Friday, 18 September 2015

And To Round It All Off

And here is the letter that John O'Connell (from my first letter post) ended up writing:

Dear Jane,

You probably don't remember but back in was it October (?) you wrote me a wonderful letter. I want to call to a condolence letter but it did so much more than condole and I've meant ever since to reply in a manner that felt worthy - that acknowledged not just what you wrote but the effort you put into writing it when I know how much else you've got going on. That it's taken me so long is faintly shameful. I can only plead lack of perspective - it vanishes after a death, as you know, and so much has happened since the funeral, events which demand their own letter and will get one at some point.

I remember you saying it took you a long time to rid yourself of the image of the moment of death. That has now receded for me, thank God, and it's the background, ambient details that haunt me, if that's not too strong a word: the ping of alarm bells, the rumble of trolley wheels on lino. Hospice life. The other day I was hoovering round the sofa when I suddenly remembered the electric recliner armchair beside her bed - the way the children, when they came up to Macclesfield to say goodbye for the last time, spent the whole afternoon playing with it, as if that had been the whole point of the trip.

I do feel very strongly that life is different now. The worst of it, apart from the obvious loss, is the way the death of a parent forces you to confront the abandonment of your children your own death will entail, and your partner's death, and your siblings' deaths, and your friends'...I'm lucky I suppose that it happened this way round.

A lot of what I'm feeling is just the first stirrings of midlife angst. I'm reading Josephine Tey's The Franchise Affair at the moment -- a lovely Folio society edition -- and there's a bit where she talks about the way 'childhood's attitude of something -- wonderful -- tomorrow persisted subconsciously in a man as long as it was capable of realisation, and it was only after forty when it became unlikely of fulfilment, that it obtruded itself into conscious thought; a lost piece of childhood crying for attention'. That's great, isn't it? If you have them, then your children become your something -- wonderful -- tomorrow. But it can be anything -- a sporting goal, a project. The hard bit about the conscious/subconscious thing is that noticing states of mind e.g. 'I am happy' can lead you into overthinking them, e.g. 'why am I happy?' When will I stop being happy?'

How long did it take you to delete your mum's number from your contacts list? I still haven't. Maybe in a few month's time.

Are we seeing you soon? I think so. I hope so.




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