Well fancy seeing you here...

Hello and welcome to the rambling rollercoaster of useless ponderings, strung together in what the internet calls a "blog," and the voices call a waste of everyone elses time.

Please check your sanity at the door (along with your dignity, logic, principles, good taste and prejudices against daftness.)

"I am here to seduce you into a love of life; to help you to become a little more poetic; to help you die to the mundane and to the ordinary so that the extraordinary explodes in your life." -Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Caller ID

Today was the 1st of March, and the welcome sunshine heralded the forthcoming spring. There was a freshness to the world, promising to breathe the colour and life back into all those too-long warmed by radiators and thermal socks. The trees have begun to bud, daffodils have started pushing golden trumpets skyward through the slowly thawing ground, and birdsong’s returning to hedgerows as the hardy winter species take advantage of insects enlivened by the unexpected sun. It was a day of beginnings.

Once home, as buoyed by the fresh air and sense of optimism as any good cliché expects, I smiled at the shrill ring of the house-phone and made sure to grab the mug of freshly-brewed tea on-route to answer. There are only a few who’d call the landline at that time of day, and I assumed it would be my friend Chris, wanting to catch up after a few weeks of radio silence from us both. A good cuppa and comfortable seat are a necessity when such a lengthy chat’s anticipated, and as I picked up the receiver and settled down with both, I’ll admit to being unprepared for the female voice on the other end. As soon as she introduced herself as his mother, I knew I wouldn’t touch the tea.

Chris and I met seven years ago through his wife, Elaine, when we found ourselves thrown together on a hospital ward full of elderly ladies. We shared a sense of humour, and quickly formed a friendship forged through long days spent in opposite beds, with little else to entertain us but each other. On her way back through the foyer having been out for a cigarette, she’d passed the charity stall and bought me a squishy little elephant that was full of beans. Someone had told her many years ago that because elephants never forget, if you give someone an elephant, it means they’ll never forget you. We laughed about it and stood it on the windowsill with a little grey cat visiting family had brought her, and which she’d named after me. One day after a trip out on “day release” I returned so tired that I could do little more than curl up on the bed fully dressed. Without a word she padded over and unbuckled my shoes, doing the only thing she could think of to make me a little bit more comfortable, hoping I’d relax enough to sleep despite the increased pain and nausea that I’d been admitted for in the first place.

Elaine's gift.

We were all surprised when her condition deteriorated overnight, and though she clung to life for a few more days, when I saw her in the private room she’d been moved into there was little left of the vibrant, giggling woman I’d bonded with on the ward. Her husband kept in touch because he thought it was what she would have wanted, and over the years we became friends.

Although my only contact with Chris has been through regular phone-calls, he’s always been interested in what I’ve been up to, and always cared very much that I remain healthy and happy. His career in the forces left him with scars deeper than those which had previously hospitalised me, and occasionally he’d recount some of the nightmares which had outlasted his service. Those tales weren’t always easy to hear, but were tempered with anecdotes about his time in Germany, the antics of the five cats he’d raised from kittens, and his enduring passion for science and astronomy.

Several attempts have been made throughout the years, by me and by his friends and family, to dissuade him from drinking as heavily as he began to following Elaine’s death. But he never slept soundly without her, and couldn’t imagine spending his life with anyone else. Until today I’d never spoken to his mother directly, simply heard him speak of her, often mentioning how robust she was for a woman of eighty who had still cared for her own mother until recently. I can’t count the number of times Chris joked about the longevity in his family, and talked about outliving me despite being thirty years my senior. Thirty years to the day, as the same date in April birthed us both, and made the annual well-wishes much easier to remember!

As the very last of the sun streamed through the window, warming the seat I’d curled up in to chat with him, his mother quietly explained how her son had been found dead. It was a strangely civilised and emotionless call; her supplying the details, me offering the condolences, us both agreeing that the news wasn’t entirely unexpected. I felt sorrier for her than for him in many ways, because he’d been very philosophical about his lack of desire to live without Elaine. He’d lost a life he no longer wanted, but she’d lost a son she’d never given up hope would learn to cope on his own. The tears that followed the click of the receiver flowed for so many things. The shock of the news after expecting his cheery refrain to greet me, the familiarity of the hurt I knew his family would be feeling, and the uncompromising contrast between the afternoon’s positivity and the sadness that was creeping in with the evening shade.

Long ago I’d had to accept that I couldn’t “fix” Chris. That none of the people who cared for him could do that. The best I could offer was to be his “little friend,” as he always referred to me, mainly to wind me up. I listened to him, laughed with him, and let him cry when he needed to. In return he cared, and repeatedly reassured me that he’d always be there if I needed him. Despite his flaws and failings, and all the people he had let down over the years – including himself – he really meant it. In a funny sort of way I always knew I could rely on him. He was determined to do right by me because of Elaine, and never went very long without giving me a ring to check that all was right with my world.

The only wobble during today’s call came when his mother asked me if she could phone me from time to time, to keep in touch, because she thought it would be what Chris would have wanted. I assured her that she was welcome to ring at any time, and I was always here if there was anything she needed. I’ll do my best to listen. I’m sure we’ll laugh sometimes. And I’m sure there will be times she’ll need to cry.

The weather report for tomorrow says it’s turning colder. Spring isn’t beginning yet after all. First, winter must end.


Mr Parlett said...

Our world needs more of your compassion and communication. You write like you were born to it. Don't stop.

sues said...

I just cried.......Katie your words are beautiful and your ability to paint a picture would rival manyof the great and frequently published.
I am so sorry about Chris, but i guess he is now with the woman he didn't want to live without, and his troubled soul at rest.
You are our Spring and Summer.

Love you. X