'My Mother in her own words' ~ Empress story by Duncan J Warwick

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My mother in her own words - aged 92 – 95 yrs ‘You’ll know something is wrong when I stop talking’ ‘It will be a long time in heaven I think’ We are driving to Newlands Corner for chips and homemade soup – it is raining and my mother is reciting verses from her favourite poems… ‘The curfew tolls the knell of parting day, The lowing herd winds slowly o'er the lea, The ploughman homeward plods his weary way, And leaves the world to darkness and to me…..’ She suddenly pauses as she turns to look back at a passing shop… ‘Didn’t the board outside that Undertakers say 2 for 1 Funerals?’ She continues… ‘Let me not to the marriage of true minds Admit impediments. Love is not love Which alters when it alteration finds, Or bends with the remover to remove…..’ After an exploratory visit to a Care Home (aged 89) ‘I’m not living there – it’s full of old people !!!’ I am walking through the Conservatory with a can of Cellulose Thinners in my hand – she looks up from her dozing and sighs. ‘Ah Thinners – that’s about the only thing that I’m not taking’ Some of my mother’s childhood stories (as told to us as children) “When I was a child, my father would drive us to the top of a hill and then pretend the brakes had failed and let the car roll backwards down the hill. When we were all screaming and crying, he would laugh and tell us it was just a joke.” “When I was a child, I had to cover my sisters’ ears at night with pillows, so that they couldn’t hear our parents screaming at each other downstairs”. “When I was a child, we used to have to go to the bomb shelter at night. One night my best friend and her parents, who lived over the road, received a direct hit on their shelter, and when we came out in the morning, their house had disappeared”. “When I was a child, we never had any affection shown to us. When I was in hospital with Diphtheria for 3 months my father never came to see me, and when they said I could go home I cried for them to let me stay in the hospital. “When I was a child, I had no encouragement at all from my parents. Once when I took part in a Swimming Gala at school, no one came to see me. I was only thirteen and I had to walk all the way home across London at night because my father wouldn’t get up from reading his paper. Because I won first place in Breaststroke, they said I could choose a prize, so I chose a tablecloth for my mother, When I gave it to her, she told me off for not choosing something for myself”. “When I was a child we had no garden so we had to play in the street. One day, when I was 9 years old, the man in the basement dragged me into his room and took my clothes off and tied me up. My mother had been cleaning her carpets on the top floor balcony and saw it all happen, so she ran down the stairs to save me. After that, no one said anything, because they were worried what people might think.” This story is different from the rest, not only because of its content, but because, 70 years later, it came to light that my mother had not told us the whole story. I had taken her for a short break to the Grayshott Health Spa and had come to her room in the early evening so that I could walk with her down to the ‘restaurant’. As she came towards the door, she suddenly stopped and turned and stared silently out of the window, and then, as if talking in her sleep, she said in a slow quiet voice, completely devoid of emotion… ‘….. after that man took me into his room….. I always felt that I was nothing’ Her Father’s Funeral … the man who, as he got older and more frail, and more embittered by not being embraced as everyone’s favourite ‘grandad’, managed, despite this, to grace his own funeral with an uncharacteristically heart-warming farewell – but not one that he would have planned or approved of. The new vicar on the block, who although not really knowing my grandfather, was nevertheless strangely led to err on completely the opposite side to caution and brevity (the position that a small amount of common sense might have otherwise suggested) and present a eulogy of such shining proportions that half way through, my mother was inspired to turn to her sister and say….. ‘We must be at the wrong funeral’ ----------- (As we are passed by a couple of speeding motorcyclists) ‘I think motorbikes are marvellous’ ‘Just think, while we’re sitting here there are men all over the world excavating for things – all sorts of things’ ‘I heard that Henry VIII has just destroyed all the Monasteries and killed all the Catholics – how awful’ ….. it is true that she no longer seems inclined to pick up her walker and throw it at me – and for this I suppose I should be grateful. ‘Can we go to Spain for a few days?’ ‘It’s funny that I didn’t see St Paul when I was in Ephesus’ ‘Someone has left a baby on the wardrobe – what a terrible person to do that’ ‘Did you know that the Coral in the Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest living orgasm?’ ----------- It said in that shop ‘Wild Bird Seed for sale’… … so! Can’t wild birds feed themselves? ... they can – but don’t you feed the birds in your garden? Yes, but they’re not ‘wild’… … they’re sweet. ----------- ‘When I’m feeling better, I’d like to go dancing’ ‘I can’t remember whether you have arranged my Lasting Power of Eternity’ I’m sure the clocks are running slower these days J'attendrai Le jour et la nuit, j'attendrai toujours ton retour J'attendrai Car l'oiseau qui s'enfuit vient chercher l'oubli dans son nid Le temps passe et court En battant tristement Dans mon cœur si lourd Et pourtant, j'attendrai ton retour (My mother’s favourite French song – she can’t always remember who I am but she can still sing the whole song from memory….. priorities eh !!!) ----------- ‘Can you ring my mother, I want to go home to my own bed now’ ‘I’m so tired – I feel like I’m walking half in this world and half in the next’ ‘I’d like some Tom and Jerry’s Ice Cream please’ ‘I want to start Piano lessons’ ‘I know I irritate you sometimes and I make you angry, but I do love you’ ‘I want to change my name’ ‘At my funeral I want everyone to wear brightly coloured clothes’ Duncan J Warwick

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