I lost my mother for real in January 2013 when I was forty-one. I say for real because I have grieved for her possibly my whole life. I can’t remember the first time I wrote her eulogy in my minds eye. I do know I cried each time; when I shut my eyes at night, in the shower, driving to work. I only have to think about crying and I’m a red blotchy mess for hours if not days, so I didn’t give in to it easily. But it would rupture and I was compelled. I’d be squinting trying to prevent my mascara from running down my chin onto my office gear, clenching the steering wheel with one hand and trying not to wipe snot in my eyes. I can’t remember what prompted the first imagining but it was before I knew it was called a eulogy.
I suspect I was preparing my self, wanting the worst to be over with already. I imagined a grief of losing my mother like someone who had lost a parent in a blameless car accident or from a short but aggressive cancer. I had no compass though and I felt alone in my grief. There was no real explanation or label. Every time I let her in, she seemed to have another break down which ended in a lengthy stay in bed or the Richmond Clinic. There was no start, or meaning, or end in sight. When I was a tween she left Dad, left safety and things really got interesting. The un-inked writing was uninhibited. I often fretted that no one would be at her funeral, or I would find nothing appropriate to say.
As it turned out her send off was not only appropriate but charming too, and filled with people. Most surviving family attended, with a special contingent from Queensland. She’d made some important connections in her later years and they came, as did one of her ex’s who I had always liked. All of my good friends attended, many of whom she had never met, but closure was important to share and I was grateful they were there.
My older brother did not become a hypocrite. He hadn’t acknowledged her for years and with her eventual passing there was no change on that front. My youngest Uncle, Mum’s brother, took his place. He was with me, helped me understand the end was imminent, and convinced me to stay. To be there at the end was a privilege that I will always be grateful for and I credit him with that.
The service was at the Williamstown Botanical Gardens, on the Liquidambar Lawn. It has a lovely bronze plaque on a bronze post. Under the shade of the tree, we had a trestle table set up with sandwiches and tea, and another with a beautiful decorative urn my Aunt Helen, her sister had bought (and poured her into), a framed photo of her, and a guest book. It was the best possible version of a tree that had meant something to me – it featured in my childhood home – a home that dates back to a time before I knew things were not all quite right in the world.
I’d like to write a dozen novels—creative non-fiction, fictionalised true stories? Call it what you will. I’m a late starter but there’s time. I always thought the first would be about my mother—that I needed to purge before I could move on but I’m not going to be precious about that. Vonnegut says of the completion and success of his opus, Slaughterhouse-five that it was like a glass of champagne at the end of a life. Hmmm. Perhaps she’ll feature later. My first may well be about my maternal grandfather, Poppy Lasslett who was born in 1906 and lived until he was ninety-four. I took dictation from him in my early twenties. An entire A4 Spirax notebook, in remarkably good nick, filled with his stories. He began as a entrepreneurial scallywag on the streets of Footscray, saved an ageing boxer from hanging himself in the outside dunny of a friends family home, was a boxer himself in the navy, bought and lost property as a young man, had a secret family, before the one I was part of, and was a staunch member of the socialist party. His reflections of his world have a deep political ideological thread. I can’t wait to sink my efforts into the research and see what is uncovered. 2016 is the year I’m getting serious. Musings and observations, on books, movies, my own writing process and life in general, happy things, on the fence type of things, definitive opinions. Hope to see you around.