It’s just under an hour until a year exactly has passed since Mum died. It doesn’t feel like yesterday – it’s been a quick year in some ways but the events of the last 12 months have filled in a lot of the empty spaces.
Dad has pretty much redecorated the whole house, learnt to use Facebook and rid himself of prostate cancer; Jeff and Monika have watched our bundle of joy Lara learn to walk, negotiate far and near-flung staircases and swimming pools and start to call Pip “Peach”; Kris has rehabilitated himself after a year of Police service; Pip still hasn’t learnt to swim or ride a bike and Mark and I enjoyed having housemates until the autumn, which kept the wolf from the door.
Xmas came and went with pleasant company and plenty of lazy hometime. Thoughts of Nana were cheerfully recalled and her absence this year reminded us how the same time last year was much harder work.
I can’t forget what a shock it was to see her last Xmas day. She always made an effort for the family and ate a little but we all knew it would be a miracle if she survived another year.
I remember those few weeks of the new year much more fondly; she was blissfully narcotised on Oxycodone in her hospital chair and, even though mobility was difficult, she could still reminisce and chat and laugh.
In fact the recipe for Devil Fry was written down around the time she’d tell me her wishes for her funeral. It wasn’t a devastating time – it was a time of gathering stories, memories and recipes. And how we laughed.
So today Jeff, Monika and Lara came for lunch and I fed them the Boxing Day favourite (although not mine) Turkey Devil as we called it. Not sure if I did it justice but the house was certainly filled with that unmistakeable scent of fried onions and ginger, which hit you every time you arrived at Woodstock Avenue or Poplar Hill or Astley Avenue for that matter…
It’s simple really but the balance of ginger, sweetness and sour vinegar takes a little practice so Mum’s teaspoon and tablespoon measurements are approximate for a turkey crown sized amount of meat. As she would say, “you need to judge it.”
I’m writing this on the sofa surrounded by the detritus of Lara and Pip’s toybox carnage. I’m not planning on doing much else for a bit except lounge and ponder the events of this time last year (20 minutes to go).
Mark has lit a candle. I’m grateful to him for keeping Pip at school last January in the week running up to this day. I’m grateful that I had that time by Mum’s bedside and the privileged position of being there when she eventually died.
Soon she’d be trying to wriggle off the bed and say her last words “it’s so hard to explain” before being comfortably tucked back into bed. Soon she’d give that last distant look across the bed. Soon her breathing would shallow but her pulse would stay strong for an impressive time until finally ebbing away. Soon she would be at peace.
It’s 14:42 and in 10 minutes time, a year ago, we lost the most fun-loving, thrill-seeking, super-cooking Mum, Nana, Wife, Sister, Niece, Cousin and friend we could ask for. Rest in peace Phyllis Griffiths.