Thursday, 28 July 2011

Strange and Stranger.

Life is indeed strange. It's not been an easy time. (see blog dated 23rd June.) Francoise, my mother-in-law died suddenly, unexpectedly, alone on a Sunday morning. (Paramedics were sent for but in fact it was too late.) My sister-in-law was probably initially most affected, physically living closest to Francoise and being the one who discovered Francoise's body. Christine was particularly concerned with the concept that 'It was not her (Francoise's) time'.) Strangely my youngest daughter, Alison had a dream, a vision, an experience, call it what you will in which Francoise appeared at the bottom of her bed to impart the simple message, 'It WAS her time.' (Francoise was just short of eighty seven years old and apparently died quickly, according to the paramedics who attended.) The interesting thing is, neither Christine nor Alison knew of the other's thoughts or experience. (Alison is a mature, sensible school teacher in her late thirties. She is not into anything remotely spiritual.) But this is not the first time she seems to work on a 'different plain'. Ask her about the time a large washing machine 'mender' fled her house, in broad daylight because a 'man' was standing in the room alongside Alison. a 'man' who shouldn't have been there. The workman, large though he was, refused to return and continue. We had in fact to employ someone else to finish the job.



Our family lives at this time, particularly for my wife, her sister and brother are much concerned with sorting Francoise's possessions, a moving but necessary task. Box after box of possessions, hurriedly packed and removed to appease the council and now sorted, slowly, one after the other; a traumatic, experience.



Then for me a strange, surreal experience. One box contained a hat owned by Peter, Francoise's husband, who died in 1984. I am not surprised Francoise had kept it. A fur lined, 'Cossack style' headpiece, worn in the depths of winter when he faithfully followed his beloved Chesterfield Football Club through thick and thin, though mainly thin.



When I first met Peter's daughter, Paulette, Peter and I had much banter concerning the lowly Chesterfield and my team, the mighty Derby County. I doubt anyone in the family realised how much I admired Peter. A Dunkirk survivor, a proud ex-army veteran, he was probably all that I would have wished for in a father. For my own father is to this day unknown; an eerie feeling. Peter looked the part in his hat, he loved his football and I could not help a wry smile at the memory.



I tried the hat on. It was in fact too small, (they don't call me big head for nothing) but it reminded me of so much. And I could not help but be reminded also, for an instant, of Groundhog Days, and the idea of life repeating itself had I accepted the offer of the hat for my own football excursions. Though I confess I kept my thoughts to myself.



A fraught day was eventually over. Many items allocated to various destinations; at least out of tragedy someone not so fortunate benefits. Francoise would have liked that. I placed some garden pots in my van as requested; plus two cardboard boxes. It was only later that I realised one item thus contained was Francoise's sheepskin coat. Kept by my wife and will no doubt be worn in the wintery days ahead. Groundhog Days all over again. Old men told me, years ago, as a young married man, when I wanted to know what my wife would be like in the days far ahead you had only to look at your mother-in-law; I settled for that.



On this particular day my wife and I later watched television. I have the concentration skills of a remedial rabbit. Yet for once I watched a film right through. 'Meet Joe Black', starring Anthony Hopkins and Brad Pitt, a film that is over three hours long. An awesome choice in a way on this of all evenings; the story of a tycoon shadowed by Death on his sixty-fifth birthday. (Death takes the form of a young man.)



I looked at my wife as she watched the film; tired after a long, trying day. And as she viewed Molly, one very geriatric Dalmation curled up contentedly on the sofa beside her. (My wife and I look after other peoples dogs whilst their owners go on holiday.) Mollie is the oldest, most decrepit dog we have looked after to date. And I was instantly reminded of Rusty, the sixteen year old poodle I inherited all those years ago. (see post dated 7th July.) Strangely enough, shades of Groundhog Days again.

16 comments:

VioletSky said...

It is a difficult task clearing out the possessions of ones parents. There were quite a few things that one or the other of my parents had kept for decades that neither my brother or I felt could be tossed aside simply because it had become so much a part of the memory of them. Fortunately, the experience brought us closer together.

Jeneane said...

I love the sound of your daughter, Alison. There is no reason why pragmatic, sensible people shouldn't also be in tune with something "other" that is not yet fully understood...
And that business of sorting an older generation's pocessions (a theme that has emerged in my own blog) can't help but make us think about what we will leave behind, can it? My dad left a cossack hat behind too - Astrakhan I think it's called. I remember him wearing it during the winter here in NZ. (It's a bit moth-eaten now - I didn't don it in our recent snowfall). Strength anyway as you move through this phase of bereavement.

SueAnn said...

It is amazing how things keep coming around...that is for sure!
Really enjoyed this post Ken...thanks!
Brought back memories for me of my fathers' passing and how I heard his voice some weeks later...!!!
Hugs
SueAnn

Nota Bene said...

How sad, but perhaps it really was her time. It's always difficult, but the clearing does need to be done doesn't it...and if it brings back history and memories then all for the good.

Expat mum said...

So sorry for your loss. Not that it's much help but I would have thought that at 87, your ma-in-law had lived a great life and a life worth celebrating so perhaps it was her time?

Tequila Sepulveda said...

Thank you for this post, Ken. It prods me to perhaps start culling through my own possessions, now, whilst I can make choices about their disposal. Not because I think anyone would do the wrong thing, or be selfish or silly, but rather so that I can ensure that items that have 'meaning' can be presented to those to whom that same meaning would make sense. :)

You are a thoughtful man and a talented writer and I enjoy your blog very much.

cheshire wife said...

It is harrowing, I know, having to sort out a loved ones possessions, but we all have to do it at some point. We had to sort out my mother's bungalow after she had gone into a home. Deciding what to do with her possessions when she was still alive was strange, I can tell you.

Star said...

Thank you for sharing--and so simply, yet movingly--such a personal moment for your family.

eleven's ink said...

thank you again for such a wonderful post about real life. made me think of the passing of my grand-father. I had a dream that night, I was walking down the hallway and the wall beside me was lined with a large mirror separated in five columns and my grand-father was following me in the mirror but only for the first three mirrors. never understood it. yet never will forget that dream!

Temporary Walls Nyc said...

A very interesting post. Thanks for sharing this wonderful and amazing post.. I like it..

Eddie Bluelights said...

Condolences for the sad loss of Francoise. Yes it is a rotten job clearing out possessions - we have had to do it 4 times. Alison seems blessed with very special powers. Wonder if she could channel this somehow.

Yes, I know the film "Met Joe Black". I actually like the film but cannot find many who agree. Love the way you write, Ken, very interesting content and beautifully put together, as always. Must pop over more regularly. Sorry I have been away for so long. Very best wishes ~ Eddie

the fly in the web said...

Mother's started clearing things out on my last two trips to see her and has started marking boxes for their eventual possessors.
It might sound morbid, but she doesn't see it like that...just as getting things sorted out as much as possible now that she uses so very much less.

On another note, I loved the photograph...any dog you look after must be very happy indeed.

Galen Pearl said...

Going through my mother's things with my sister was a wonderful shared experience, in a sad way! There were so many memories. The best part was that we didn't fight over anything. We were so considerate to each other, more so than we are at other times, I think. It was a very sweet time for us.

Kelloggsville said...

I am sorry for your loss. As we move further into life it's hard not be be constantly tugging at memories and Ground hog moments x

Grumpy Old Ken said...

Interesting how much we have in common. Shared memories, shared experiences. It makes me realise how lonely some people in the world must be. We are one mass of memories. And I honestly believe all our lifes experiences are still inside our heads, waiting, for what I know not. How strange that this reminds me of the advert years ago 'You're never alone with a Strand.' Which begs another question, what happens to all our memories after we're gone. (Bit too deep for me!

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