‘….As You Wave Me Goodbye’

1948I don’t like being miserable. For a start, it peels at least 20 points off my IQ, and at my age, that’s too significant to ignore. Second, it makes creative thinking well nigh impossible. It closes up the essential gaps between those bubbling, spontaneous irregularities that sit in my unconscious, and the conveyor belt of conscious delivery. Third, it makes my face look like a smacked arse, and frankly, I prefer it less baggy and more crinkled, when the crinkles are herded into place by an irrepressible urge to giggle.

But today I am royally stuffed. My father died last week. One of my cats died this morning. His brother is on the blink (same age, different disease), and will have to be despatched soon. I have toothache. Does it get much better?

There are people who need me to be detached and sensible. The inland revenue who need to know my dad should no longer be considered for tax purposes; the pensions agency who have to stop paying him, and start paying a bit extra to my mother; and the bank who need to know that he isn’t a partner in the joint account any more. That the joint account will not be administered by my mother, whose dementia has left her in an equilibrium of detachment about the whole process, is a further complicating factor, and there is more to do in that regard.

The organisation I work for – Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, a part of the National Health Service – has been more than tolerant. I’d like to think it is a combination of empathy and recognition of the commitment most NHS employees show, often working several hours a week unpaid to the benefit of patients. But it probably isn’t. It is more likely a reflection of the profound understanding of how far events of this kind can throw people who, otherwise, seem to sail through adversity, untouched. Most of them will not have experienced this, which makes their understanding all the more remarkable. I did not ‘understand’ it two years ago when one of my team lost his mother to major illness, without warning. I hope I was as undemanding at the time he needed his head and heart needed to be elsewhere.

But there are joys. The bringing-together of old friends and family members who had been ‘once removed’ and are now less so. The wonderful accommodation of the care home whose owner seems to know everyone who lives there, and which provided hospice standard care without even having registration for nursing. The re-discovery of the big band music that was the heart beat to my parents’ romance in the 1940s. These elements, fundamental and at the core of what matters to all of us, will be the centre piece of our goodbyes, when we make them later in October. Music, love, friendship, care – all real and not manufactured or legislated for. Not scripted or rehearsed. Not for show, but for real. We will plant a tree and wrap it in twinkling lights while we sing along with Vera Lynn to ‘I’ll Be Seeing You‘, and a few of us shuffle out a boogie to Ken Macintosh’s Big Band. Maybe more than the lights on the tree will be twinkling as we leave at the end of that day.

People who deserve thanks: Burlington Care, Marie Curie Nurses, the medical and nursing team and social workers in Driffield.

car in street 1948

19 thoughts on “‘….As You Wave Me Goodbye’

    • Thank you Randall. There are so many threads to gather, and to let go. We’re fortunate to have had time and the opportunity for memories.

    • Thank you, Adriene. As time passes, and with the consolidating of the celebration, I can feel the weight lifting, and air seeping into the spaces it had been squeezed out of so unexpectedly.

  1. Suzanne, I’m so sorry to hear this. I know you must feel the bottom has dropped out, but your writing reveals an inner strength that will get you though.

    Such a joyful photo. I presume those are your parents. If not, from the few photos I’ve seen, you bear a strong resemblance to the woman.

    • You’re right Linda, I’m pretty resourceful, and my default position is finding the fun in life. Those are my parents in the photo – it was their wedding day – a bleak, cold, monochrome sort of a day that only post-war February in Bradford could deliver. Laughing was evidently a family survival skill!

  2. Is that your mum and dad? It’s a beautiful photo. I have to admit, I read this and my eyes welled up. I’m so sorry. I know we all have to deal with this, but it’s just so hard, and I’m sorry about the poor kitty as well, and your toothache. (I had a tooth extraction, misery loves company ugh)

    I think your dad will love the send off you’re going to give him and the planting of the tree is a great and beautiful gesture.

    A well meant virtual hug sent via the internet 🙂

    • Thank you Alannah. Yes, those are my parents, and the photo at the bottom is of the car taking them off on honeymoon. Blackpool in February – brrrr! No wonder I arrived so soon in their marriage!
      The cat – Monty, of the ‘Glorious Eyes’ post – is 16 and having treatment for an over active thyroid. But something else has clearly developed, and it seems he is unable to see. That in itself is not a problem, but the cause is suspicious, and he looks so miserable. I’m thinking a decision is not far off 😦
      Ruddy tooth is just attention-seeking, in my view. It will be Seen To next week.
      Hug received and very welcome.

      • Aw, what a lovely couple, a truly lovely photo to cherish for all time. Blackpool in February….oh dear, brrrr indeed.

        Poor Monty, 16 is a ripe age for a pussy cat, I once knew one who lived to 20 but yes, if the poor pussycat is looking miserable, ah, well, you know how that goes. If it’s any consolation, I once had a little kitty, and he died at six month’s old and it was my decision, for he was a very sick kitty, and it was the kindest thing to do, but I never forgot him, and he is in my novel as a very special companion to my Julian.

        Hope the tooth gets a talking to so it stops bugging you 😉

        • Those are tough decisions, and ones you’re never quite prepared for. Sometimes, it’s the only thing to do, though 😦
          I’ll look out for Julian’s familiar when you let him loose on his public.

    • Thank you, Cathryn. I suppose a specialist mental health service should be understanding, but you can never legislate for the people who mediate between their staff and the philosophy and public front of the organisation. Mine are superb.

  3. I’m sorry for your losses and all the stress that you’ve got in your life right now. Your comment to Randall is beautiful. Take care of yourself through this.

    • Thank you, Janet. We never quite know what impact something will have until it hits us. Are we heroes or cowards? Do we stand up, or creep to the back? Although I can fall apart at a TV advert, I was still surprised at the way this sucked out the world’s colour, and smothered my motivation. It’s returning. Planning our send-off with music, lights, and photos is letting the air back in 🙂

  4. I am so very sorry, Suzanne. Right there, near the place of misunderstanding, is a place of walking and breathing and listening. It’s the place the rest of us go when we don’t know, but we know enough to care and send our comfort and love. Many blessing for you, Suzanne. ❤

    • Thank you. These tiny conversations have been an enormous support and, gradually, the strange screens that spring up and muffle ordinary life, are being dismantled. The breathing is good 🙂

  5. Sweetie, I am so very sorry to hear about your father. Saying “I’m sorry” won’t negate the pain, but I will pray from my part of the world for the swiftest and most merificul healing possible.

    I hate that about your kitty, too and hope that your uncle pulls through with help of a miracle. If you ever need an ear, I’m here 🙂

  6. Thank you, Amberr, those are very kind thoughts. Things are improving as we pull together a very special celebration with lots of help from people who don’t know us but are making the arrangements very easy when they could have been very difficult. The fog is lifting 🙂

  7. Pingback: Blue Bell Hotel « Suzanne Conboy-Hill – finding fiction

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