so sea and earth then

You wouldn’t believe how the grass had grown in your absence. Or maybe you would. Natural enough, after all.

Long time no speak, but then I guess that’s natural enough too. This was the third time I’d been up to your place this year. An all time record I think. Strange how departure presents an epic to-do list. You’d think absence would be a simple state: just not there. I didn’t mind though, so don’t worry.

When we there at Easter I took your pictures from the bathroom wall, the ones you had cut out from old birthday and Mother’s Day cards and glued to the wall. I always looked at that house on the cliff as I was peeing. Wanted to buy it for you. Saw a couple of pictures I had missed, when I was up there at Easter. Now there’s a Happy Mothers Day message in my mirrored writing, imprinted above the toilet.

The Easter visit went well. Stayed at a converted church in the village, ’cos it had enough space for people to chill out, and invited your friends round for a chat and some sandwiches on the Wednesday. Good vibe, I thought. People said I look like you, and people said they miss you. I do too. We were lucky with the weather, as we often have been. On the Tuesday I collected you in granular form from Wick, in a maroon plastic jar. Thursday was distribution day. I took the jar down to Achastle shore, where you used to take your dog, and threw some of you into the sea. If you catch the breeze in the right way, the handful of granular bone just floats off as a cloud, over the water. Almost as if it was your soul, if you believed in that. The sea was very still. Later all four of us were back in your garden. A small bonfire, some more launching of you over grass, trees, bushes and earth. We had the fireworks you requested. It was good to see a light in that living room window again, albeit fleetingly.

You going up there meant that there was never enough time to talk about stuff. But maybe you going up there created the stuff to talk about. It’s another world there and it was always surreal coming back. More so recently. A lot of context will now be missing, but I guess I can provide that. Mice had visited in the interim between your cremation and the Easter visit. I’m sure you’ve mentioned them before. I won’t know now.

It’s nice having recall. You can always go back to more or less any time, if you want to. I know you were tired, so it’s fine that you wanted to sleep. The garden is a metaphorical representation of the mental space you were looking for.

So then I was back up again last week. This time on my own. The journey up was uneventful. Usual stopping places. I missed texting you about where I’d got to, and you texting back about the food you were preparing. The drive down the lane as your caravan comes into view, with the sea behind it, was as it always was, but you didn’t come out to greet me. That was actually the first time I’d driven up entirely on my own.

Couldn’t decide whether you’d be upset or pleased about the grass having grown two feet tall. Your neighbours came round and cut it back for me the next day. I very much appreciated that.

Shoes and clothes on the first day. I’d only ever been in your bedroom a few times. Didn’t realise you had so many shoes. Some you had not had the opportunity to wear, still in cellophane. It was hard working through the clothes you had kept for formal occasions. Drawers and cupboards. You had a mortal fear of someone having to deal with those after you had gone. But they were OK, really. Took a while, but they were OK. On your birthday it rained for a time and I got to hear it on the roof of the dwelling where you spent your final moments, pattering also on the bin bags outside, waiting to be taken to the tip. Yes I know I could have sifted and recycled a bit more, but I didn’t have time and it hurt such a lot. I hope you were watching something good on TV in the moment your heart gave out, and I’m sorry you didn’t get to finish your evening meal. Little did we know over the years when we took all those cans and bottles to the local recycling point that your entire wardrobe of clothes and shoes would one day end up in those two metal skips. Last of your collected just-in-case stuff at landfill now too. All rationalised. Beautiful sound of rain on the roof. Always loved that, with the sea view.

The honeysuckle continues to do well. Perhaps too well. On your birthday the sea at Achastle was very still again. Odd that. I’m seeing your friend Leonard Cohen at the end of the month. Forgot to tell you about Coheed in the Autumn last year. I washed up. Was never too good with that. Used the chopping board that you told me was a piece salvaged from the interior of the Queen Mary. I found some whisky in the cupboard. Had one on your birthday, but left the rest there, in the manner of Loudon Wainwright. I managed to distribute some of your jam, marmalade and chutney. The rest remains in the cupboard below the microwave.

It has been very useful to imagine your voice as I dealt with each drawer. Thank you for knowing me so well. Thank you for being a mum, and a grandmother. I will never be able to repay. Although you were a bit uncomfortable with me saying it, because you thought love was more about what you did, I do, in fact, love you. I took down the net curtains. Never liked them. If people want to look, let them.

7 Comments

  1. Sue Fallon

    Beautifully written- poignant and with a touch of wry humour which I would imagine your mother would appreciate. On the eve of my own Mum`s anniversary I related to it totally.

  2. Clare Lindström

    Very, very sorry to hear about your Mum, Mark. I remember her as intelligent, witty and honest. She was always very kind to me. Have thought about her occasionally over the years – will do more so now.

    • Thanks Clare. Very much appreciated. It was exactly the end she always said she wanted. Mum had a hatred of hospitals, and of dependency on other people. I hope all is good with you.

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