Tis a tough ask, just being. So when asked to write a life, a whole life span…
January 14, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a life span. It can a life of a person as if flashing by or the life of a honey bee. What key elements would show a lifetime in brevity? Does it add to a character’s development or create tension? What is the emotion or is it void?
…I’m rather foxed. The good people over at Charli’s carrot ranch, those mean writers of flash the Rough Writers, have already come up with some corkers. Take a look if you don’t believe me. It’s a high quality week amongst a continuingly improving group.
Normally, about now, some link to some idea that the prompt has triggered fires my crusty old synapses into action and I can ramble hither and yon a bit before getting down to cases. This time though, my links are rather, hmm, maudlin.
I wonder if the problem with a life span is that a span is finite. It’s kind of over, isn’t it. The beginning and middle are fine but the end? You have to have an end, a death, as well as the bits before. And however we dress it up, ends, for those people and things we care for are grim. I’ve said it before, I do not buy time as a great healer. Time merely adds a layer of new experiences that help numb, neuter and anesthetise the grief, hiding it.
This was brought home to me in two conversations over the last couple of days.
Conversations one: Brown and Green café at Crystal Palace station – seriously , if you are in south London, go there. I love it – a man was asking to put up a poster of his dog, a Scottie. The dog had just died of a heart attack and the man, bereft, wanted to do something positive so was setting up a Just Giving page in his dog’s honour to raise money for the PDSA which, for non Brits, is a pet charity. He clearly wasn’t coping well but what made it hard for him, he said, was the lack of understanding how grief affected him. Lose a child and, of course, the sympathy is deep and long lasting. Lose a parent when you’re a child and ditto. Lose a parent as an adult, or even lose a pet and people assume you’ll get over it. It isn’t that easy. Really. Not for everyone.
Conversation two with my Bro in law. When my mum died aged 82, the Archaeologist and I decided we would have a funeral that was truly a celebration of a life well lived. Humour was at its centre; my mother was a funny woman, with plenty of anecdotes. Lots of warmth amongst the sadness. Then my uncle, her younger brother spoke. He thanked my brother and me but he was in tears. His beloved sister had been a mother to him, he said. When their father fell ill in 1937, she, aged 12 left school to nurse him and bring up him and their younger brother while their mother, my Gran, went out to work. When my grandfather died in 1940, she continued to look after the boys and run the house until they went to boarding school and she went into the ATS. He felt he could never repay that debt. She never saw it that way which, in its way, made her going that bit worse for him. Few people there, me included realised, until that moment, the extent of her sacrifice and his desperation to live up to her example. Despite rich lives, fully lived, that burden never eased.
In this photo, from June 1940, Ted is preparing to repel the Luftwaffe. Mum and Ted lived in Herne Bay on the North Kent coast and watched the dog fights fought between Spitfires and Hurricanes on one side and Messerschmitts on the other as the Battle of Britain played out that hot tense summer.
So perhaps that explains the introverted and somewhat gloomy piece I have penned. As I hope this blog has shown I am, in the words of my malaproping daughter (who is clearly, despite a considerable education, taking over from her great grandmother) an eternal octopuss and cheerful by nature. There is always a little shade somewhere, of course.
Mary let the sun caress her. Paul watched, worried as she said, “Do you ever know another person? I thought I knew dad. He was my hero. Omnipotent. The war, the battles with illness. Sanitised snippets, like a highlights show. Some doubts, little dustballs in the corner – they made him fallible, more human, you know? They were never so bad I couldn’t forgive him. Always. But this? He’s dead and there’s this whole other him I knew nothing about. Adulterer, father of my twin who might be buried in the garden. What am I going to do, Paul? What?”
If you want the previous instalments of Mary’s story, please click here.