickly learnt the symbol now I’ve told her that it means ‘save’, the car saving the goal strike. Mumsie is very bright. Gotta love her and question who was recruited by the windows 8 user testing team to test the legibility of this icon.
Mumsie: I think you’d better read this letter I received with a Christmas card dear, I can’t really explain it. It was a bit of a surprise
She passed me a page of A4 printed letter. The first paragraph thanked mum for her letter, apologised for losing touch over the last decade and talked of how difficult life had been, using vague terms. I assumed this was from one of Dad’s old work colleagues that cared deeply about him and wanted to convey sadness at his recent passing.
The second paragraph explained the ‘difficulty’. This letter was from a woman who had undergone sex change therapy and surgery, now she is a man. Her male partner had also undergone sex change therapy and surgery, he is now a woman. They had changed genders, sexes and swapped names. Living in Yorkshire, they were trying to avoid persecution from ignorance and prejudice. I’m a wee bit surprised, who is this? I skip to the letter’s signature.
Oh, it’s Dad’s half-sister, who I’d encouraged mum to write to, to let her know of his death even though we’d had no returned letters from her last known address for over a decade. Ah yes, a relative. Another one of the colourful House family. Of course, it all made sense. Mum didn’t mind that I laughed.
Wendy: I’ve always thought of myself as being boyish, but happy in who I am, drugs and surgery seem like something people do when they are deeply unhappy with who they are
Mumsie: Dear, you’re not boyish, you’re just the 3rd child with 2 older brothers
I took mum to the hairdressers and wandered around town trying to think of Christmas, stay warm, share the apparent normality of the other pedestrians.
No rush, everything sorted, I just wanted to get it over with. I think we all expected the funeral and wake to bring a closure that might release deep sleep and remove what feels like a physical hangover as if mild alcohol poisoning were running through my blood, amplifying noises, emotions and bringing a feeling of physical sickness.
Mum’s hair looked good. Later she showed me dad’s tie collection. Did I want any? I wanted them all, I wanted to look at them and imagine him wearing them, I wanted to tease him about his taste in ties.
Wendy: “No, I don’t think I’ll wear them and I don’t know anyone who wears ties. That one’s nice“
Mum: “It was your dad’s favourite”
As soon as the phrase ‘parents live’ left my mouth a mental autocorrect screached ‘WRONG! should be – mum lives – mum, mum, just MUM, you don’t have parents now’. I just continued without adjusting my mistake, hoping that I was the only one who noticed this inaccuracy. Mental autocorrect is overreacting slightly. It should be a bit kinder in it’s correction message, I’m not deaf or stupid, just prone to a comfortable, life-long used reference habit.
I’ve noticed mum using the current tense, talking about ‘we‘ in contexts where ‘I’ would now be more accurate. I hope her mental autocorrect is kinder than mine.
I go to the local Chinese take-away for some lovely food, I think of Dad because he liked to treat mum to a Chinese take-away meal on Friday night. I smile. Not an activity that prompted this thought during his life.
Goodness, so many things prompt thoughts that affirm who dad was, things he did. I notice the way I stand when I’m listening to a story, I stand like dad. I’d never noticed before. I hear my voice as I laugh and I hear the faint echo of his intonation. I never noticed while he was alive.
I welcome these spontaneously intrusive thoughts, they are beautiful intrusions, it’s as if my mind is trying to let me know how alike we are, how together we’ll always be. It’s saying,
“don’t worry, you have always been together and you always will be. He’s part of you”
The thoughts often arrive when I’m in the company of others. I say nothing and let the thought roll. I suspect my continually adding “My dad used to…..” to conversations would upset and begin to bore the people I’m talking with. With family it’s different, mumsie happily chatters about dad which I find comforting and I happily join in. My brothers are relatively silent on the topic, their silence makes me suspect they are finding the experience more painful than I.
10 Jan 1932 – 18 Nov 2013
Dad passed-on quickly on the morning of my first day back at work after 4wks leave. We’d had a good weekend before where I’d shared photographs and stories of my fabulous vacation. He’d talked proudly of how he’d worked out why his email was working sporadically and how he’d sorted some deals on internet service to make sure it worked. A good weekend.
Mumsie wants to have the Monty Python theme tune accompany the coffin moving into the incinerator. I love mum for her surrealist humour, which dad shared. The funeral’s going to be a full House production, wonderfully bizarre, I love my family.
Wendy: Mum! I’ve found some beautiful old-fashioned style furniture, like Grandma used to have. It’s imitation 1700’s and probably really from around the 1900’s
mumzie: have you looked inside the doors and drawers to see if it’s labelled? There was a good reproduction furniture maker in Nettlebed
Wendy: Nettlebed?! That’s nearby, Sue Ryder have a beautiful big place there
The end of a warm spring in the mid 1970’s and my skinny little body emerges from an oversized cricket jumper that I’d knitted for myself. As a tall (5″2′) new teen I was rapidly outgrowing my clothes, I looked for clothes that I had some risk of growing into their fit. Mumsie would plan summer clothes shopping trips
mumsie: Darling, do you want a bra?
wendy: NO! I haven’t got anything to put in it
mumsie: I know dear, just asking
Every spring, when I stopped wearing woolly jumpers mum would ask me the same question and I’d give the same answer.
Virtually all of m girl friends at school were wearing Bra’s. In 1978 I tried-on some bras. I couldn’t even fill a 32’A underwired push-up bra. Mum bought me a training Bra. Bra’s are expensive and a rather uncomfortable thing for small gals, even when properly fitted. It didn’t take long for me to convince myself that I didn’t need a bra, and in 1978 Patti Smith helped reinforce that belief.
At the wake, I shadow the widow armed with a fresh cup of tea and a chicken leg from the buffet, it’s her favourite. Since his death she’s barely eaten and is clearly loosing weight rapidly. She needs to eat. The guests line to talk to her, picking up her conversation then moving on. Whenever she catches my eye I offer her the tea and chicken-leg. She sounds proud that Mumsie is here:
“That’s my family over there, meet my sister. OH, you’ve met her before, yes, that’s MY FAMILY“
After most of the guests have moved-on the widow takes a seat by Mumsie and chatters away to her in an almost ‘hyper’ way. Through the ceremony I’d kept my tears under wraps. Here, listening to the widow, tears start to roll on out.
“I’ve never used a credit card. I wouldn’t know how to use one. What will I do? He paid for everything. He was always there. He knew where my saccharin were kept, he’d have the packet in his hand whenever I had a cup of tea. What will I do?”
She rummaged in her handbag looking for her saccharin tablets. The bag slipped in her hands emptying the contents on the floor. I was glad of the excuse to get on my hands and knees under the table and pick up the contents for her.
mumzie: yes, I was here darling, I heard
wendy: that’s a first! we don’t normally actually talk to each other on the phone
mumzie: I know dear, he normally says “that’ll be wendy, you answer it” and hands me the phone
Luckily, I learnt in my teenage years that talking with dad is only warranted if there is valuable knowledge to be shared. Talking to me is not something high on his list of priorities – why would he want to do that?!
Today I called because mum’s brother-in-law has just died. Mumsie talks to move her feelings around, sometimes I wonder how on earth they ended up together, strangely, they fit together extremely well. Dads silence and mums chatter.
Dilemmas faced by the elderly are far beyond difficult
I phone Mumsie regularly, try to visit at weekends if I find that she will welcome a visit. She’s beginning to prefer to be alone, finding reasons to send dad out of the house.
You can hear so much more than what is said in a mother’s voice. In the last 2 months mum’s has changed dramatically from fluid bubbly chatter through a slow jerky rap to a slower monotonous drone.
The doctor took her off the drug that was depressing her and replaced it with Aspirin.
I want her to be happy, this gift is sometimes easy with little things like a family afternoon sleep-over.
Easter Sunday, sated on a tender lamb roast with the trimmings including a cheeky little mint sauce. We indulge in a favoured family tradition, settling down to watch the Boat race. We all support Oxford for reasons long since lost in the Ethernet. Mum suspects it’s because they used to loose a lot when she was a gal and we should support the underdog.
The ‘House’ style for watching THE boat race is diverse. I was the only person who did it with open eyes despite the thick, percolated, coffee supplied by mumsie from one of her 20 or so prized percolators. I’ll call her ‘Grandmum’ because we are in the presence of her grandchildren.
Bros 62 assumes the horizontal position for viewing enhancement. Pointing his beard between his distant toes.
Niece 92 ensures the blood-flow to her head by placing her legs on the footstool mumsie has procured for her comfort. At first I though that niece 92 forgot to put a skirt on over her pantyhose when she left home this morning. Apparently this is a style feature. She is proud of consecutive years of not wearing shorts or a skirt to keep her bum warm. She’s receiving as-it-happens updates from her friends though her much-prized iphone. She’s a tall and creative genius who demonstrates it in many pleasing ways.
Niece 94 is multitasking, she’s a formal thinking high-flyer. Revising for her maths A level while watching the boat race, drinking evil coffee and possibly simulating sleep. What is she doing under that hair? A woman of infinite mystery at just 17.
While sister-in-law has resisted the black attire favoured by her hubby and daughters, she can’t resist the sleep inducing effect of grandmum’s classic 1960’s Parker Knoll rocker.
Synchronised snoring with the cats
Normality temporarily resumed