Cancer - Your Story : Selective Memory

Editors note:  This is the story of "Deerbaby" - the second in a series that I have called "Cancer - Your Story".  If you are interested in sharing your story please click on the link and contact me.

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Deerbaby (Blog)
Deerbaby (Twitter)
All "Cancer - Your Story" posts
Cancer Research UK - http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/
Photo credit: D Sharon Pruitt - Pink Sherbert Photography


* * *


There is no headstone. She is buried under a silver birch tree.  

My sister, elder by three years, died from leukaemia. I was nine. My own son is now just slightly older I was when she died. He seems so small. Nothing bad has ever happened to him. What will he be able to remember of his life today as I can of that time? Sometimes it seems like yesterday my mother sat me down and told me. Sometimes it feels so long ago, as if it happened to someone else, or in a story.

I remember the wheelchair. I remember the ghastly brown wig whose tight curls shone and gave off a crimplene-like static. She detested it. Not a single attempt made by the manufacturer to create something that would make her look like herself. Like a 12 year old child. We both wore our hair in bunches – mine blonde, hers brown. I remember a hospital bedside portrait session where they had to rouge her cheeks as they were as white as bone.

We went to see her in the children’s hospital every day, after school. How did we get there? My mum didn’t drive. Did we go on the bus, with my baby sister who was not yet three? Did we wait for my dad to get home at twenty past five on the dot and take us?

But then an aunt came to look after us and we didn’t have to go to the hospital as usual. 
My parents came home. 

‘How is she? I asked. 

A look passed between them and my mother beckoned me over to sit on her knee. 

She’s gone to rockin’ Jesus.’ 

‘You don’t have to go to school tomorrow if you don’t want to.’

I know I cried. But what did I do then? Did I go off and play? Did I eat my tea?

At school the next day, the teacher asked me to go the library to pick up a book. She had never done that before. I wasn’t book monitor. So I stood outside and listened at the door. 

Now listen class. We’ve all got to be especially nice to A. Her sister died yesterday.

When I came back in the room, Robin gave me his prized spy pen which had invisible ink at one end that you wrote with and then rubbed the other end and the words would magically appear and Jenny gave me the best of her collection of scented rubbers.

I was sent away to stay with another aunt, uncle and three cousins who owned a farm. It was bliss. We spent all day riding horses - real and imaginary. 

One day I noticed my aunt and uncle getting into their car, both wearing black and my aunt in an Ascot-sized black hat, instead of her usual plaid shirts and slacks. I suddenly put two and two together - they were off to my sister’s funeral. And I wasn’t going. Also, if they were going, who was looking after me?

When I came back from the farm I was furious.  Furious with my parents.  Furious that I wasn’t allowed to go to the funeral.  Or even asked if I wanted to.  But it was different then.  Children didn’t go to funerals.  They were trying to protect you from your grief. How could they have coped with you there?
Furious that I never got to say goodbye. Because the last time I visited I had no idea it was to be the last time. I might have trilled it, out of earshot, skipping out to freedom. It was just another day at the hospital. 
Furious that I didn’t spot any of the clues. I would wait every Thursday for my comic to come through the letterbox. One morning it came and I pounced on it. My Dad asked if he could take it to the hospital for K to read. ‘It’s mine. She can read it any time. She can read it after me.’ My Dad ran upstairs, making a strange choking noise.
Furious with God. From innocently singing All Things Bright and Beautiful and Dear Lord and Father of  Mankind, the words now stuck in my throat.
Furious with myself. Why didn’t I give her that stupid comic? I have never forgiven myself. 

Years later I found the card that I wrote to go on the funeral wreath amongst my mother’s things. Words in my childlike handwriting with my best fountain pen. It was smudged from the rain. I have no recollection of writing it.

* * *

Two Sides To Every Story

brr... brr... brr... brr... brr
Bel stretched out her left arm and clicked the snooze button on the alarm clock.  The morning sun brightened the room as it shone against the beige cotton curtains.   She opened one eye and squinted at the digital display on the alarm clock. 06:40: she had 10 more minutes until the alarm rang again and she intended not to rise from the bed until the last possible second but already her mind was whirring with the list of tasks to be accomplished that day.

---

brr... brr... brr... brr... brr
Joe heard her alarm clock bleeping away and felt the slight movement the bed as she stretched out her arm to hit the snooze button.  Why did she do that?  He knew that she was awake – her breathing was different.  What was she thinking as she lay there?  He felt himself drift... slowly... back... to... sleep...

---

brr... brr... brr... brr... brr
She turned in bed, opened both her eyes and looked at the digital display again although she already knew what it read.  06:50.  Carefully and smoothly she swung her legs out of the bed, padded round the bedroom barefoot, collected the clothes she’d strategically piled on the dresser as she passed and made her way to the bathroom.  On the way down the landing she called into each of her boys’ bedrooms, waking them up, reminding them that it was a school day: “Jamie! Ben! Time to get up.  School.  Now!” she called briskly.

She washed quickly and brushed her teeth, then dressed herself in the tiny bathroom so she wouldn’t disturb Joe in the bedroom.  She couldn’t cope with his self-absorbency this early in the morning.  It suited her that he chose to stay in bed although she often wondered what would happen if she refused to get up in the morning.

She caught sight of her reflection as she pulled up her tights and looked away again quickly.  No wonder he didn’t want to touch her as often these days.  She was three sizes bigger than when he’d met her twenty years ago, lumpy, saggy, scarred from operations; she poked at the excess flab on her thighs.

---

brr... brr... brr... brr... brr...
He felt the bed move as she reached to turn the alarm off and she climbed out of bed.  He watched her through almost-closed eyes as she moved quietly around the bed, picking up clothes to wear in her usual smooth motion.  “I wish she wasn’t so negative about herself” he thought.  “I wish she’d give me a chance.  She’s up first, to bed last, she always wears pajamas.  It’s almost like she’s avoiding me.”  He could hear water splashing in the sink in the bathroom and the boys moving around their bedrooms.   He rolled over onto his back and waited.

***

It was Friday evening.  Bel had rushed home from work, phoned up and ordered a take-away for everyone from the local Chinese, wishing that someone had already done all this considering they were having a rare night out together with friends; it was someone’s birthday.   A little while later, she stepped out of the shower and wrapped herself in a large bath towel then used a smaller one to rub the excess water from her hair.  One look in the mirror told her that it was going to take longer than the usual ten minutes to look presentable.  She stepped closer to the mirror and pulled slightly at the delicate skin under her eyes, trying to stretch the brown shadows away.  Grabbing the tweezers from her make-up bag she plucked away a few stray hairs from her eyebrows... then one from her chin... then a couple from her top lip... then gave up.  She quickly applied her make-up and chose a dress from the wardrobe.  After she’d put it on, she tugged at the material, wishing it would fit better.  Squinting her eyes at her reflection, she tried to imagine herself half a stone lighter.  Yes, that would smooth the lumps and bumps if nothing else.

Shrugging at her reflection she attacked her hair half-heartedly with the straighteners, smoothed some wax through it, gave it a bit of a shake and tugged her fringe over her forehead and her non-existent wrinkles.  She heard Joe’s heavy footsteps coming up the stairs as shoved her high-but-comfortable shoes and, as he walked into the room, she gave a little tip-toe twirl, “Will I do, love?”  She heard the response, “You look fine” and choked back the tears that welled up and headed out of the room to grab a tissue before she smudged her mascara.  All she wanted was for him to really like the way she looked.

---

He watched her out of the corner of his eye as she flew through the front door at 5.15pm.   Smoothly, and without pausing, she hung her coat on the rail, kicked off her shoes, picked up the phone, placed the regular Friday evening order at the local Chinese take-away and had started organising the night’s events, “We’re meeting Maddie and Ste at the pub at 7.30, then we’ll probably do the usual route round town.  Have you got your shirt sorted out?”  She hardly took a  breath and he felt that she needed to slow down.  He would offer to do a few things for her but he knew she would only brush him aside and profess that she could do them quicker on her own.

Whilst she was in the shower he got his shirt out of the wardrobe, gave it a quick shake and hung it up over the door.  He stood sideways as he looked in the mirror and smoothed his t-shirt over his ever-increasing paunch, hoping that the shirt would still fit.  As he heard the shower shut off, he grabbed his electric shaver and headed downstairs so that she could use the bedroom in peace.   After a quick spruce up he headed back up the stairs and into the bedroom to get changed.  He saw Bel and thought she looked lovely.  After all these years, she still managed to look beautiful without going overboard; just gorgeous.  “Will I do, love?” she asked.  He never knew how to pay her a compliment that wouldn’t get brushed aside or that she wouldn’t protest against and think that he was making it up to pacify her so he replied with, “You look fine.”  As she pushed past him he was aware that he may have said the wrong thing, raised his eyes to the ceiling, opened his arms in silent despair and started to get dressed.

***

They stumbled through the front door just after 1am, both more drunk that they had been for a while, still laughing from the good night that they’d had with their friends, giggling whilst sharing a memory from earlier.

Remembering that the children were away for the night they looked at each other and Bel glanced towards the stairs, “Race ya...” she said, and set off up the stairs.  Joe chased after her and they threw themselves on their bed, tearing at each other’s clothes, kissing wildly.  “I love you so much,” murmured Bel.  Joe slowed for a second and drank in those words.  “I love you, too” he whispered back.  Bel could hardly believe what she was hearing but didn’t question it and savoured the moment.

***

A short while later, Bel was curled up under the duvet, relishing the shared moments, wishing it was always like that.  When she thought Joe was asleep, she slid carefully out of bed and padded to the bathroom, not bothering to put on her dressing gown, enjoying the naughtiness of being naked.  She looked at herself in the mirror and cocked her head to the side.  She didn’t know whether it was the after-glow of sex but she decided that what she saw wasn’t too bad after all...

---

Joe felt Bel slide out of the bed and watched her walk confidently towards the door.  He thought back to only a short time ago when he’d been exploring every inch of her beautiful body.  He couldn’t wait for her to come back...




I have written this for the Writing Workshop that is  run by Josie at Sleep Is For The Weak.  This week was Workshop #22 and I have written my own take on prompt #4 - When did you say the wrong thing and wish you could have eaten your words.  You can find all the other Workshop posts >>> here <<<

The Gallery : Portrait


These Are The Days Of Our Lives
(music and words by Queen)

Sometimes I get the feelin'
I was back in the old days - long ago
When we were kids when we were young
Things seemed so perfect - you know
The days were endless we were crazy we were young
The sun was always shinin' - we just lived for fun
Sometimes it seems like lately - I just don't know
The rest of my life's been just a show

Those were the days of our lives
The bad things in life were so few
Those days are all gone now but one thing is true
When I look and I find I still love you

You can't turn back the clock you can't turn back the tide
Ain't that a shame
I'd like to go back one time on a roller coaster ride
When life was just a game
No use in sitting and thinkin' on what you did
When you can lay back and enjoy it through your kids
Sometimes it seems like lately - I just don't know
Better sit back and go with the flow

Cos these are the days of our lives
They've flown in the swiftness of time
These days are all gone now but some things remain
When I look and I find no change

Those were the days of our lives - yeah
The bad things in life were so few
Those days are all gone now but one thing's still true
When I look and I find
I still love you

I still love you






This blog post was submitted for the weekly Gallery over at Sticky Fingers.  This week's theme was 'Portrait' and this is the portrait of my family: past, present and... well, we don't know the future.

This digital art Gallery is all linked at Sticky Fingers and you can see all of this weeks entries >>> here <<< 

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Tell Me Three Things...

I want to know three things about you that you have never mentioned on your blog or that you have never mentioned to other bloggers.  You may be as cryptic or as daft or as open as you like.  Please leave your "three things" in the comments section below.




I shall start with:


My grandfather was a prisoner-of-war during WW2 and met my grandmother whilst in the camp (she was working there).  When he was sent back to Germany after the war he kept in contact as best he could and returned to marry her in 1948.


I used to regularly apply to appear on quiz shows - nothing ever came of it although I did have two auditions for the first series of 'In It To Win It'.


I have had my adenoids removed but not my tonsils.




Over to you...

Grumpy Old Woman

I have been handed the 'grumpy baton' by Becky over at Single Mummy and I honestly have no idea why probably because I am the female version of Victor Meldrew.  I don't court grumpiness, but these things just happen to me.  I have had to wait until I was in a suitable mood to write seven things that make me grumpy so these are mainly from last week:


1.  (work related)  I send an email, you read it.  You click reply WHILST AT YOUR COMPUTER, you respond.  Job done.  WHY does it take another three emails and the threat of the cancellation of the seminar before you confirm your attendance?  (multiply this by 67 delegates)


2.  Liz Jones of the Daily Mail - yes I know this is ironic that I'm being grumpy about someone who has a newspaper column called "Liz Jones Moans" but, for crying out loud, that woman writes complete and utter drivel and managed to contradict herself in her own article last week - she first wrote about how she believed that Sophie Dahl should be ensuring that her husband cook his own meals, all in the name of feminism, then proceeded to berate Christina Aguilera and her choice to introduce the fact that nudity is OK in front of her two year old son... Ms Jones actually states... "Oh, for the days when mums wore aprons and Marigolds, at all times"... erm, would that be whilst they were cooking and cleaning for their husbands then?



I have have to sit on my hands whilst reading "articles" as I ITCH to reply to them (and did once on this blog - I'm still waiting for a reply from her) when I could be putting something together and pitching it to the DM myself... or maybe not!!

3.  Jeggings - what the f...?  Either wear jeans (you know... those skinny jeans that are back in fashion again now) or leggings.  Just decide.

4.  Knowing where things are.  Why am I the only one who knows where ANYTHING is in this house?  And why do they alwyas need to know when I'm on the loo/phone/laptop/reading/watching Glee (delete as appropriate)?

5.  Wake up.  WAKE up.  Wake UP!  WAKE UP FOR SCHOOL!  OH FOR GOD'S SAKE, JUST GET UP!  If you're still there when I come back up, you're getting water on you.  WAKE UP!!!

6.  To the bastard who side-swiped my husbands car on Friday night/Saturday morning and just drove off - sense my tone... you are on my "List" if I ever find out who you are.

7.  Paypal, take your court letter and take a flying one.  The item was NOT returned to me in the condition it was sent out in and it is YOUR fault that you repaid the twatty customer who strung you a load of lies without consulting me first.  Take it out of that *points to nose*!


~ ~ and breathe ~ ~

I have loads more... shall I carry on?

The words that were never said...

She came, crept into our lives
And destroyed us.
She took our trust, screwed it up 
And threw it away.
He was no better...
He let it all happen
And now we have to pretend it's all OK
Because the person who was torn in two
Is no longer with us.

She will never be to me what she wants to be,
Not after what she did.
Each time I look at him
I see the guilt in his eyes,
But I no longer care
Now I know the truth about the past.
He knows what he has lost...
Me.









Edited to add:  I've decided to submit this poem to the Writing Workshop that is  run by Josie at Sleep Is For The Weak.  This week was Workshop #21 and I used prompt #2 - A moment of realisation where you knew something had to change.  I was going to explain what it's about but even now, there are still some things better left unsaid.  You can find all the other Workshop posts >>> here <<<

The Tracks Of My Tears...

I make no secret of the fact that I love music so when Garry from Blog Up North tagged me in a "Songs That Make You Cry" meme, my immediate thoughts were that it was going to be easy.  Not so.  I'll freely admit that the following songs don't actually make me sob buckets but they do tug at the emotional heartstrings for one reason or another.

The theme tune from the film "Somewhere in Time" (1980)
(Rachmaninoff Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini Op. 43, Variation XVIII for the pedantic amongst us)
I purposefully haven't linked to the film on YouTube in case anyone hasn't seen it and wants to.  It's a film about a playwright who is given a gift of a pocket watch by an old lady who says to him "Come back to me, Richard".  A story of unexpected love and time travel ensues with surprising outcomes.  It's one of my favourite films and the music is part of the 'hook' of the film.  Haunting and fitting.

This version of Stand By Me/Beautiful Girls from "Boys Don't Sing - The Choir" on BBC2 (lead by Gareth Malone)
To see Gareth Malone create a choir (and eventually this 'mash-up' way before anything like Glee was shown on TV) was great - the boys went from reluctantly joining the choir for the sake of something to do to pulling off a performance like this.  Amazing.

Suddenly by Angry Anderson
From the Neighbours wedding - Scott & Charlene - although I'm sure you are getting a bit sick of me linking this now!

Falling Down - Duran Duran
This (obviously) isn't the official video - but the one that is available doesn't allow embedding.  Please go and look at it if you can and you'll see why I associate this with the film 'Girl, Interrupted'. 
Because I'm falling down
With people standing 'round
Before I hit the ground
Is there time?  Could I find
Someone out there to help me?

Placebo, Running Up That Hill
Again, this isn't the official video but you can see that one here - again, embedding disabled.  Just a beautiful song.  And this version is probably better than the original!

So who am I going to tag... to carry this on?
Paula at Battling On
Dawn at The Moiderer

Feed me! Feed me NOW!

I had to attend a meeting last night.  I would be out for approximately three hours.


Son #2:  What will I eat in all the time that you're out? (note the guilt-laden statement)
Me:  Didn't you just have tea 20 minutes ago?
Son #2:  Yeah, but, I'm always hungry, aren't I?


I have a feeling that all the media panic surrounding the recent volcano eruption and the many people stranded has taken effect slightly closer to home.  He was duly despatched to the corner shop for a loaf of bread just in case.  He knows how to survive on beans on toast, egg on toast, scrambled egg on toast, toast, jam butties...


Jack Straw is my NBF

Son #1:  Jack Staw is in the next street, knocking on doors, Mum.
Me:  Really...? (I was only half listening)

* * * 5 minutes later * * *

*knock knock*

Member of the Labour Party:  Good evening (blah blah blah)... can we rely on your vote in the election?

I shall not bore you with the details of our conversation but it involved me explaining that if Mr Straw couldn't be arsed canvassing himself then I would be keeping my voting preferences to myself.

* * * 2 minutes later * * *

Me:  Kev, did Jack Straw just walk past our window?
Kev:  Dunno... erm... it looked a bit like him...

I opened the front door to see Mr Straw stood on the corner of our street.  I waved him over and proceeded to have a lovely chat with him about his involvement in the local area (he is a very prolific M.P., often at his office and has only missed one surgery session).  After about 10-15 minutes we were winding up our conversation and I said
"No-one outside of Blackburn is going to believe this happened.  Would you mind having your photo taken with me?"
And so he did...
(excuse the quality of the photo... Kev took it)

So, I thought that was that.  Mr Straw excused himself (I couldn't convince him to join me at my dance class at 7pm.  Pity) and went on with his local canvassing.  

A little later, I was discussing how dolphins are just gay sharks reviewing the latest episode of Glee on Twitter and noticed an update from Sarah Brown.  I sent her the following tweet about me and my new best friend...


... and then three minutes later, I received this reply...



Good service from all sides.  That's all I'm saying.

The local LibDem representative called a few days ago.  He looked like he could do with a good wash and needed a comb through his hair and all I have had from the local Conservative representative is a glossy leaflet which was a blatant plug for his local letting agency.  Hhhmmm.




21.04.10 - EDITED TO ADD:
I noticed a link on my traffic feed (see the sidebar) that showed a visitor had dropped by the blog via "Jack Straw's Soapbox" so I had to have a nosy to see how this linked in with that (other than for obvious reasons).  It seems that the "blah blah blah" guy has tracked me down.  So please all say hello to Mr. Mark Davies, official bag carrier during the General Election Campaign.


22.04.10 - EDITED TO ADD (AGAIN):
An email has arrived from Katie Haworth, assistant to Jack Straw.  She has asked for permission to link my blog to the Blackburn Labour website... so, a big "HELLO" to any new readers and I hope that my blog  will hold your interest after the General Election.  There is a little bit of background information about me on this page.

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