Flight of the Concourse…

‘It’s just amazing isn’t it?’

Grandma sat, still regal even in what she’d have called shortly before, a contraption for invalids. I’d chosen a bright blue one; she loved blue, like her eyes. She often told me how Grandpa had called them blue lamps. They were wide with wonderment right now, like a child’s rather than a woman of 93.

I had her parked on the concourse of the train station where we hoped to surprise her son, my uncle Nolan. I had a feeling we wouldn’t meet him, that his train would bring him in after we left, because we had to. It was cold and I didn’t want to keep Grandma out in the February chill. On top of that I had to get her to a hospital appointment. But she was loving being out.

‘So many people Daisy, with so many places to go. It’s amazing. All the colours of their clothes, and how they move. So many of them.’

I listened intently to her childlike observations that struck me as the most beautiful things to notice on that cold grey day. She was mesmerizing in her appreciation of the world just going about it’s business. Having not been anywhere besides the doctors or dentist in years I was thrilled that our secret trip was having such an effect. Gil and my father had always refused to let me take Grandma out, but I wasn’t listening any more. I was glad to be so disobedient.

As I dressed her that morning I worried it would be too much for her. But as we drove through the streets that she once knew so well but hadn’t seen since her fall two decades ago, I witnessed her find a part of herself she thought she’d lost.

We waited a while longer but I was right. Sometimes I hated that; being right. Especially now when it was connected to another feeling, that this would be the last time we’d be out together like this. I reminded her as gently as I could, so as not to break her spirit, that if we didn’t leave we wouldn’t make it to the hospital in time. But Grandma was gracious and spectacularly lucid again.

‘We did our best darling; we waited for as long as we could. And that boy of mine Nolan really should have called.’

Grandma’s decline into dementia had driven her to distraction lately. Her memory had been faltering for months, depression was becoming a regular visitor and she’d ramble incoherently, sometimes making herself laugh, and sometimes making herself mad in the same conversation she was having with herself. But for these moments on the concourse Katherine was back.

My own eyes that are the same colour as hers welled up with tears that stung as I fought to keep them from running down my cheeks.

‘Don’t cry darling,’

She’d caught me completely without even looking up. She turned her face up to mine and flashed her gentle teasing smile, eyebrows raised cheekily and those eyes wide once more.

‘And anyway, isn’t it about time you gave me my lamps back?’


The Woolly Hand

She said he appeared more relaxed, and he thought so too. He felt a renewed sense of vigour sitting on that couch, and pretty much everything seemed right. It had been a peculiar time alright but he’d gotten through it; pretty good huh? So where the fuck had it gone? How could his poise and new found calm have been sucked out of him so stealthily? It had only been two days, but a lot can happen in two days.

There was something like resentment building. And you know who he resented? Hmmm, well pretty much everyone. For not being good enough, for not being honest enough, for not being straight forward enough, for not caring enough, for not being friendly enough, for not being….enough. Did he really think anyone could save him? His random pleas for love and help were heard but the needs never quite met. He asked himself if this is what loneliness felt like.

Of course his expectations were staggeringly high and would likely never be met, but this really was getting ridiculous. He knew if he didn’t switch off again and lower his expectations then he’d end up pulling that lovely dark blanket over his head again. He didn’t want to switch off from people. These were his friends, some of them much more than just friends. But it really was the only way he could avoid getting hurt. And the only way to stop him from hurting them.

A deep crease of anger furrowed his brow as he pondered those he felt had let him down. He knew he was feeling sorry for himself but he didn’t care. He knew he was already trapped in the spiral and had to go with the swirling sensation in his head. The blood rushes in his ears would start soon. Then he knew he’d be going under. The dog began barking outside his window.


Not Dead Yet

As Daisy leaned over the balcony of the great room at the gathering below she felt her insides heave. It felt like the wake had begun already, yet Grandmamma was alive and fighting. She wanted to cry out, her revulsion overpowering, but she knew they would banish her if she dared utter a word of disdain. The brothers and their offspring continued to quaff their liquor and confabulate about their inheritance, or rather Grandmamma’s worldly goods; had they no shame?

She couldn’t quite catch her breath to broadcast her update, not that there was any indication that anyone truly cared. Daisy knew they were aware of her presence, but not so much as a stolen glance upward to where she stood observing; their scornfulness toward her was deafening. She’d urged them to be more involved, to participate in what, despite some of the sadness that is inevitable in the aged decline of a human being, was a time to be cherished, and to learn from. It was only from this now elevated position she could see that they simply didn’t have the capacity, and she might pity them – one day.

‘Grandmamma has asked….that we keep the noise down a little,’

Her voice didn’t always project well when troubled and she knew her tone carried a mixture of agitation and nervousness; it couldn’t be helped. A few sniffs of recognition from the floor below and a peculiar ‘non-look’ from her father. He was deliberately avoiding her and it burned her insides to feel so admonished in his disregard, but she could not bring herself to fall at his feet, not any more.

Daisy was exhausted and beginning to feel the chill of the moonlit hours, but she walked decisively down the stairs leading her into the fray. Her father continued his verbal posturing with an unbroken gusto as she sat opposite him near to the fire. She almost laughed out loud at his behaviour; he was, and she could make no bones about it, flirting with his own niece. Flashing his supercilious grin at an unwitting Adele there was a familiar twinkle in his eye; Daisy knew it all too well and her mother knew it even better. And still he uttered not one word, his lecherous gape fixed firmly on his target so as not to meet his daughter’s incredulous regard.

She remained in the heat for as long as she was able to maintain her demeanour. Who knew how much longer this vigil might last. Smith the family doctor had given Grandmamma only a day or two, and so Father Ryan had visited immediately giving her provision for her journey in the Last Rites. But Daisy had a feeling that her Grandmother was not ready to go; something or someone was making her uneasy. With a renewed sense of determination and some warmth in her bones, Daisy lifted her position to upright and took herself back to where she knew love was.


Family Ferret Watch

She looked like a ferret. No she really did. Not furry or with a long stretched out body and tail, just ferrety. Ok so she looked nothing like a ferret, but I like saying she looks like that. Gives a particular impression doesn’t it? Only ferrets are quite pretty from certain angles, and she wasn’t ugly. In fact it wasn’t so much that she looked like a ferret, but she had those fast movements, she’d get into places you didn’t want her to get if you didn’t keep your eye on her. Ferrety.

And I trusted her. Never trust a ferret.

You know what? I’ve never even met a ferret. Or seen one for that matter outside of a National Geographic nature programme; I have to stop giving the ferret a hard time here.

She was family. And in a family that simply doesn’t have a history of trusting one another, I wanted to trust her.  I wanted to give her the benefit of the doubt, why on earth do I do that huh?

We’d grown up together, our fathers’ brothers, by all accounts best friends, but I’m not sure I ever really liked her. I remember her being a pouting child, whiney, and yet she often had the attention. I would be friendly, gregarious, probably somewhat irritating and precocious, so pouty (she wasn’t ferrety then) got the love. That was before the 3 year period that ripped the stuffing out of us all.

She’d had a really tough time; I know comparisons are odious when it comes to family spoils, but she was only six when her father put a handgun in his mouth and blew the back of his head off. We nearly found him she and I, more on that later. I’d not been sucking on too many cherries either, but I’d come through the other side, and I wasn’t dying. Least not of anything but life.

I’d not seen her for almost 25 years, so perhaps I shouldn’t have expected much more than I got, I knew I was asking a lot from her, but not for me, for Grandma. Perhaps a little for ourselves; to regain something akin to love that we knew would soon be gone.

I’d been travelling back and forth to Birmingham since late November, but I knew I couldn’t manage by myself, much as I wanted. I thought naively that we’d all come together, this tragically disbanded family of fallen angels. Most of all I thought that Freya would jump at the chance to renew links with her cousins; after all, we’d lost out too.

But in that unmistakeable drawl of hers, a voice I could barely decipher unless I watched her lips move, she told me ‘Ahll help much sah caan, bu’ rilly Daisy, you know aah can’ stand this here family, not one bit, an ahd sunner see ‘em did thun give waan beat o’ my heart to ’em,’


Not Again

When he hugged her, well no, it wasn’t a hug was it? It was an embrace, two arms holding her, protecting her. Least that’s how it felt, and warm, so warm, like pumpkin pie with hot treacle sauce, only she doesn’t have a sweet tooth…

Eva had struggled this year with one thing and other, but in one foul swoop, or clasp of limbs she was transported to a place where anything was possible. That they’d known each other for years didn’t matter, it was a new sensation, much like taking a jaunt across a familiar land with a different destination.

‘It’s so good to see you Eva! You look really great, how have you been?’

Will’s eyes bristled with energy and his smile made her blush, for no other reason than it seemed it was entirely for her, a smile no one else would ever see.

‘Oh, I’m good thanks, yeah, thanks, I think I’m good, yes, I guess I’m good, you good? You seem good, ha, lots of goods, good!’

Blundering fool she mumbled in her mind, chastising herself for tripping over her words, she was determined, perhaps too much, to be effortless. But Will carried on smiling and proceeded to introduce her others in the congregation.

She gingerly shook hands with his colleagues, her voice carrying the confidence that allowed her to engage politely as she observed his interactions. He seemed to carry a boundless enthusiasm that she yearned for, rather mourned for. The vitality of youth she mused, hating the sound of her voice again. Suddenly she was dour and resentful of all these happy people with their regular incomes, forward direction and works drinks on a Friday night.

No! Enough of this nonsense! Eva hated giving into the darkness that travelled with her, a sour companion if entertained for too long. There’s no reason I can’t put on my mask for the night, make out I have a life beyond coping with a decaying property, a dwindling bank balance and no good husband who has spent my inheritance on horses and…

‘So Eva, can I buy you a drink? I want to hear what’s been happening,’

Eva broke sharply away from her internalising and raised her now alert and smiling face to meet Will’s once more. That look again; she was almost breathless, but she couldn’t let him know.


Airhead

Sleep doesn’t always provide the respite I am looking for. In the dark warmth of enveloping slumber all is well, despite the sweet mysteries of visiting angels and hallowed lettered tiles that only portend more insecurity, my body hungers for the stillness. But upon awakening the heavy boom of the world projects me back into a place that is full of nothing, an empty gap, inconsequence, and so the day begins.

Much of the morning, or what remains of it is taken up with more waking up, or catching up, or getting up, up, up, up, up. I don’t want up! And that’s not to say I want down, perhaps a little left might do some good, certainly sideways is fun for a while, but like a helium filled balloon the surface is too taut when rising above normal atmospheric pressure.

These balloons are everywhere my eye travels, the many eyes I have are hearing and tasting them too; squeaking and acrid. And even when they’ve been stretched to the point where their very fabric is tattered, sore and worthy of nothing but reforming as Christmas cracker ‘prizes’  these now pointless vessels created with an intention of providing joy are limp, damp and rather ugly.

The afternoon sun of the winter saves any sense of despair, and as the dark replaces the red golden rays I feel a hidden glow again. Heady in the shadows I can smile, and cry and laugh, and stay right where I am.


Such Days Are Rare

Such days are rare. Valuable moments span days providing memories to last a lifetime. Vast swathes of emotional outpourings reverberate between two souls, but rather than decimation there is a unification of understanding; a solidification of solace. I didn’t expect to move from fear through sadness to anger and comfort in such a narrow space of time, the process left me reeling, but once more only for a limited period. Does this signify maturity?

And giving; whether in, up, or simply by itself, is another way of getting what is wanted, nay needed, to feel safe when trust is thin on the ground like a fine frost in November. And yet this seemingly natural exchange feels like the tossing of a fine electrical current in a shallow pool of scalding water when in motion.

Friendship comes in many guises, but the bonds that develop between two entities to form companionship are amongst the most precious, and certainly feel sacred and worth protecting. At all costs?