And so on Friday afternoon, on the second blazing hot day in July, my Mum was laid to rest. It has been four months since she died and it seemed ever such a long time to be in limbo, but finally we watched as my Dad got on to his knees and lowered the casket containing her ashes in to what would be her grave.
It was a simple, beautiful service: just nine of us, all in bright colours. All carrying posies of pretty flowers and all so very willing to see this not as a time for mourning, but instead a celebration of a sorely missed wife, Mum, daughter and friend. A matter much helped when the geriatric vicar informed me that when it came to looks I had clearly drawn the short straw in the family stakes and our entire little party howled, while I informed him in minor outrage that I was both insulted and appalled and he shuffled about apparently quite pleased with himself! One does not expect to be insulted at one’s Mothers burial now does one? But knocking a man of the cloth in to next week would very definitely have not been the done thing.
It is time to move on. Not from her memory. Never from her memory. But from the petrification, such deep, unexpected mourning can inflict upon us. It is time for me to put the shock of betrayal on the scale Richard inflicted upon me to bed, and to accept that residing in prison is exactly what he deserves for committing the kind of heinous crimes most of us cannot even begin to imagine committing. It is time.
For I am lucky. I am so very, very lucky. My family is astonishing. This is a support network like no other and while they might just find the kind of insults geriatric vicars throw about willy-nilly absolutely hysterical and indeed feel free to chuck a few of their own about (my sister told me that my newly growing nails made my hands look like those of a grubby farmers wife), I feel their love every single minute of every single day. We hold each other up. Helen cooks. And Dad laughs. And Barbie is silly. And the kids are wonderful. The men of the family, Helen’s husband Louis and Barbie’s husband, Steve, are solid, reliable presences in the midst of all our chaos and in Mum’s friend Carol we have a constant, lovely reminder of what friendship means, even after death.
And then there is my Ste. Readers this is what you need to know about us: we never stop laughing. Truly. I have never laughed this much in my life. And in the midst of all the laughing there are plans for the kind of tomorrows I have never made with quite so much certainty before. It feels right. And I know my Mum would love him as much as everybody else does: that she could breathe the sigh of relief I long knew she was waiting to take. If only she had met him. If only he had met her….
Today Finley went on his first little holiday with the school. He is growing up and I am trying not to be spooked by it. On Friday he will enjoy his last day at primary school and when he goes back he will be at high school. I can’t imagine where the time has gone and I am so very aware that this is the last Summer of his childhood and that hereafter he will become the someone he is already halfway to being.
This then is a Summer of change. A hectic Summer jam-packed with holidays to Whitstable and weddings in Lincoln and Liverpool. There will be camping. And hours spent wandering in dank forests with the dog. There will be barbeques in the back garden, cider and frozen mojito’s. There will be pyjama mornings for just me and Finn. Nights sat under the fairy lights, in the back garden, just me and Ste. And entire weekends, like the one coming up, spent in Oxford with Helen, her family and my Dad.
This then is a Summer of change. Summer just as it should be.