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.