Today is the second anniversary of my mother’s death. And I forgot, for a while. Not forgot that it was coming; on Sunday, for instance, I counted the days on my fingers and worked out that the 21st would fall on Wednesday. ‘Wednesday,’ I said to myself. And again on Monday I thought of it – still Wednesday, still coming. But something happened during Tuesday, some unknown thing which disconnected my consciousness of the chronology of days and by this morning I was blissfully unaware of the importance of Today. October school half term and I was loving the freedom of it. I got up, ate breakfast watching the news, did a few chores, spent an hour creating an email to my aunt – my mother’s sister, even mentioning Mum at one point – all in a fairly cheerful mood and all without recognition that today was particularly significant. Set off for a lesson at Uni, smiling at the benevolence of life and singing loudly along to The Cure.
And up and onto campus – the largest enclosed campus in the country, by all accounts – where I drove rakishly along University Road to the Library, weaving to avoid the hoards of young ‘uns, nodding at those who waved thanks as I let them cross. Zipped around a corner and WHAM – onto a part of the campus I know particularly well, a part whose imprint is etched deep in my skin. The ochre and burnt sienna leaves of the roadside trees, a particular quality of today’s grey-washed, Autumn sky, the damp fragrance of the air, recalled, instantaneously, memories of October half terms in this, our childhood playground. Of conker collecting, brook jumping, tree climbing, impromptu football matches with the students. Obscured by newer buildings, my childhood home sits hidden away on the estate to the right. My childhood home. Instant remembrance. Of everything. My mother is dead and she died two years ago today.
We had a fairly awful relationship, my mother and I; turbulent; angry; like a sore that wouldn’t heal. People sometimes use the phrase ‘lost’ – ‘I have lost my mother’. I don’t; I haven’t lost her, couldn’t lose her, because she wasn’t really mine to lose. She didn’t have trust enough to give herself away, not even to her children. Except for on that one last night together, the night before she died, when pain and fear and the seriousness of what was happening cut through the crap. We healed much, that night, gave something of ourselves, glimpsed what might have been if only we had been open and honest and giving every day of our lives together. A terrible night and a magical night too, in many ways. A long and tiring night. And in the early hours of the 21st of October she sent me away to rest and I promised to be back in the morning. But she tricked me in the end, because she didn’t wait. She left before I got back. And it happened two years ago today.