A text tonight from Niecey:
I'm sad there's nowhere to go today to see nan! We should really let her ashes go somewhere else! Happy birthday to a super nan!X
My mum: born 20 October 1920, died 7 December 2005.
Since her cremation, she has remained untouched in a plastic bag on my dad's dresser in the bedroom they shared for more than 40 years.
Dust to dusty.
In January 2007, I wrote to my dad about this from New Zealand:
I spent the first anniversary of her death honouring Mum's memory in a quiet way, doing a lot of thinking. After she died I put up a 'shrine' (or “Mumorial” as I called it) in my room - a collection of photos, trinkets that reminded me of her, a small vase with red rosebuds in, a rosary, a candle. On the anniversary day it felt right to take it all down, put it all away and replace it with a single photo.
This made me realise that spending time in quiet contemplation with my 'mumorial' had helped me a lot in my mourning, and it made me wonder if it isn't a bit frustrating for everyone else not to have somewhere specific to 'be' with her in solitude.
Have you thought about getting a bench somewhere or tree planted in her name? It would be nice if there was somewhere family and friends could go to focus on memories of Mum, a special spot.
Also it would be nice for Mum to 'be' outdoors again, remember how she loved it, always in the garden with a big coat on if necessary? I just think she'd like to feel the wind in her hair again after spending so long inside.
(It's a waste of time trying - we all know how he'd respond. Something along the lines of 'mine. Mine mine mine mine mine mine mine mine.')
So, no memorial for her, because my dad is a selfish arse.
But enough about him: it's her day, not his.
My mum was lovely - good-natured, mild-mannered. Gentle and dutiful. Kind-hearted and unassuming. And funny - often unintentionally.
The one thing everyone remembers about Mum is her laugh.
That great, rusty wheeze.
Sometimes, when she started laughing, she couldn't stop, and she would set everybody off, until we were all rendered helpless, tears pouring down our faces, dissolved in mirth.
Sometimes when she laughed, she laughed so hard she farted, which made her laugh even more.
She only had one joke:
What's better than a pie on the table? A tart on the floor.
It came out without fail every sherry-fuelled Christmas.
She got muddled with names - she liked that nice Agnes Deayton - and was a terrible snob. Of a new boyfriend of mine she once demanded, apropos nothing, in her best Margaret Thatcher tone: "Are you a communist?" (he had his own business, drove a BMW). My brother-in-law is fond of recounting that she didn't speak to him for months after he proposed to My Lovely Sister, what with him having long hair and coming from the wrong part of town and that.
In true Daily Mail fashion she abhorred homosexuals, but denied Julian Clary, Lily Savage, Liberace, Elton John (etc, et al) could ever be gay because they were wonderful.
She cried when Princess Diana died, bought me a glittery advent calendar every year, and adored kittens. Liked rhubarb yoghurt, liver and onions, Harveys Bristol Cream. Supported Cambridge in the Boat Race because she lived there once, before she met my dad. Considered herself posh because she was born in Marylebone, but she grew up near Archway. Couldn't resist a flutter on the National. Lived in trousers. Liked a tipple. Kept the garden looking beautiful. Did the ironing, made the beds every morning without fail. Enjoyed puzzle books, but wasn't much of a reader. Never passed her driving test due to "nerves". Played badminton, tennis, card games. Thought eating/smoking in the street was common. Put on a faux-aristocratic 'telephone voice', about which we teased her relentlessly. Kept herself to herself. Made a mean apple pie. Volunteered at Scope for 20+ years til her arthritis got the better of her. Went to church every week. Fussy eater. Had a nervous breakdown after I was born, and never talked about it. Favourite swear word: "Balls!" (used only in emergencies). Was always 'Nan', never 'Nana' or, God forbid, 'Gran'. Wouldn't say boo to a goose. Dyed her silver hair brown to the very end.
Some days I still can't believe I'll never hear that Muttley laugh again.
I honoured what would've been her 90th birthday by stopping off on the way home from work to have beef and ale pie, new potatoes, peas and gravy in the cafe at Sainsbury's.
As one who dined in Sainsbury's many a time, I'm sure she would've approved.
Happy birthday Mum. You rocked, we miss you.