Wednesday, 12 October 2011

The Day Jimmy Found Some Peace And Quiet.

Jimmy is my Mothers latest husband. He is a proper husband. Proper in the sense they they were legally married in the Registrars office. As usual in momentous occasions in Mums life, I was not at the actual ceremony, but I have seen photographic evidence that a marriage occurred, and I also noticed that Mum had a new outfit, and a new hat.

They have been married for about three years now, which is quite an achievement, given that Mum inflicts verbal cruelty on him daily, and blames Jimmy for practically everything, including all her own shortcomings.
Jimmy is a quiet, dour, man of few words, but when he does rise to the bait, the resulting arguments can be quite terrifying. Nothing physical, apart from Mum hurling objects at him, but extremely loud and nasty. I found the arguments so unsettling, that at the age of 14 I once again found myself in care, and resident in a local children's home.

Today being rather different than normal though, I am back with Mum and Jimmy for a few days. It is quiet in the house, apart from the loud tick tock of the clock.
Mum is in the kitchen, and I am sitting on the new settee in the living room, trying to read a magazine, but because I am constantly glancing towards the door I keep losing my place. I am nervous, because I keep expecting Jimmy to walk through the door.
Mum says there is nothing to be nervous about, because Jimmy is in the bedroom. He is definitely dead, and the lid of his coffin is screwed down very tight. There must be a draught coming from somewhere, because shivers keep running up my back.

Earlier, there had been lots of friends and neighbours round to pay their respects and look at Jimmy lying in his coffin. Everyone was dressed in their Sunday best clothes, and the smell of mothballs, shoe polish, tobacco smoke, boiled egg sandwiches, and Brylcreem, was pervasively strong in the air.
The women were drinking Sherry in little glasses, "Just a very small one for me please Muriel," and the men were knocking back Jimmy's best whisky. If he wasn't already dead Jimmy would have had a heart attack at the measures they were pouring themselves. He liked to be hospitable, not philanthropic.

I had never seen a dead body before and was reluctant to look, but Mum said I had to, so that I could properly pay my respects, whatever that meant. The person in the coffin did not look like Jimmy. It looked like a skeleton. Jimmy was a burly ex wrestler.
Mum sensed what I was thinking, "He lost a lot of weight while he was ill," she said.
I was not convinced it was him, but everyone else seemed to recognise him. They stood and looked for a few seconds and spoke to each other about what a fine man he had been, and how much he would be missed at the bowls club. Things like that.

One woman peered into the coffin and exclaimed, "Oh my word Muriel, he does look well!" At which several people nodded and murmured agreement. He didn't though, he looked like a dead man who was very ill.

Just before they screwed down the coffin lid, Mum said I should give Jimmy a kiss. I thought it was a weird thing to do, and didn't want to do it, but I didn't want to make a fuss about it, so I leaned over and kissed him on the forehead. It was like kissing cold marble. Although why I thought that, I have no idea, having never kissed marble in my life, whether warm or cold.

That was the first time I had ever kissed Jimmy, or indeed, shown any affection towards him at all. It wasn't that I didn't like him. I didn't know him. My feelings were quite ambivalent. Besides, men did not show their emotions in those days. It was considered unmanly. It was a long time after his death, that I began to understand his character, as well as the realisation of just how fond of him I had been.

It was cancer that got him. He was 64 years old. It had been a tough life. Most of it spent working in the quarry. He was just a few months off retiring. Poor Jimmy. All that hard work and he never even got the gold pocket watch!

I am 64 now. I intend to keep going for some time. I still have things to do. One thing I will be doing, is letting people I like, know that I like them. Another thing I will be doing is, avoiding pointless arguments. Actually make that all arguments. Lastly, and in my opinion very importantly, I shall be making absolutely certain that I have finished every last drop of whisky in the bottle before I go.


  1. Losing a parent (and that is what Jimmy was for you) is always hard. Death is confusing for everyone. It seems that you have come to reasonable terms with Jimmy's death. That leaves room for fond memories, the best of all.

  2. Oh this is extremely powerful writing. I enjoyed your words, I am sorry you had to go through this but you actually made me feel like I was in the room. Great writing. B

  3. You write well, and your post is quite amazing. I do hope you keep on going for a long time. As long as you have health, I'm sure you will.

    As for the signature, copy the HTML code, go to setting in blogger, click on format, went down the page until you see post template, paste the HTML code into that area, and click save setting.

    The signature will appear under the post when you write a new post. I hope this will help!

  4. Oh.MY.What an experience.
    Glad you are well.

  5. I think the things you are going to do, let people you like know you like them and avoid arguements, are good resolutions. Death can be a very confusing thing for many people, but especially those who have had no previous experience of it. Unfortunately, as you get older you seem to have more and more experience of it, a sad fact of life. In fact, I'm going to a funeral this afternoon.

  6. Hi John, i have been to wakes were I have overheard people say "Isn't he awful well lookin".....a don't think so! Enjoyed your post

  7. A beautiful and thought provoking post, I agree with the above, you write well. My mum died when she was 64, I hope I am still going strong for a long time after I reach that age. I am trying my best. Jane sent me over to read your blog.

  8. Most arguments are pointless when you think about it. Another great post, John.
    Jane x

  9. What a heartfelt post. You two may have really got to like each other given the chance. I remember I kissed my dad on the head after he had passed. A very strange feeling, one that I hope never to have to repeat.

  10. What a touching post, thanks for sharing.

  11. I never quite understood peoples comments at funerals. They stand there and talk about how good the deceased looks. How can one look good when they are dead? Here's to a long, happy and healthy life