Dad’s story – my eulogy read at his funeral

James Peter Arnold was born in May 1933 in Swanage on the Isle of Purbeck, Dorset. His parents ran a small holding in the neighbouring village of Corfe Castle where his dad was also a driving instructor.

Dad spent his first eleven years in Corfe, sharing life with his parents, his sister, Jill, born a few years later and his cousins who also lived in Dorset. He went to the village primary school to begin with but his parents had aspirations for him so at eight he went to Hillcrest Preparatory school in Swanage.

I think he enjoyed those days in Dorset, he told me of walking over the fields to Dancing Ledge and swimming in the sea, as well as being out on the hills over Corfe Common.

Growing up around animals on the smallholding his love of all things furry and four legged was born and we can think now of his menagerie of cats and dogs that accompanied him through his life.

At eleven he was sent to Gresham’s, a boarding school near Holt in Norfolk and he remained there completing A levels. His parents dreamt of a doctor in the family but unfortunately, dad was not too great at science!

He spent the next five years working in and around London at London Transport and at Vickers, both in admin posts. He was heard proudly boasting in later years of having signed the Official Secrets Act at Vickers, but of course, he couldn’t say why!

In 1956, at 23, he applied to the School of Librarianship at Loughborough College, where he spent a couple of years becoming a Chartered Librarian, the career he would follow for the rest of his working life.

He loved the classification work and the book binding elements of the course particularly. And it was here that he met Alfreda, our mum.

They were married in March 1959, a small wedding with just close family. They started out married life in Northamptonshire but jobs moved them around the country. By the time Chris, their son arrived in 1963 they were living in Clacton on Sea and by the time Rosemary arrived (that’s me!)  in 1966 they were living in Wall Heath in the suburbs of Birmingham.

Mum and dad could not have children of their own so Chris and I were adopted. Sometimes this fact feels easy and sometimes more difficult, but dad never once made a distinction; we are his children he would say and nothing else was important.

1968 saw a move to Doncaster and dad became a district librarian with particular responsibilities for the mobile libraries.  I think this was a job he really enjoyed and would like to have stayed in but the local government reform of 1974 saw his job literally disappear as the West Ridings vanished!

The family moved first to the moors over the west side of Doncaster and then finally to Mirfield as dad got a senior job in Kirklees libraries, based in Huddersfield. He stayed there until he was made redundant in 1985.

During all these moves and changes, one constant for the family was the annual pilgrimage at half term down to Dorset to see family and friends. Dad’s dad had died suddenly in 1960 and I know this was a massive loss for him, his sister moved away to live in Switzerland and married over there so only his mum remained and she stayed in Corfe until she died in 1998.

Every year we would go and stay with Granny Goose, we all called her this as one legacy from the small holding days was she still kept geese in her back garden. Dad’s Uncle Emil and Auntie Joan lived at the seaside at Swanage so some days were spent down there as a family or on Studland beach nearby.

Dad didn’t have a great number of hobbies during his working life but he had inherited a stamp collection from his grandfather on his 21st birthday so this was where his love of classification and order would be exhibited. He was not a fastidious man in many ways (who can forget the cat haired trousers and the fights to get him to change out of them to go out for meals!?) but the stamp collection in big leather bound files with thick squared paper pages classified by country was pristine. Sunday afternoon he would spend sorting and sticking in collections that arrived, first day covers or single stamps he wanted.

His other great love was, as I have said, the furries that he chose to spend his life with. His beloved Susan, the spaniel he had as a young man, and then Furzy and Pearl, the dog and cat Chris and I knew first as children.  Then numerous cats and dogs, all special in their own way and all, of course, great providers of the pet hair we fought over!

Dad seemed to have a way of collecting waif and strays so the pets he had were always from shelters or ones that literally came in from the street.  In the later years he and I shared many calls over Tommy, the feral ginger tomcat he worked really hard to tame. Then there was Jack who was so timid he literally hid under cupboards. Dad got them to come to him and it was immensely pleasing for him to succeed at gaining their trust and love.

His special attention was also directed outside, where he always put food out for the birds and particularly at Great Hale he was delighted with “his” family of hedgehogs always fed in the shed.

After his working life was done, dad was heavily involved in voluntary work. He used to visit Kirkwood Hospice in Huddersfield and drive for visitors and patients there. Once he and mum moved to Lincolnshire to retire in 1991 he was involved in the hospice in Sleaford as well as the voluntary car service in Heckington, where they lived.

Dad was fond of secrets, so he was ideal for a secret society and he became a Freemason during his forties and remained so for many years, joining lodges in Yorkshire and his alumni, Greshams. I am not sure this was a popular move for everyone as mum was upset about the time it took up and Granny had religious reservations. Nevertheless, he persevered and rose through their ranks, changing the colour of his pinny (his word!) as he went!

The regalia were kept pristine, in sharp contrast to his other attire; I remember as a child we always had running conversations about where the yolk from his breakfast boiled egg might end up on his tie!

As part of the Arnold family heritage he became a liveryman of the Fishmongers’ Company, when he was 21, as his father and grandfather had before him. Fishmongers is one of the oldest livery guilds in the City of London and has close ties to his school, Gresham’s.

Invitations to black tie dinners in the Fishmongers’ Hall by Blackfriars, and to the oldest sculling race in the country, the Doggett’s Coat and Badge, along the Thames were exciting to attend and dad tried to rotate his invitations so everyone in the wider family had a trip down to London.

Dad was not always the easiest of people to be with or to know. As his family, we saw the stresses and strains of his life and the struggles he had at times, but I know he lived in Great Hale as he wished and was more content here.

He had his animals and he had his own particular habits. He loved to read thrillers and crime stories and he would always enjoy a good classic old film on the telly, as well as liking a variety of musical styles from baroque and early church music to jazz and swing, but he never modernised beyond about 1950 to be honest! This lot plus his voluntary work and such groups as Probus filled his time well.

He relished time travelling with cruising on the high seas being a great pleasure. Sometimes he and mum would go off but he also went round the Baltic and across to the Caribbean as a solo traveller.

He gave Chris and me a huge gift last year when he bought us, as a family, a 5-day cruise on the Saga Pearl. We mended bridges and cleared air that needed clearing, and he gifted us the opportunity to become a family again.  I will always be grateful to him for that, particularly as largesse was not his usual style!

He was very distressed when mum passed away in 2014 and although their marriage had its ups and downs they lived in a sort of symbiosis and it was a tough blow when she died so suddenly.

His own physical health was always a struggle and he succumbed to a heart attack only a year later, as well as beginning the tricky period where falling became a real issue. This led to an unfortunate stay in Boston Pilgrim in September last year, whereupon he was so ill it was deemed unsafe for him to return home to live alone.

This was when York House in Billinghay came into our lives. He went there last October and lived there until his death, being rude to staff and blustering at every opportunity! My brother and I both visited with our partners at various times over his stay and over his last week in particular. I can say we were all moved by the level of affection and care he garnered from the staff; for all his grumpy old man (his words, again) he had a blue eyed twinkle and a little wry smile that was hard to resist even when he was being outrageous!

As I have made phone calls and talked to people about him after his death they have said he was funny or he was clever or witty, and I have heard he was loved. Thank you to all those here, and elsewhere, that helped him when we, his family, could not.

His attitude to being over there (gesture to the coffin) can really be summed up in a comment from him. Chris, Jane, John and I sat in his room at York House the afternoon after he died doing some initial sorting out, we sat as a family and laughed and cried as you do at these times.

Dad’s love of order had been so systematic that he had planned for events that needed to be attended to after his death.  He had given to Chris some years ago a Life Book as a way to annotate the necessary actions for dealing with any illness, and to help us at this sad time. Dad only wanted it to be used after he died so a section about medication was completed in his spidery writing. It said “Not filled in because when this is read I will be dead” and dead was underlined twice.

RIP 30.05.1933  – 08.08.2017

Thoughts for a new year

I haven’t written anything for so long, hardly even journal entries, so it was quite a surprise today to be sitting in the car, unusually travelling in the back, and for words to come unexpectedly. I was in the back because my father in law was coming to stay and needed to be in the front with J. I was musing on how I felt at the start of this visit compared to other visits and these words came to me:

“If I let my mind stop insisting
that all will not be well,
I can feel a small sense
of peace I hear tell from others
more serene than myself”

This after I had read Mary Oliver’s powerful poem, Snow Geese

Oh, to love what is lovely, and will not last!
What a task
to ask
of anything, or anyone,
yet it is ours,
and not by the century or the year, but by the hours.
One fall day I heard
above me, and above the sting of the wind, a sound
I did not know, and my look shot upward; it was
a flock of snow geese, winging it
faster than the ones we usually see,
and, being the color of snow, catching the sun
so they were, in part at least, golden. I
held my breath
as we do
sometimes
to stop time
when something wonderful
has touched us
as with a match,
which is lit, and bright,
but does not hurt
in the common way,
but delightfully,
as if delight
were the most serious thing
you ever felt.
The geese
flew on,
I have never seen them again.
Maybe I will, someday, somewhere.
Maybe I won’t.
It doesn’t matter.
What matters
is that, when I saw them,
I saw them
as through the veil, secretly, joyfully, clearly.

What gorgeous gifts to receive on New Year’s Day!

Thoughts…

Today so far have read uplifting things and had a lovely soulful chat with John… these really really helped. I talked about how amazing it is that my life feels so different in such a short time: dad, Chris, my own personal growth and some adult self that seems more certain and appears to stay around more often. All in this current year! Plus my lovely group of new friends, again all since the start of this year! Wow!

I am going to stay with the positive, Judy gave me a good bit of advice yesterday, she said she uses the criteria of how much shit would she bear and what is the most emotionally good thing for her to do (we were talking in the context of our families and the aged parents/siblings etc ) when deciding how involved or what actions she takes. I think this might work for me in anything! So, I adopt it and today I did not start by reading the news or anything of the fuckwittery in the world of men, or depressing stuff. I read Brainpickings and some intelligent and thoughtful writing, I wrote a couple of good communicating emails to ladies in my life who care, and then I had an honest and soulful conversation with John. These feed me… I need to remember!

It is not that all the things we speak of are joyous and light, but hard and emotionally heavy things are easier when shared with a good connection and soul friends, and with John… that leaves me feeling blessed that I have these opportunities.

I feel like I have been wordless for a while. I appear to have found some!!

Awake August – small stones

The Writing Our Way Home people  ( http://www.writingourwayhome.com)  have begun an August project where we write and share a small stone poem for each day of August.  A small stone is described as “a few words that point to a moment” and given that I have had a dry July it feels like a way back in to writing. I will post one small stone here each day through August, and take it from there…

August 1st

Trees breeze in
as rain tickles leaves
and wind pats them dry

August 2                                                     Grapes

Small green parcels
bunching up
juicy pockets of pip and pulp.
Homegrown!

August 3

A deathly hush in the doctors’ waiting room
sharply broken
by a toddler’s shrill scream
struggling with a red toy car

August 4

Spilt soil, I stand and stare,
the back dirt sinks into the carpet
as I watch.
I clear up the earth silently
surprised by my own serenity!

August 5

Small white Apple flickers
I wait impotent as updates
with new defences are added.
Being mindful of this moment
I write a small stone.

August 6

Furious flying through the garden
a sudden silence –
birds are not twittering.

A single feather floats down.

August 7

i am trying to ignore the cat, she makes sure I hear her displeasure.

August 8

Coming from the west
our man-made moon
sails across the space above
setting silently as a star
in the east

August 9

Small green eating machineimage
Stomach on legs
Camouflaged
Except for the small black dots
Discarded on my kitchen counter
Telltale signs of my basil stowaway

August 10

Pied mischief makers
pile into the garden
bouncing across the lawn, clacking
barging and strutting
intimidating pigeons and sparrows alike.

Mealworm treats entice
more strident mobsters each day,
this morning, thirteen.
Unlucky for some!

August 11

A found poem:

How Does a Caterpillar Turn into a Butterfly?

To become a butterfly, a caterpillar first digests itself.
But certain groups of cells survive,
turning the soup into eyes, wings, antennae.

The story begins with a very hungry caterpillar
hatching from an egg.
The caterpillar stuffs itself with leaves,
growing plumper and longer
One day, the caterpillar stops eating,
hangs upside down from a twig or leaf
spins itself a silky cocoon

But
How does a caterpillar rearrange itself into a butterfly?

First, the caterpillar digests itself,
enzymes dissolve all of its tissues.
If you cut open a cocoon at just the right time,
caterpillar soup would ooze out.

A group of cells known as imaginal discs
survive the digestive process.
A disc for each of the adult body parts
Some caterpillars walk around with tiny rudimentary wings
tucked inside their bodies,
though you would never know it by looking at them.

Once a caterpillar has disintegrated all of its tissues
the discs use the protein-rich soup all around them
to fuel rapid cell division required to form
wings, antennae, legs, eyes,
Certain caterpillar muscles are preserved in the adult butterfly.
Moths remember what they learned
in later stages of their lives as caterpillars.

Getting a look at this metamorphosis as it happens is difficult;
disturbing a caterpillar inside its cocoon
risks botching the transformation.

A Tussah silkmoth failed to spin a cocoon
see the delicate, translucent jade wings, antennae and legs
a glimpse of what usually remains concealed.

August 12

Piles of clothing on the bed
some new, like today new,
some old and worn.
What to pack?
An enigma, quandary
and drama!

August 13

Long lunch with a lovely friend,
talk turns to sweet smelling toilet facilities
and eucalyptus.
Let’s bottle koala farts
that would do the trick!

August 14

Birds busy at the feeders;
table full of blackbirds kicking seed,
variety of tits on nuts.
And a rabbit
Where does he fit in?

August 15

Evening clouds,
shepherds delighted all across the county.

August 16image

Quiet room

cool space.
Under the stairs
a window on the world beyond
it’s hot out there!

August 17

Red juice slow dripsimage
Gin soaked raspberries
dangle
Muslin stains in its work
While I relish the results.

 

August 18

Today’s work is pulling thistles
Feels like I am pulling up my roots
Scotland is far far away

August 19

Builders’ hammering.
Nail guns sound
like shotguns.

I need to beat a retreat.

August 20

In the dying daylight I go out
in the dusk to put hedgehog food
in the bowl, the rustling wind
In the trees reminds me I am
in the moment, listening.

August 21

Sunday morning
casually read the news
a growing sense of abhorrence.
Above the line all gold medals
honour and smiles.
Below, horror, rape and terror
relegated into silver.

August 22

A box is opened today
packed in a previous life
revealing lost treasures
suddenly it is 1991
and I am marrying
for the first time

August 23

Cloud watching from the hammock
on this humid afternoon
a cheetah running
followed by an ice skate
just one…
more swirling and it turns
into a suit of armour

August 24

Green fields
speeding train
a bolt of black and white
the sheepdog bounds
chasing the carriages

August 25

Summer rain
beats on the windows
of my glass house
Summer feels like autumn
days are colder, shorter
Mist clouds
my vision

August 26

Busy days but not much present
I stop to breathe and catch the time
standing still
waiting for me to notice

August 27

The neatness of my packed suitcase
contradicts the chaos in my head.

August 28

Yesterday all about travelling,
stop, start, stop, stop
mostly stop on the M25

Overnight we have turned French
And we are stopped again
much happier this time!

August 29

Ruth must know something!

The healing power of waves
and a family rift is flowing closed
I will return from this time on the water
A sister once again

August 30

The murmuring shush of the sea
softens the burbling banter
of the biddies
as we await the ferry

August 31

Me: I went into the ladies and there was a male steward handling an orchid.

Husband: That’s a small stone right there!

The Alchemy of Poetry

The next few months look like they will hot up in the writing life stakes. I have joined a local writing group where the majority of members seem to be poets, and I am attending a local (different) group where, at the January meeting, I am due to read my own work to the unsuspecting public (which is really other, very sympathetic, poets!) I have also signed up for a four-month course to learn the craft of poetry creation more formally, and I am looking forward to this very much indeed.  It has a well-known poet as the tutor and only a small group of students so I should get some good feedback and learn lots.

This exposition takes care of what is happening out in the external world to feed the soul with new inputs and to create threads to hold me to the work that I need to do, but that is only half the story. Recently I have been thinking about the alchemy of poetry and the connection it has to my heart and soul. The ability for what look like ordinary words on the page to take on this magical property when in the right order and turn into an exquisite masterpiece of language and meaning – to make something opaque appear transparent, (or even something always thought of as clear look opaque!)

Through the work of David Whyte and Oriah MD, plus many other more, I have seen poetry work on a soulful level. The books by Roger Housden  in the series “Ten poems  to…”,  particularly the first one “Ten Poems to Change Your Life” are full of such work, and essays about how they have done just that. These writers make for inspirational reading. Sometimes though it is hard to see what it is that is being said – there is a certain way to look at poetry, a bit of an art to reading and absorbing a poem (like the art needed when looking at Magic Eye 3D pictures from my younger days!).

Kim Rosen says the following in her book “Saved by a Poem: The transformative power of words”:

In order to enter poetry’s language, your grip on habitual, left-brained ways of processing information needs to soften. Somehow we know how to do this with music and art. You probably wouldn’t try to figure out the exact meaning of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony or Ella Fitzgerald’s scat singing. Nor are you likely to do a pragmatic analysis of an abstract painting by Georgia O’Keeffe or Jackson Pollock. You feel these art forms. You allow associations to play through your awareness. You let your linear mind relax and go for the ride.

As you read poems, listen to them, and speak them aloud, try meeting them as you would a piece of music. Allow your rational, linear brain to relax. Dare to not understand, to lose your grip on making sense of the words. Let the images, like musical notes, pour over you. The French philosopher Gaston Bachelard writes that poetry “comes before thought . . . [R]ather than being a phenomenology of the mind, [poetry] is a phenomenology of the soul.”

This is beginning to make sense to me; the alchemy of turning words into poetry and the language of the soul. I hope to be doing more of this in my own work and finding the soul food in others’ poetry as I really start to understand and appreciate the magic in making of verse.

 

Word workings

I really enjoy finding information, and particularly good graphics, that help make my writing tighter and more impactful. Here’s a great reminder I found today:

5 Weak Words to Avoid & What to Use Instead (Infographic)

The mindful life

In my new life I have been introduced more fully to mindfulness by J. In my old life I had read about meditation in Charlotte Joko Beck’s  “Everyday Zen” and “Being Zen” by Ezra Bayda, books well received in their field where both were said to explore the subject with an admirable clarity, but to me they were like reading about a strange land in a foreign language. Even if I tried to be mindful I really didn’t seem to grasp it. Although I was curious and receptive I do not think I was ready, not ripe for the mindful life, there were other things in my emotional and mental inner world that needed attention first.image

Moving on ten years, then J and I started practicing mindful meditation with John Kabat-Zinn’s material back in the summer of 2012 when the proverbial hit the fan emotionally. It was a way to uncover the falsehood in my thinking; the believing it represents reality. From this work, I discovered our thoughts “are real but not true” to quote Tara Brach, another great teacher in this spiritual tradition. Also that leaning into feelings rather than attempting to suppress them helps to disempower and dissipate them as they are contacted through the sensations in the body – ‘befriending’ them as Mark Williams et al write in their book “The Mindful Way Through Depression”.

Not for the first time I have had the incredible experience of returning to a book that I had “read” in  my younger days and finding that the words make startling sense this time. The meditation books, the books on Buddhist philosophy and practice are now full of clarity for me, and I understand more absolutely not just with intellect; a felt sense of knowing you might say. Since their first reading a huge amount of life has happened; deaths, divorces, depressions, redundancy, relocation and remarriage for starters, but also my mind has been opened by the teachings and experiences of the writers and luminaries of the Buddhist and eastern traditions.

The bigger shift has been into practice; it is one thing to read about all this stuff, but quite another to put it to use as a formal practice of meditation. I started sitting for a 20 or 30 minutes meditation back in the early summer and now want to make a daily practice. Conversation with J deduced that my practices (meditation, writing, exercise) all need a stronger discipline, some order to make them a reality on a daily basis, or at least more regular practice than once or twice a week. In this new life I need to allow a routine to evolve and a new wellbeing practice to emerge that involves all the things I love…

 

Lilli

We weren’t going to get a cat we said; we liked the freedom of being able to take off when we wanted to, and at holiday times not having to think about organising care for said cat, plus we were renting in properties that were not open to pet ownership. So that, we thought, was that.

We both had beloved cats in our past lives, and left cats behind with our ex partners. I, particularly, was bereft when D and I separated and  I couldn’t take Squiggy. It felt like I had left a piece of me behind, but she had a home and was with her brother who she’d lived with all her life, so I decided it was best to leave her as a Granary cat.

Roll the clock forward four years and my mum dies. This is tragic, and difficult enough, but she had four cats that we have to re-home…

Three of these are “new” cats – well mum had them as kittens two years previously, but I didn’t know them very well as one was a mad kitten (Perky by name, perky by nature) and the other two hid under the kitchen cupboards every time I visited. And then there was Lilli.

10476459_10153900516669045_6174357684494487292_n

She had been a tenacious rescue kitten from the RSPCA. She was found on top of a garden shed with her litter mates, none of whom survived, and she was only 8 weeks old when mum brought her home on 8 June 2001. Mum had also just got a tom cat kitten called Gulliver  and as the new arrival was so small she decided to call her Lilliput, or Lilli for short. I have known Lilli a long time and she was the only one that I considered making ours, but that meant we were getting a cat!

After mum died we came back to our house for a few days between doing the initial sorting and “death run” (collecting the death certificate…registering the death… will reading…house sorting) and the funeral. While we were back home, amongst other things, I tried to consider the effect of bringing home a cat. In a funny way I knew I would end up with Lilli. While mum was alive she had up to six cats at a time, and I would berate her for her “mad cat woman” look and the fact that often the cats ran riot in what was a very chaotic house to begin with, so it really didn’t help having lots of felines and their mess to manage. Mum would be cross and then ask if we wanted one of them. I had said I would have LIlli, but mum replied she wasn’t offering me her!

When I did decide finally that I could not bring the cats from my old life as  I could neither separate my cats, not D from either cat, I told him it was OK and that J and I would find a cat that fitted here in this house. I didn’t know then how that would work, but the universe was making the space for Lilli. She had always been in a multi-cat household at mum’s, and dad said she wanted to be an only cat. Well, she got her wish, on 4th December last year she moved in with us. Two days after my mother’s funeral we loaded up the car with her in a basket, and as much cat paraphernalia as we could muster from mum’s house. We had sprayed her basket with Fellaway, which is a pheromone spray to calm the feline nerves – worked a treat, not a peep from her on the four hour journey here, the longest time she has ever been in a car. We did refer to it as drugging the cat, but that and a plug-in dispenser of Fellaway in her room here did wonders for her settling in.

She did seem to be at home very quickly,and over a couple of weeks explored every bit of the house.10885030_10153493119384045_6181903743810070078_n The wood burner in the living room soon became a firm favourite as she craved warmth, and the winter days it was lit she was always parked somewhere near. She was a bit skinny and waif like when she arrived; no teeth meant she ate slowly, and the “new kitten”, Perky, at mum’s had taken to stealing her food. We heard her growl at him while we were house clearing after the funeral –  I haven’t heard her growl once since she has been with us.

She has always been a vocal cat, and has shouted to be heard. Mum gave all her cats voices, and Lilli’s was a yelled “HELLO! I WANT ….”. Now she is an only cat her voice has grown more varied and more mellow. She will still shout, particularly when she is saying “WHERE ARE YOU!?” as she has found herself upstairs and we aren’t anywhere to be seen, but she will also churp and wurrup when we are closer. Her food noise “MMMMM…EHHH” has been received into J’s and my lexicon as the “I want food!” demand for all of us,  and her purr actually became audible after about three months – I had never heard it before.

And so we do have a cat; she is now doing more happy cat things; she rolls, she stretches out; she does more washing of herself and she does like to be fussed (on her terms of course!) She is far more sociable than I ever knew; she will walk round the garden with us, and11403461_10153961762219045_4451546741847466703_n sit in which ever room we are occupying – particularly the kitchen where she knows ham may be in the offing. She loves to perch on our knee, and will demand we sit down for her, or she makes a bee-line for the sofa when she sees an available lap. This is a revelation as I always considered her quite a grumpy cat when she lived with mum. I now think she was not happy with lots of other cats, especially as she got older, so is relishing her queen bee status with us.

And we are relishing our cat servant status again too. She dominates our morning routines with breakfast and litter trays (and possible vomit on carpets cleaning – never known such a vomiting cat!) While at 9.40pm she will move to her intercept position on the top of the stairs on the way to her bedroom and demand we put her to bed, after her supper, naturally.

It does of course mean we have another responsibility, and more planning is needed for trips and holidays, but the flip side is we have the satisfaction of providing a lovely retirement home for the old girl, and we are all enjoying her coming into her own at the grand age of fourteen and a half.

Taking care of her is an honouring of mum too. Lilli and I shared an adopted mother and both of us had our lives changed irrevocably when she died, I like that we can be together now taking our shared past with us

 

The last few months

These have not been “frost free” months emotionally, I have been processing much about the unfamiliar life without mum, and the new life I have chosen after our big, big changes last year (moving areas, our marriage and J’s retirement).

There have been some happy days and some sad days, such is life I guess, but the roller-coaster has felt more than a little out of control at times, and with some mountainous ups and downs. When life feels like that  I tend only to write in my journal (a lot!) and any creative writing is limited to short poems. This means I have been absent from the blog pretty much all this year.

It hasn’t been an overly creative period but there are poems from the last few months that I want to share here. They concern “roots of family history, place, emotional growth and development.”, which, as I noted when introducing this site, I created this blog to explore. They talk about how it was, what I saw and how my parents lived. Not easy reading maybe (certainly not easy writing) but it is my truth and I am honouring it, moving on with it and letting it be. There is something about these words resting here that means I am letting them go, putting them down, and, finally, being freer from the past. (And thanks, Linden, for your loving conversation with me about these thoughts that helped me to start to put into words why I am sharing here.)

 

It wasn’t what I would have chosen

He said
The only tell-tale sign of regret
In those words

So,
In future
Cards go to his address
And flowers
Go to hers

 

Look mum

They all came,
the cousins and the friends.

“No one would care if I lived or died.”
She said.

Look mum,
at the warm friendship
and soothing affection.

“No-one loves me –
Except, maybe you.”
She said.

Look mum,
at all the condolence cards
and fond memories shared.

“I would be better off dead.”
She said.

 

 

What he knows now

He remembers her now
With fondness
And love,

He tells the six grieving strangers
at the bereavement group
“I loved her; I loved her for 60 years”.

He talks to her, he reads her poetry!
“She would like that”, he says,
When is the last time he did that, I wonder?

On her last day, round her bedside, we sat,
He held her hand,
“It was years since we touched” he said.

 

 

The Diaries

They crouch chronologically, as I left them
in the box I brought here
from the chaos of those times.

They hold secrets
for me; my life, her life
told in loads
of washing
and ironing, and resting
and rows.
Told in letters for Granny
and tales of pets.
Thirty years of life in that box
just like her.