Annabel and I are delighted to publish another article in this online magazine for women, by our only male writer. Although Mother’s Day has been and gone in the commercial sense, it’s never too late to pay tribute to one’s parents…
“I’m not frightened of dying. Any time will do. I don’t mind”. That’s part of a quote from Gerry O’Driscoll who was an Irish janitorial browncoat at Abbey Road when Pink Floyd were recording The Great Gig In The Sky on their seminal 1973 album Dark Side Of The Moon. I was 17 when I first heard that quote. Dark Side remains my favourite LP. I can leave it for years yet when I come back, like an old friend or a favourite shirt, I feel good to be in its presence again.
I’m not afraid of not existing. Perhaps I should be. Apparently Joanne Lumley thinks about it daily. But as the Floyd got me to think about it, Mum taught me there were more important things.
I’m building up to having the “when I’ve gone” conversation with my only child. I’m not there yet. I should explain Charlotte and I love each other very much but she’s 200 miles from me in a pandemic. So that’s on hold.
But I have written a will and what solicitors call a letter of wishes. The latter isn’t legally binding but is a guide to capture your guidance on matters requiring discretion from trusts to be set up to which songs you want to go out on.
My father left my mother a letter. It told her not to panic and gave her lots of information and phone numbers. They had been a team all their married life and he was worried she’d struggle to cope. I discovered this in a metal box of their protected papers after they’d gone. I sat on the side of my old bed, read it and then looked out into their garden and realised how lucky I had been the stork dropped me in Calverley.
What I also value are the conversations I had with my Mother when she was in her last years, alone and quite ill. We would sit in her conservatory in the morning and talk. Even in her final years she would take my jumper and carefully darn it in the same way she would iron my ruffs as a choirboy.
My ability to write is also because of her. I could read before I went to primary school. I was bored in my English lessons as I already knew what they were trying to teach me. Mr Henderson once wrote in frustration on my English report “capable but no danger of strain”. I think I may have that as my epitaph.
Of course for Mum her eldest son wasn’t just loved close family. I was also a walking, talking billboard for her. Get it wrong and you were in for it. One doesn’t need a Swiss finishing school when you have a Yorkshire mother. When stepping out of the door I represented her – and by God did I know it.
Even in her dotage if I was at the table having dinner and heard her say “elbows”, I knew immediately I’d forgotten it was wrists on the edge of the table – and suddenly I was ten again.
At the end Mum hid her own cancer whilst her husband was in a home and no longer recognised us. She went through a personal hell to save her family from worrying. Finally she revealed the enormous lump on her left thigh. Bone cancer which had spread to her lungs.
I wasn’t there when she died in Leeds’ St James’ Infirmary. To my eternal regret I was too late.
Mum loved me very much and I did her. She wanted me to go far, be happy and have all the things a Mother would want for a son. Now I finally understand why she was strict with me.
In Keighley, Leeds sculptor Tony Clark has revealed his £60,000 life-size bronze statue of Captain Sir Tom Moore has been sitting in a warehouse for months as the local council can’t decide where to put it.
I suspect Captain Tom wouldn’t be that bothered about this or frankly shuffling off either. He’s done his bit and although family, friends and the nation will miss him, the message and the lesson was as clear as I got from my parents.
Get out there, be organised, work hard, do the decent thing – and take your elbows off the table.
Oh, and the song I will go out on?
If you’ve enjoyed reading this article by Northern Male, you can find others he has written for A&G HERE