I’ve posted a couple of times previously about my annual visit to Dukinfield Crematorium to pay my respects to mt father, who died in 1970, when I was three months short of my fifteenth birthday. I’ve been mourning his loss, and the effect of his absence upon me, for longer than he lived, and for three times longer than he was there for me.
In a short while, I will be traveling to the Crem to pay my respects to my mother, who died twenty-five years ago today. I was with her when she died, saw what I firmly believe was the passing moment. Though she had been in severe pain for the last seventy-two hours of her life, I know she died in peace, in her own chair, in her own home, among her own things, with one of her children with her, though whether she knew I was there is another matter, upon which there is no answer.
The two visits have always been different. I missed my mother, but I did not suffer her absence the way I did with my Dad. I was an adult, I had just turned 36, as she had just turned 65 (our birth-dates were six days apart), I had my own home. I had been in love and been in a relationship that was still active, albeit fitfully, but which would still last another six years.
And my sister and I had had notice: she had been diagnosed with lung cancer seven months earlier. There is a world of difference between being a child whose father is immortal, even through twenty months of illness and hospitalisation, and an adult with forewarning, who has already lost all his grandparents.
In the early years, I would always take flowers. Mam loved flowers, especially red roses. She always brought them for Dad so I brought them for her. I did consider taking over bringing them for Dad, but after all that time – she had outlived him by 21 years – it would have seemed false: he’d have hardly recognised them as coming from me, would he?
But flowers in late December? When it was always icy and fingers were frozen? Finding them to buy them was bad enough but out in the open, they’d hardly last. it seemed wrong, cruel almost to the flowers. For twenty years or so I have gone on my own, and talked to her as I have done with my Dad.
It’s been a shitty year, not that I’d have ever dared to use language like that in front of my mother, who was strict and, one could almost say, domineering. I grew up with issues with her. Maybe I’d have had similar issues with Dad, had he lived, I can’t know, but in the optimism of such things, I believe not, just as I believe that if he’d lived, he’d have at least tempered those issues. My mother became a widow at the age of 43, with two children and little money. She never re-married, she never even dated.
Whether I’d ever have gotten to the point of confronting her, I don’t know. She wasn’t a person you could easily confront, not about personal issues. What I did know was that, from the moment she told us about her cancer, and the Doctor’s confirmation that it was fatal, “months, not years,” I knew that I would never speak of these things to her. I couldn’t do that to her, no matter how much it might help me to speak of such things, to protest.
She’d only have told me that I was exaggerating again, reading too much into it, overthinking.
It’s been a shitty year, but not in every respect, merely overwhelmingly so. In the summer, I received a course of counseling, long overdue, dealing with my feelings of grief, of inadequacy. Forty-six years after the fact, a large part of it was bereavement counseling for my Dad. It was tremendously beneficial. It didn’t ‘cure’ anything. It didn’t change facts, didn’t relieve me of the effects of things done and undone, yet it helped enormously. Someone listened. Someone understood, reflected, validated my emotions after a lifetime in which they were either derided as being ridiculous, or more often buried under the surface and allowed to fester, because I knew they would not be regarded.
Something else happened after that, a revelation for which I was completely unprepared, that has wounded me on a very deep level. It’s something for which I have taken responsibility, accepted instantly guilt that may not be mine but which I am constitutionally unable to see in any other light. A failure by a failure where I most should not have failed. No matter how much I’ve grown, no matter how self-confident, relaxed, mature I’ve become, no matter how much I know that that confidence in myself is justified, there are things that if done at the right time will lock you in and never allow you to escape.
It will be a conversation long overdue, far too late, and far different today than any that have come before. Having it out with someone who isn’t there to listen. But there is no other time or place where this can be done.
Thank you for your ears to listen.