I know that one swallow does not a summer make but perhaps a flock of them swooping over Edna’s wee house this morning does herald warmer weather. This was my first sighting of the swallows and they seemed to be enjoying the hot weather a damn sight more than us. We were wilting and the swallows seemed to be frolicking in it; I could almost hear them calling to us “we’re back, we’re back and happy to be here, are you pleased to see us?” And yes I was. I quickly nipped into the garden adjacent to the bedroom and pruned back all the shrubbery so it would be up to scratch when my neighbours move back in. Don’t like to disturb them, you know, once they settle in and start procreating.

Judy’s mum, Shirley, died recently. She had not been well for some time, her mind slowly slipping away as dementia took its awful grip. My dad had Alzheimer’s so I think that I could understand a little bit of what it is like to see someone you love disappear. Fortunately Shirley, like my dad, died relatively painlessly and that, I think is lucky. My dad always used to say what a lucky person he was, everything always went in his favour. Perhaps most people would not consider dying at 79 lucky or getting Alzheimer’s, or  oesophageal cancer for that matter. But what we found was that, as he sank further into oblivion, he actually became an easier person to relate to. And by the time he died (of a heart attack) I could sit and chat with him in an easy manner like I had never been able to previously. Not that it made any sense but I like to think that he enjoyed me being there. I could also be affectionate with him, which was never part of our relationship before.

Shirley’s death has obviously made me consider the inevitability of my own mum’s demise. And one thing that Judy said to me that struck home was that once her mum was unable to recall anything, a lot of family history was lost. So bearing this in mind I’ve decided to try and capture my parents’ past and, being one for tradition, we’ve agreed that every Wednesday evening (after Eastenders – that’s for her, not me!) I will take my laptop, and a bottle of vino, up to the wee house and record her (our) history. Peter has also very kindly offered to prepare dinner for us and so not only are we recording the Peek family history but we’re spending social time with her as well which, because she lives here, I often forget to do.

Okay, so all of this brings me to my own angst, of course. I’m convinced, every time that I forget something, that I’m losing the plot. The wine doesn’t help because I really do lose the plot when I have imbibed too much but in a desperate attempt to hang on to some brain cells, I am now doing the Sunday cryptic crossword. Well, “doing” may not be the correct term – perhaps “attempting to do” is more accurate. My mother does make me laugh; as a crossword aficionado, she gets clues that leave me clueless and then chides me with “didn’t you study English at university?” I admire my mum for her savvy, she left school at 13 years of age and yet she’s taught me so much about life and how to appreciate the simple things. She’s always been a bit of an inverted snob and I think that’s helped me to be not too concerned about appearances.

our last Christmas together, 2 years ago

our last Christmas together with Judy’s mum, 2011





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6 Responses to Angel

  1. Chris Ammann says:

    I suspect your interest in capturing the family history is a factor of you having children who you can pass the knowledge on to. Not having children, this has seemed less important to me than it might otherwise. Interestingly, although my paternal grandfather had 4 sons, the Ammann name as descending from him will die out in our generation. Which is sad I suppose though this is a paternal view of course. The genes live on, just not tied to an arbitrary name. Capture everything you can – your children will thank you for it once they have their own. And capture your mother’s voice. I treasure the recordings I have of my father.

    • Cathy says:

      Essentially I am doing this for my children, but also as a token of my respect for my parents, if that makes sense. Thanks for the brilliant idea of recording my mum. I’m going to try to video her during our next session – my camera has a video function which I’ve never used, so now is the time to learn how to operate it.

      • Chris Ammann says:

        Not just video but plain audio too. It occupies so much less space and one can just let the recording roll (the free Audacity on Windows is excellent) then edit with Audacity. The speaking voice can easily be compressed to a 128kbps mp3 with little noticable loss so makes for relatively compact files (approx 1mb per minute).

        I was able to digitise some audio letter tapes that my parents and I exchanged and used part of one in the slide show of my father here:

  2. Alan Fogarty says:

    Wonderful, once again and even better to have the music to set the tone as before.
    Sad introspective view while at the same time an honest evocation of life’s inevitabilities.
    Nice one Cathy. You’re looking beautiful, rosy and healthy

  3. Judy says:

    Grazie mille for all the wonderful Christmas dinners, afternoon teas and weekends that you invited my mum to. It goes without saying that the highlight was her 80th birthday dinner. It meant so much to her.

    • Cathy says:

      Prego Judes – it really was a pleasure. We always enjoyed her company and her legendary Christmas trifle (I’m so relieved that you learnt how to make it before the recipe was lost for all time!). Her 80th was special and we were privileged to share it with her. We shall miss her dearly.

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