“I’m just popping over to my mum’s!” I used to call out behind me a couple of times a week as I left, to go and sort out her meds, empty the bins and get the best hugs in the world.
That stopped earlier this year when the pandemic hit and I couldn’t visit. Four miles up the road, but I was stranded a million miles away.
Since she died in June there have been countless reasons to pop over, as the house has been cleared and dressed for sale. There’s a lovely couple due to move in, with names which are a combination of my siblings’ – how weird is THAT? I met them and promised to leave the lightbulbs and fuses in place. (They laughed uneasily – this is why I should be left out of the responsible jobs!)
It’s easier every time, going round there. The trinkets have gone, and most of the furniture, and pretty much everything that made it hers. I can still sit in her armchair though, where she read to my kids. I can still gaze out into the garden where ‘her’ fox sat in the morning sunshine. There’s still that patch of carpet in the bedroom, where she fell… it’s not all happy memories.
This morning I needed to sort the boiler. I called out “I’m just popping over to my mums!” And then quietly, under my breath, I said “I wish she was going to be there”.
She wasn’t. The house is an empty shell. Where her love and warmth were is now a bright and sunny home, perfectly nice and a great place for that couple to make their new home. But she’s not there.
The day she died I popped over to my mum’s to say goodbye. I wanted to be there when they came to take her away. Seeing a dead body is a profound and beautiful experience. You GET it, you see that they’ve gone, that they’re no longer in that shell. As the undertakers gently carried her body out, I ran to the front door. And as they drove away, I stood on her doorstep and waved goodbye. As she did, every time we left, for years and years.
This morning, as I drove away, I looked back. She wasn’t on the doorstep. Her ghost was not present. I whispered goodbye under my breath.