When your mother is 92 you can’t really be surprised that she should die. Surprised no, but shocked yes.
My mother died early in the evening of May 8. We had heard the day before that she had pneumonia in both lungs. She had three children and we all talked to her, my brother (in California) last, only a couple of hours before she died. My sister had already hot-footed it back from France where she had been on holiday and was coming up the stairs of the care home as she was dying. My mother had been listening to Handel’s Messiah and had put my father’s watch beside her.
I was teaching a course at the OU in Milton Keynes when I heard. I left immediately to be with my sister and prepare the funeral. Feeling the effects of abrupt rescheduling - as well as shock. Only I am not quite sure that ‘shock’ is the word. It’s certainly part of it but it’s also a sudden access to all that past.
My father died in 1989 at the age of seventy-one. My mother will join him in the same grave nearly twenty-four years on. A lot has happened since then, of course, but a death always causes a kind of compacted disorientation in those left and I’m including grandchildren who’ve married since and nine great-grandchildren who don’t know what has happened.
Now I do not normally write very personal blogs. But since I have been doing other things, I am pretty confident I have been remiss acknowledging the kindnesses shown me on publication of Black Bear on May 9. Apologies.
My mother was born just before Christmas in 1920, one of the many children of very long-lived Italians I always called Nonno and Nonna. She herself, when she became a grandparent, was known as Nonna.
She lived a long life and was very fortunate. That’s a cause for a celebration. But right now I’ll leave that for later. I am feeling slow and tired. It wasn’t until I was on the train leaving Milton Keynes that I realized I was going away from the Open University – where my mother took a degree at the age of 64. She hadn’t had the chance when growing up and she gave herself the opportunity as a retirement present.