You’d have liked my Mum. She was just one of those people. Everyone in Ramsey knew her. As a fledgling youngster, I distinctly recall any trip “into town” being a protracted and extremely tedious affair. As cliche’ as you can imagine – trivial small-talk played like a game of table-tennis between Mum and the countless hordes of the Rhumsaa massive.
Yours truly, or more often than not, my hapless little sis, would stand awkwardly on the periphery, pretending not to listen; pretending not to love how our Mum spoke about us in proud, glowing terms – though never braggy, she wouldn’t have that – and how well we were doing at school. She’d have chewed the ear off dear Mrs Brogan as their paths met in Looney’s; she’d have regaled Sue with the very same tale, verbatim, in the Post Office too. My sister Sarah and I would tilt our heads to the skies and sigh the entitled whimpering of angst-ridden youth. Now, Sarah and I would trade rather a lot now to go back to that simple moment of faux-irritation.
Mum was the chattiest woman; a simple and empathetic woman – genuinely interested in others, far more than herself. She loved a good cup of tea, a fag and a natter. Maybe even with a biscuit thrown in for good measure. Plain digestive – classic dunker.
She was, in hindsight, a Mike Leigh or Caroline Aherne creation: A wholeheartedly kind and sweet, ‘salt of the earth’ sort. (Incidentally, this is really f**ing underselling her in my opinion but I am her only son….she’s essentially a deity to me) She’d chat about everything and nothing with anyone and everyone; at ease with all souls, both the pure and the troubled. As it transpired, her own soul – as pure as azure oceans but as troubled as tempestuous seas – would be her undoing.
You’ll notice I’m writing in the past tense here. The sad truth is my Mum passed away a few years ago. Over three, actually. Which, when written down is rather astonishing. I’ve written about my Mum before. Quite a lot. It’s starting to get a touch embarrassing, truth be told. She never was one for fuss. I’m sure she’d be underplaying all the unwarranted attention the inconvenience her death had caused me. Her droll wit was a fine ally to her disarming sweetness. On my wedding day, my wife commented on how beautiful she looked, to which, Mother – I always called her Mother or Mother McFaull if feeling especially formal – snorted mildly and shot back, sharp as glass – “Let’s not go overboard, Lisa”. It became a kind of family mantra and is still used regularly by us all. An unassuming yet gentle way of keeping us all grounded.
We never really ‘did’ Mother’s day. That whole fuss thing, you see. She hated receiving presents; hated the idea of people gathered round and watching her. That’s what she told us all, anyway. Knowing what we know now, perhaps there was more to it than that.
Sarah was pretty good – she’d buy flowers or chocolates. Dad would remind me I owed him a fiver for them. I’d probably forget. I was a bit sh*t like that. I was like a good son, though. I told her virtually every time I saw her that I loved her. I’d give her a kiss on the cheek and a little hug. I’d sit in the kitchen with her and discuss the big and the small. That was Mother’s day and there was no fuss, nor fanfare. Just Mother McFaull, cackling with that inimitable laugh: I can still hear it now, this roaring, smoker’s guttural scratch that surged through her, as though you could follow the air’s entire journey, from barely audible creak to raspy, never-ending and infectious chuckle. I am like Mum – always laughing.
Mother’s Day doesn’t affect me too much now, truthfully. Sure, I’d be lying if I said a scroll through social media on the day itself doesn’t provoke a gut-curdling pang or two. But I’m happy people have their Mums and they can celebrate them being around.
For many though, the day itself is a soul-crushing reminder of death and immeasurable pain. This now permanently severed umbilical cord; a tasteless and perhaps crass commercialisation of love which for some of us, sadly, is a love now forever out of our reach; canonised in bittersweet memory.
To those suffering I say, there is positivity in grief. If you can survive the rampaging tempest of a loss such as this and if you can function or find beauty in the world, then you can find hope. Find elusive hope, clandestine hope as it is, buried deep beneath the murky waters of an unjust world, shining like abandoned treasure.
Mother McFaull used to chip away at me for not writing more. I used to whine on about “wanting to be a writer” without having the confidence nor drive to even begin to show anyone any of my stuff. Which, judging by the heinous poems of my early adolescence, may be no bad thing. She’d encourage and chastise and I’d mumble and make excuses. “You have a gift”, she’d say. “She can’t have read my anti-establishment masterwork – ‘Smash the system’”, I’d think.
She may only have been a biased Mother, blind to the inadequacies of her son’s entirely unjustifiably angsty poetry, but her words grew stronger in her passing; they became a driving force, injecting molten hot and blind fearlessness into my previously unassertive self.
Soon after she passed away, I started a blog about Fatherhood; I ended up chatting with Christy and Beth on Women Today (One of Mother’s favourite shows); I entered poetry competitions with some of my, hopefully vastly improved more recent material, and the piece de resistance, I was given a fantastic opportunity to write for a ragtag bunch of maniacs in the form of Gef the Mongoose.
She is, in every sense, the reason I write. I recall the vivid wonder I felt when I saw a poem sitting humbly in a tatty picture frame, on the upstairs landing. It was called ‘My Little One’ – a poem of primal, unbridled force and power that shook me to my core. It was about the baby who died inside my Mum but who she, barely out of her teens, still delivered. All with the knowledge that her little one’s heartbeat had stopped days prior. It was awe and immense sadness that engulfed me then. When I read it back now, the same awe and sadness submerges me in an avalanche of heartache for her and for Dad. She had never mentioned it to me before and I had no idea she wrote at all. I was 14.
The crushing, crashing and cataclysmic irony of all the above is that, my biggest fan, the aforementioned reason I write, isn’t around anymore. Suicide saw to that, the f**ker.
You’d be mortified about how much I write about you. But sorry Mother, I will keep making a bloody fuss of you. In all honesty, it’s the least I could do. To bring you back to me, I will keep writing to you, for you, about you and because of you.
When I stop frantically typing, I close my eyes and I see a hunched woman, sat on concrete, back facing me. Plumes of smoke weave their nimble way towards immovable and stately trees. The hum of laughter echoes and drifts away, edging away from me, always.
Nobody ever regrets telling somebody they love them. Regret resides in love unspoken and words never said.