Friday, 25 January 2019
Back "home"... rushed cremation and revelations.
Before I begin this missive - I'm sorry if it turns out horrible or takes anyone reading back to a painful time in their own lives... this place right now is pretty much my uninterrupted sounding board. ... AND , by virtue of the automatic requirement to 'self edit' my thoughts before posting them, it hopefully oughtn't be too controversial.
We left Leeds on Sunday morning after a brief stop on the water river services station to top up with water, empty the black water (the pump out machine on the river being the best one in the area) and also rinse the roof down abit. For a change, there was barely any wind and although a bitter cold day, the journey down stream on the river Aire was as pleasurable as it could be. Admittedly we WERE going a little faster than we'd usually do - we really did just want to GET back to Stanley Ferry... well I say we - Andy would have been happy for us to stay in Leeds and operate from there for the forthcoming obligations. That's an awful word... 'obligations' - but it's true... no one REALLY wants to "do" the things that have to be done but we KNOW we have to - however painful they may be.
It was all in all about a 4 & half hour chug... somehow we'd managed to knock 2 hours off our usual time.
Luckily when we pulled up, there was a space on the visitor moorings as near to an (unofficial water point) as you could get. The downside being the amount of dog poo on the bank side... it really does irk me the amount of irresponsible/downright lazy, dog owners around.
Being back at Stanley offered a sense of relief - the river could do what it wanted now as we could walk to the car hire place and had folk around willing to help if called upon.
Trouble is, being "me" - I'm not very good at calling on folk for help... even an offer of a lift to pick up the hire car something I couldn't accept.... stupid really but there we go.
I've bumped in to a few people who know us and just telling them why we're back seems to help... can't explain why - perhaps its some primordial need to share out the misery. I dunno. I've not gone out of my way to see people yet ... it's nice to know they are around but I really dont want to make folk feel uncomfortable.... most of them (being older ) have already been there, done that and bought the proverbial t-shirt... sympathizing with me will only make them re-live their own painful experiences.
On Wednesday afternoon, we set off earlier than required to check in to the hotel in Northallerton and went via my parents home... on arrival we found dad buggering around trying to copy some old photos of Mum to place at the village hall and crematorium. He'd given in and we were no use so he used the originals instead.
It turns out I'd made the wrong call on staying in a hotel - he'd have been happy for us to stay there with him but being a Yorkshire man, (and having paid up front) we went to the hotel anyway.
Whilst we were chatting, he told me whilst sorting through mum's diaries (she's gonna kill him for NOT burning them without reading them as instructed) he'd come across notebooks for my brother and I, which she'd used to record our child hoods - varying from new bikes, first dry night out of nappies to injuries and illnesses.
The entries vary in their content but sitting reading them back at the hotel (complete with bottle of wine to hand) was actually really lovely... it going to show how seriously she took, and how much effort she put into being a mother.
My brother doesn't want his - something I think he'll regret later so I've taken it and will try and pass it on to him when he's had time to process his feelings.
It's odd really - Joyce was very demonstrative and easily discussed feelings... I'm able to express them (although I don't really like people touching me) but my poor brother can't seem to manage either... we're all different and sometimes you'd think we'd had entirely different upbringings...
I've reminded dad that he REALLY should not be reading through her daily diaries as she had left explicit instructions for him to burn them upon her death... suggesting / reminding him at some point in there, he's going to come across long since forgiven arguments between mum and ALL of us - that will cause him pain. He gleefully quipped that he'd done has he was told for 51 years and right now it's giving him comfort... and that he's a big boy and if he's upset by something he reads, he'll take it on the chin (if aimed at him) or rip it out if it'll upset "us" in the future... She'll be furious but he HAS been warned.
For all the pain he's enduring, he is managing to (at least appear) interject occasional black humor through his sadness... he can't bring himself to move her shoes from beside the fire place yet, but he HAS resumed "going to bed" which can only be a good thing... NOT quite so good is the air-rifle he's got next to him on the bed that he's been trying to shoot a rat eating his bird food with out of the bedroom window - he's a terrible shot and thus far, the rat in the garden is looking rather well fed! To be honest, I don't think he really cares ... he'll just buy more bird food - by spring it'll move on back into the local fields/woodlands.
I'm digressing - sorry.
We arranged to be come pick him up about 7.45 yesterday morning to give plenty of time to get to the Crematorium in Darlington for the 9.15 "slot"...
As it turned out, we both woke up about 4.am and unable to get back to sleep, got up and watched tv in the hotel . Annoyingly - a combination of morning ablutions/soaks in the bath we ended up rushing around by 7am to depart.... SNOW had settled a little over night but nothing major - it was on the cards so on arrival at dads, we set straight off to Darlington.
In typical family style, we were first to arrive at about 8.20... with other members also turning up within minutes.
Trust me - yesterday morning at minus 2 degrees Celsius was NOT the day for hanging around cemetery...
Joyce had insisted for as long as I could remember, she DIDN'T want folk to endure the misery of attending her cremation - as far as she was concerned, she'd be long gone to nicer climes anyway so a load of people being sad in an uncomfortable place was the last thing she'd want on her conscience.
As it turns out, neither dad (nor the family) could go through with that and despite a niggle she'd be pissed off, many family members and friends DID brave the awful cold to show support to my dad.
None of us were taking a lead and instead we just sort of hung around the car park awkwardly - not sitting in warm cars like any sensible folk would... instead shuffling from foot to foot on the slippery ground shivering and trying not to cry.
For me, it was all I could do not to blubber constantly - every hug or well intention ed greeting adding to the misery. I know it's supposed to be a comfort but we're British after all and stoicism is "what we do"... it shouldn't be of course - but it's just how we function ... had we been a Mediterranean family, folks would have been throwing themselves on the coffin in the chapel and whaling with emotion... instead we do the next best thing.... form an orderly line and wait patiently for the doors to open.
by about 9, on the surprise arrival of my oldest (longevity) friend - (who'd I'd specifically NOT told when it was so as not to put any expectation on her to turn up... she's not long since endured the loss of her own mother and I didn't want to bring back the awfulness of it for her) I decided someone had better being the walk through the cemetery to the burners - I can't think what else to refer to them as....
Folk soon followed on and then we all ended up standing outside waiting for the doors to be opened - the waiting room (with a little warmth) choc-a-bloc already. It seems ironic that a place which specifically uses fire to dispose of remains, doesn't have any outside heating!
(sorry - that might be too black)... but we WERE all freezing...
The vicar (my nieces boyfriend' father) came out to greet us and his genuine kindness lightened the situation briefly. We joked that Joyce would LOVE the fact she had her "own" vicar presiding... and she would.
The undertaker appeared dead on (sorry for that) 9.15 and called the chief mourner (dad) in and my brother and I followed.
The music dad had selected was being played - Van Morrison -" have I told you lately that I love you?" and we all shuffled in.
I was beside myself sitting down next to dad whilst the majority "stood" respectfully... I just couldn't Stand....in a few seconds (which felt like an eternity) the rest of the congregation were also seated.
Holding my fathers shaking hand on my knee as he sobbed was the hardest thing I ever want to do.
I tried to force my brain to drift off and away from what was happening - looking at the coffin adorned with Freesias (mum's favorite flower) I just couldn't help thinking of her spending the last 10 days being refrigerated... she SO hated the cold. During the "readings" and prayers I sort of zoned out - the Eulogy HAVING to be read quickly as the clock was ticking away to the next "slot"... BEING a bunch of heathens, dad had picked "Morning has broken" to be sung - thinking at least folk know the tune and most of the words so we'd not make too bad a job of it... none of us had realized the organist obviously knew we had to speed things up a bit to get us out in time so it did feel rather rushed ... something which whilst good to a point, did feel a bit too conveyor belt like.
As the final prayer was being spoken, I heard a what I thought was a drilling noise and anger boiled up in side of how insensitive it was... only realizing a few moments later it was the electric motor on the curtains closing on mum.
The relief when the undertaker came back in to collect dad (although that wasn't easy either cause he'd ended up wedged in the corner next to me and "technically" needed to be out first) was enormous... by that point, I wanted to run out of there as quickly as possible.
Walking out with dad and thanking the vicar ( I SO should know his name but I've not a clue) despite the pain, I felt an enormous relief - followed by guilt for feeling relieved.
As the rest of the mourners followed us out , on our route back to the car park, we had to walk passed the "next group" of pained souls who were about to endure what we'd just gone through - I couldn't help but feel so sad for THEM seeing our sobbing party coming out - with them about to be rung through the mill next.... Horrible.
Driving back it did feel so much better for a short while - we stopped off at dad's for him to change his nappy (his colostomy bag) AND for us both to neck a swift drink as courage to face the bun fight.
A wake was another thing mum REALLY didn't want - BUT that other people need.... I didn't reconise half the people there but did my best to mingle and thank them for supporting dad. People ARE good and kind... and they DO want to show support for him... he did so well - especially as it was an alcohol free event - I had a bottle in the car (Andy was driving) but despite wanting to "top up" I didn't - instead, enduring what had to be done.
It was nice in a way - I just couldn't bring myself to eat or drink anything though... my stomach in knots.... catching up with cousins , friends of the family and a couple of odd uns I had NO idea about, was as good as it could be. Inside, I was screaming for everyone just to bugger off so we could leave too - however, mum would have been pleased I'd manned up and expressed thanks to those who have been there for her in her recent times of need .
I WAS going to write some letters today thanking people who made a difference do mum AND have been there for dad... however, having written this, - hopefully to give myself some closure on yesterday, I'm now balling my eyes out again...I will do them over the weekend. We're going up to see dad at some point again tomorrow - he doesn't know it... Today HE has taken one of his brothers to my Uncle Lewis's funeral... he died a few days before mum . Perhaps selfishly, there was no way I could go to that one.
Dad WANTED to though because it turns out from our recent conversations, that Lew and Marion( his deceased older sister) were the first people Mum and him "told" when they began dating - mum had been divorced and as Cliff was from a catholic family, their relationship HAD to be a secret until he was 21...
Anyway - last night... we got back to the boat... drew breath and kicked off our shoes - having spent the day wearing the Xmas socks Joyce had bought for us... no one (well apart from possibly her) will ever even have known!
Until next time...