I have made friends via blogging, and met at least four people due to this site, but this year Celia’s cousin has decided to become part of the blogosphere.
I have got to know her here in London, but she lives in Greece. Setting up her blog has been a trial and I know she is still having problems.
She’ll be in the UK next month, and maybe we’ll be gathered around a laptop experimenting. And I hope she is around for the poetry group. We met at the TS Eliot prize readings back in 2013. I had a bad cough and Sally saved me from a lynching by some of the audience by giving me a Werther’s Original.
Poetry. It gets under your skin. Says the things you don’t know you could say; didn’t know how to say. Let’s the feeling flesh out the words as they strip you to your bones.
Poetry. Its riches rediscovered because of Mother’s dementia; the way we found to communicate still when conversation was impossible. The way I could tell her over and over I loved her and she understood. Poetry was where she still had a place in this world. And now she is out of it, where the world still articulates her.
Mother introduced me to poetry. She wasn’t much of one for novels. Not enough time. She liked her scriptures and the psalms; and language. Radio 4 was her university. I was attending poetry group before Mother declined, but the intensity and the thrill of poetry was rekindled by those last years when I would read to her, poem after poem while she held my hand and listened with a tuned ear. Smiled. Squeezed my fingers to the beat of the words. Her passport to a still place in a world that pushed her off balance into fear and anxiety time and time again.
I think it went well. Uncle Bill said he liked the tribute. Everyone liked and admired Uncle Bill. Aged 92, with all his faculties, he told stories about his and Mum’s exploits. He also admitted to fighting Aunt when she was still so tiny she had the fat wrists of babyhood. She smiled beside him and forgave him.
Nephew did the reading with sensitivity and feeling. Corinthians 1 13, verse 4 to the end.
Other Nephew started to rush the poem, but the words caught and held him, so he slowed to their rhythm, and his voice suddenly choked and faltered, and the raw emotion of his feelings crackled in the air.
Mother’s coffin was good. Her flowers were beautiful. People cried, smiled, looked serious.
I hope we did well by her. Being part of the service makes it harder to judge how the whole thing went. I had expected the shorter service at the crematorium to be less powerful, but it brought me up with a jolt. This was goodbye. Her ashes will be delivered to the nice undertaker tomorrow.
At St Pancras, on the way home, after a day in the bosom of my family, I suddenly felt naked and alone.
I was quite proud of how quickly I located the room this time. It was gloriously, fuggily warm. In the short distance from the bus stop, my feet had started to feel like they were turning against me; coldly unhappy in my shoes.
There were four or five of us there. I hugged the radiator and someone asked if anyone had done the homework. We looked at each other as though the question were a trap. I sat down next to the same person I had been with last time. As it turns out, I think that was a lucky chance the first time, and a lucky choice last night. We admitted we have been throwing the word anaphoric around all week.
More people arrived. The tutor came in. This week I am sure he dyes his hair. Well, almost sure. It was time for the class to start and the room was only half full. The tutor decided to wait a few minutes. It always irritates me when tutors or speakers do this. Why should those people who have managed to arrive on time have to wait for those who are late? I don’t get it. Maybe it showed in my face. Maybe it showed in other faces. Anyway he got on with it, swiftly recapping last week’s class and outlining what we would be doing in Week 2. Strangely, he kept saying, “Is that alright?” I don’t know what he would have said if we had answered, “NO!”
He knows his stuff. We get a nice blend of erudition and example, of practice and play.
Had anyone done the homework, he asked. A few reluctant nods. Would we be willing to read? Fortunately one brave soul immediately said yes. She had even made copies of her oeuvre.
“It rhymes,” whispered my neighbour, her eyes wide. “Mine doesn’t rhyme. I didn’t even think of rhymes. Does yours rhyme?”
I shook my head.
It has been a mild day, but all the same, fifteen minutes sitting on a metal bench at Cambridge ststion was more than enough. I was very happy to board the next train.
I have spent the day East seeing Mother.
She was asleep when I arrived, and when she woke was confused and disorientated. A clergyman came to see her. He seemed to feel I was more in need of blessing than Mother. Maybe he was right.
I took the opportunity to discuss funerals with him. My recent experience when my friend Alison died has made me aware how short a time one has at the crematorium. It turns out there is a chapel we can use very close to the home. This was good news.
This sounds crazy, but I really hope this will be Mother’s last Christmas. I don’t want her to die, yet I do. To see her further diminished would be heart breaking.
I had the end of life meeting with a nurse. The things we do and do not want. I signed. She witnessed. This feels better.
Mother ate a good lunch and nearly licked the pudding dish. She drank quantities of cranberry juice.
When I had finished the talking and signing we want back to poetry.
Brilliant. There is no other word for it. Yeats, Larkin, De La Mare, Masefield, Wordsworth, Roaetti. The old favouritea. And Jenny wotsit’s Warning.
Mother held my hand and tapped the rhythms. We sighed. We laughed. We kissed and rubbed noses.
It was lovely. Precious. Special.
I came home on the train with my heart lighter than it has been for weeks.
Aunt is visiting on Christmas Eve with Morher’s close and loyal friend. Nephew is visiting with a Labrador on Christmas Day.