My father’s funeral. My fear of falling.

My father in 1976 on the beach at Clacton

My father in 1976 on the beach at Clacton

In the last few weeks, I have posted occasional extracts from my 2001 diary – the time leading up to my father’s death. These final extracts lead up to his funeral thirteen years ago yesterday.

Saturday 30th June 2001 – Clacton

In the late afternoon, my mother’s ex-boyfriend Doug phoned from Canada. He was very upset. My mother was too upset to talk to him. He told me that, this morning, he and his wife had looked out their window and seen a moose bigger than a horse with two small twin baby mooses.

Sunday 1st July

The curate taking my father’s funeral has a website which I looked up today. On it, he says his interests are old red telephone kiosks and cardboard.

Monday 2nd July

I had an interview at BBC Wales in Cardiff for the staff job of Head of Brand Communication. Someone I know was there for the job before me and they showed him into the wrong interview. It caused conversational confusion.

Tuesday 3rd July

The so-far very efficient Clacton Social Services woman is coming round to chat next Monday (i.e. the first weekday after the funeral), so I can be certain my mother is getting all she can in financial terms, in terms of people help and with any physical objects around the house.

At the moment, a neighbour cleans the house once a week; another neighbour washes clothes; another irons; my aunt (my father’s sister) opens and closes the greenhouse as required; my aunt comes round every morning at 1030; my mother gets Meals on Wheels every lunchtime when I am not there; and there are two Dial-a-Ride/Volunteer Bureau numbers she can phone if she wants transport (with her wheelchair on board). Today, when I was away, five people came round to see her separately.

When I mentioned to the Social Services woman that I wanted her to come round to chat with us because I felt it better for my mother to stay in her own home rather than even contemplate a Residential Home, the Social Services lady said something like: “Oh, no, a residential home would be totally unsuitable for her”. This reassured me.

My mother’s problem is increasing immobility but, if needs be, a Social Services person could be got to help her into and out of bed at home. She can go to the toilet and have a bath by herself though, of course, that will change.

(I was hit by a truck ten years ago and my spine never fully recovered.)

Getting a box out of the bottom of my mother’s wardrobe this afternoon, I twisted awkwardly and buggered my back which now gives me occasional stabbing agony when I move. I will sleep on the floor tonight and hopefully three days on the floor will cure the symptoms as usual.

Wednesday 4th July

I got an e-mail from Amsterdam telling me that someone I worked with there has had a nervous breakdown. “As far as I can gather,” the e-mail said, “it all got a little too much, although you didn’t hear that from me!” The person who has had the nervous breakdown was nicknamed ‘the goldfish’ because of his inability to remember what he was supposed to do.

Thursday 5th July

My spine was mending well but, getting up out of a chair this afternoon, there was an extreme double shooting pain in my left hip and at the base of the spine. This time it’s a lot of agony.

My mother’s cousin and her husband arrived from Edinburgh for my father’s funeral tomorrow. My mother’s cousin’s blood is thinning. About three weeks ago, she was in hospital and was given six pints of blood. Her husband has prostate cancer. Ironically, both seemed very healthy – particularly her husband, who is in quite a bad way.

Friday 6th July

As the black limo drove off from my mother’s house, following the hearse bearing my father’s coffin, my mother looked out of the window, crying as I put my arm round her shoulders.

As we drew up at the crematorium off a roundabout in Weeley, we could see a group of about 12 dark-clothed old men wearing black berets and war medals. Two carried large flags, standards from the Clacton and Walton Ganges Association. The men were mostly from the Ganges Association, with a few from the George Cross Island Association – men who fought in Malta during the Second World War. My father was also a member of the Royal Navy Association.

In all, there were about 40 people at the service taken by the baby-faced curate whose interests are old telephone kiosks and cardboard. He kept the main mentions of my father relatively short but then launched into a standard, longer spiel about Jesus. Not offensively long, though. At the end of the service, the two Naval flags were dipped.

Afterwards, in the Black Boy pub (whose sign outside shows a white man), one of my father’s friends was keenly trying to persuade me that I wanted to join the Freemasons. I did not want to. He said he would propose me. My only real experience of the Freemasons was about ten years ago, when lasso cabaret act Rex Roper invited me to a Freemasons’ ‘ladies night’ in some legal dining room off the Strand. It was full of barristers, actors from The Bill and what I suspect were criminals.

Saturday 7th July

My spine is still very painful when I move – getting in and out of cars is very painful. I was (eventually) able to put my socks on yesterday morning for the funeral, but I was not near getting them on this morning and spent the day in my shoes but without socks. Agony when I move. Pulling the brake fully up in my car is painful and moving the clutch with my left foot can be slightly painful.

In the evening, my mother and I went for dinner in a local pub restaurant with my aunt, her daughter, her daughter’s husband and their Down’s Syndrome daughter plus Norma and Joe (Norma is an obscure relation). My cousin’s Down’s Syndrome daughter showed us her engagement ring. Aged 26, she has got engaged to Jason, a Down’s Syndrome boy of 29. She is getting more easily tired than a few years ago, sleeps in an oxygen mask at night and her blood is, in some way, becoming thicker.

Norma told a story about how there was a rope footbridge near where they lived in Scotland when she was younger and how they enjoyed swinging it when people walked across and seeing them cling on in fear.

I had forgotten it was her.

It was walking across that bridge when it was swung that terrified me into fear of falling and imbalance as a child. Afterwards, I was scared to climb up the short ladder on children’s slides in case I fell off. For years I thought I was frightened of heights until (when I used a cable car in Switzerland) I realised I was frightened of overbalancing or being blown over edges by wind.

Inside a secure ‘room’ like an aeroplane or a cable car, I have no problem. But now I cannot walk across Hungerford footbridge in London because it appears to have no supports. I get frightened less than halfway across, feel as if the liquid in my ears is swirling around, want to throw myself down and cling to the flat surface for protection and have to turn back.

Something that happened fleetingly for just a few seconds, years ago, has had effects that have lasted a lifetime.

1 Comment

Filed under Death

One response to “My father’s funeral. My fear of falling.

  1. fleeting moments from the past indeed- we had a rather psychologically sadistic au pair for a bit when I was seven. As well as deliberately scratching me in the bath with her long talons, she told me horrible ghost stories which involved the ghost breathing on the face of the sleeping child to wake them up. Ever since then I have slept with my head under the duvet with a ”tunnel” to facilitate oxygen hollowed out from it to the surface.

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