Reading Speccy’s post about mothers, teeth, death and all that (and thanks to her for the way she has offered up my poem) has had me remembering all today that October 2012 is the twenty year anniversary of when my father died. My mother had died just six weeks before, her heart stopped, while Dad was in hospital. Then he died, he just stopped.
What with all the worries and other stuff going on, that October in 1992, feels like when mourning started for both of them – sometimes one, then the other, sometimes together. Just like they were for the last few years in and out of the hospitals, worrying about each other, and us, their three daughters, Darby and Joan style. Born 1909, met age 13, had on-off friendship through their 20’s, married in 1941, had three daughters, they were each 83 years old when they died.
Dad had been ‘semi-ill’ for some years, suffering balance/arthritis/stomach problems and general old age for a longish stretch – the contents of a chemists shop on the bedside table. He always thought ‘he would go first’. Then Mum had learnt only two years before that the breathlessness, suffered still playing golf, was because her heart needed a bypass operation. She was told to take it easy in preparation.
OOPs – no-one explained that this was a new concept.
They were both ‘well’ right up to death. Able to talk, engage with the ‘stuff’.
Weren’t we lucky really?
A lot to remember. So I left the computer and started to write, as usual, very surprised what came out – it is a very sad poem, there was too much to mourn in 1992. Perseverance, tenacity, endurance… grim stuff. For me, writing poetry is very like dreaming with its capacity to absorb sadnesses and re-create space for living.
Winter 1991- 92. I remember the motorway The rain on it Driving to hospital airport, in-laws, home to parents' house, back to Larne and Stranraer, over and over and again. I remember remembering journeys to Stranraer the stories of a marriage. Too much stuff in the car. Boys singing, joking, yelling eating, sleeping on the mattress in the back. In the years before seat-belts tucked us all in safely. Before the marriage buckled, too much stuff. In the years before twenty-four hour service stations, Someone would not fill up at Carlisle or Gretna Green. I remember sleeping in a forecourt somewhere near Castle Douglas and another time we made it to Newtonstewart, or was it Gatehouse of Fleet, before waiting in that forecourt not speaking much till opening time. Long past sailing Waiting on stand-by. Now, I remember another Christmas, older boys abroad, brought home, to see grand-parents to say good-bye to grand-parents. Their own parents not too grand. Recently separated, the in-laws are ill, my parents are ill, everyone has to be seen, spoken to, comforted, reassured, all will be well. I remember, it rained. I forgot to fill up before Christmas morning. That whole day Smiling, driving, exchanging gifts, one eye open for an open station. Not one. The needle stopped dropping fixed itself below red. For thirty miles of wet road the empty car crawled home. I am still wondering how it is that sometimes when nothing is left even a car just knows it just has to keep going.