I’ve spent most of today in a suit and tie, the longest time I’ve spent dressed this way in probably a decade, when I was still a Solicitor and working for the Council.
Nor have I at any time unloosened the top button of my shirt, and tugged at the knot of the tie, as I always used to do the moment I reached my desk, because in the years since I used to regularly wear ties, my neck has shrunk enough for my collars to become non-restricting and loose to start with.
The occasion of this dressing up has been a funeral. My oldest mate’s father died recently after four years of treatment for cancer. I went to support my mate and his family, and to pay respects to someone who I still remembering teaching me the Bible at Sunday School, not that I was ever an enthusiastic pupil.
This was the same church where my Dad was a sidesman. I don’t remember them ever having conversations, but they were contemporaries, my Dad something like eleven months older than him just as my mate is eleven months older than me. Names came up in conversation of those already gone, Tom Penketh, Frank Hyde, Marjory Bullock, that resound in my memory as people my Mam and Dad spoke of oh so long ago.
There was a service at a nearby Church, the Commitment at Dukinfield Crematorium, of which I am all too familiar, and sandwiches at Fairfield Golf Club.
As an atheist, I felt not merely divorced from but resistant to the religious aspects of the Service. As far too often seems to be the case, the whole thing felt less like a commemoration of my mate’s Dad, and more an advert for God, and how good he’d been by taking my mate’s Dad away from him.
But I politely sang the hymns in a low voice (no-one wants to hear me sing in a loud voice), and stayed silent during the prayers (reciting the Lord’s Prayer placed me right back in Elysian Street Mixed Infants and Juniors where first I learned it), because this was not about me, it was about my mate, his family, his Mum. Though in my head I argued which much of what was said, and was angry with it, I would choke before intruding on their grief.
But I was also fighting, in waves that I mastered only temporarily but which swept back again and again, the urge to cry. Because this was all too close to home. My mate’s Dad was 88. My Dad would have been 42 if he’d lived another five months. I don’t begrudge my friend a second of those extra years he enjoyed and I didn’t get, but here in the Church, and at Duki Crem, I was closer than I like to be to that day when the coffin that was the last physical sign of my Dad in this world rolled away.
Outside, after the Commitment, I slipped away for a few moments. Plot C was very close by, screened off from eyes and ears by that mini-plant built here several years ago. It was a moment to pay my private respects, and to be able to allow a few of those tears to flow freely.
Later, I had a pre-Counselling session at Stepping Hill Hospital to which, even via a diversion to Forbidden Planet in Manchester City Centre, I arrived nearly an hour early, still with the knotted tie, and full of the emotions of the morning that overwhelmed the first part of the session, through which I gabbled. It set a pattern that the Counsellor was quick to see, of loss, loss, loss and loss.
But that’s not for here. Home via Tescos, some food and then it’ll be the blanking and blurring of feelings that I can’t handle still. As always, when I do this, thank you for listening and I apologise.