My friend Celia and I sat in the garden and talked about dying mothers. We had a conversation in the same vein a few weeks ago in the pub. Celia’s mother has officially been dying for several weeks. She is in her nineties, has had a UTI, has had a chest infection, the doctors say they can’t do anything more, but when she is awake she is lucid and happy. I last saw Celia just before setting off East to Mother’s two weeks ago. She is sharing looking after her mother with her brother, but was home to look after the grandchildren for a change. Now her husband has tripped and fallen on his face, leaving it, she tells me, a purple mess. But she has gone back to her mother’s tonight.
It was a surprisingly upbeat conversation, and we agreed on the weirdness of sitting waiting for someone to die. But MasterB was in the garden too and whizzed about chasing insects, racing up the cherry tree, coming to stop between us, walk over us, rub himself against us. He took to Celia, and wrestled her arm. He is a good reminder that life goes on.
I realise that this time around I know so many more people who have lost one or both parents. My parents were in their thirties, comparatively old for their generation, when they had children, and older than most of my friends’ parents. When Dad died, most of my friends still had both parents. It was isolating. One person at work left me speechless when she expressed surprise that I was still stunned a whole two weeks after he had died. She wasn’t cruel or stupid, but she hadn’t really thought. Within eighteen months both her parents had died. She didn’t recall her comment to me, and I guess had I reminded her she would have been appalled.
Now few of my friends, whether my contemporaries or older, have two parents still living. Having more people near this time who know what it feels like is helpful. They aren’t afraid or awkward around the subject, and realise that we don’t have to be solemn all the time. No one has yet said Mother had a good innings. Fortunate really as both nephews, Nephew’s Wife and I are agreed we may have to slap anyone who suggests that Mother has been playing a game of cricket, and has just gone to the pavilion for tea. Mind, I may have to warn Celia’s husband as he lives, eats and breathes cricket, and may not be able to stop himself. As he is so bruised already, I shouldn’t like to inflict further injury.