Lifes small coincidences, imperceptible nuances that bind us together, are really quite small, very small and the very smallest can be the most powerful.
It's been nearly a year since the death of my mother. She was not only the best but the only one you get and to say I still miss her is one of the understatements of the century if not the millennium but, as I know, she would not have wanted me to stand still. She used to say 'S*D it, you're only this way once, so enjoy and get on with it.' which always cheered me up and made me laugh.
So today, when I was tidying out my box, I found something that made me stop and stand still. A Lego brick. A single bright yellow one, slightly faded but, at around 40 years old, still in perfect condition and ready for use. It was the only thing left from my first set bought for me by my mum on my fifth birthday. The others were given to the hospital. 'Pick six of your favourite toys and we will take the rest to the hospital for the other kids to play with!' she said when we moved for the umpteenth time again in one single year. But this one - just a bit brighter then all the other yellow ones in the box - was kept by me. It's the only thing I have left from my early childhood and from that period; something that binds me to her. That's what growing up as an army brat was all about in the 1960s -70s. Dad got a posting and mum and I followed. New house, new school, maybe a new country even, but still never putting down the roots for later in life.
I spent at least an hour holding this yellow brick remembering the memories. Not just the bad memories but some I hadn't thought about for a long time and, in the intervening years, the sharpness about these memories was still there. It was somewhere I didn't want to go really! But go there I went and it hurt. It hurt then and it still hurts now! Strange to feel anger, after what must be 30 years, to your mum.
The phone rings and it's family - the sort of distant family that you only see once in a blue moon or, in this case, 22 years.
'We're coming for Christmas this year and we're staying not too far from you so we can visit you and the rest of the family and, by the way, how's your mum? She used to write regularly to us! Is she ok? It's been just over a year since we had a letter from her.'
There's this silence, much too long and I answer telling them that mum had died almost a year ago. Silence again, far too long to be comfortable. Aunty Rose picks up the phone and says:
'Hello? Jack, are you there, Jack? Are you ok! Jack?'
I drop my brick. I watch it fall like it's in slow motion, like some film's special effect. I try to answer but nothing comes out of my mouth. A head full of thoughts but nothing to say. Again I hear on the phone:
'Jack, are you all right?'
Again I can't answer. The Lego brick hits the floor and breaks into 3 pieces. The plastic it's made from has become brittle and its breakage brings me to answer the phone.
'I'm fine.' I say and everything accelerates back into normal speed.
'So we will be over in time for Christmas, then, and we will be staying in a holiday cottage near you, too. That's going to be nice' says Rose.
'It will, and it will be a good Christmas having mums sister around.' I say, not really hearing. Then the call ends. I pick up the pieces and place them into a small freezer bag and then back into my box!
Mums sister Rose had never told the rest of the family that mum had died. She knew about it for a whole year and never told the family there. I always knew she was a strange one, Rose. I remember when I was a kid of 5, at some Christmas get-together at her house. A sweet jar was being passed around and, when it got to me, she came over and told me to put the sweets back in the jar! I dropped it on the floor then, again the same thing, watched this sweet in slow motion fall to the floor and break into 3 pieces!
This day has been disturbing for me as I tell all to my missus.
'Do you want to walk the dogs (GOD BLESS'UM) with me tonight?' she says.
'Yeah, why not!' I say. I fetch the dogs (GOD BLESS'UM) leads and she fetches the wellies. The back garden is damp and the sun now has no heat so we need our fleeces. So out into the world.
'So what made you drop that yellow brick?' my missus asks.
'Rose never told the rest of the family about mums death and it was just a little shock to the system.' I say. There's a look of horror and shock on my missus face and then she grabs my hand and stops walking.
'Promise me one thing - and only one thing!' she says with the most serious face she has ever worn, ever!
'Ok, what's that?' I say.
'You never change, ever!' she says.
'OK' I say. I receive a look straight out of the Old Testament, Biblical in severity, piercing to my very soul. 'OK I WON'T CHANGE. I swear and promise.' I say.
'Good' she says 'What do you fancy for tea, when we get back from this walk?'
'Fish and chips. I have the money on me and we could stop off on the way back. We could even sit on the wall and have a quick snog.' I say.
'The fish and chips is enough.' she says, smacks my bum and runs off with me in chase, followed by the dogs (GOD BLESS'UM).