Tag Archives: family

Leaving home

leaving home

Whenwe  left the smog of the city to live in this backwater place, I lay curled in my mother’s womb. Although my family was looked upon as foreign by the rural folk, this is the only home I’ve ever known. As the popoulation grew, attracting those from distant towns and counties, I rose from my outsider status to become a local. My roots struggled to find a way through the stony soil, and tenaciously they clung. My four children came into being, and were raised here; seeds of the next generation which now thrives. All of my descendants save for one – my grandson, currently at University – are within this ancient burrough, within easy reach of me.

My daughter is at the graveside of her beloved, saying goodbye. Her bags are packed. I put them in the car, to save having to slog later. I come back to the flat and switch on my laptop. It’s slow to warm up, so I go to the bedroom to apply some hand lotion, and see the gap where her possessions had been.

With a jolt similar to a jagged bolt of electricity, it hits me. Aged thirty-one, my little girl  is leaving home.

Written for The Daily Post #Jolt

©Jane Paterson Basil

Every evening with Laura

Last night, Laura and I made savoury tarts – a heavenly melee of aubergine, tomatoes, peppers and onion on flaky pastry, topped with delicious mascarpone. For accompaniment, we prepared creamy coleslaw and potato salad in vinaigrette. A salad of baby leaves, rocket, sundried tomatoes and olives finished off the meal.

It was quick, easy and delicious. We followed it up with a high quality shop-bought Cicilian lemon cheesecake which left our mouths feeling as if they had been spring-cleaned, then brewed coffee and settled down to watch a movie while the milk for this week’s yogurt slowly heated to 200 degrees in the slow cooker.

This may all sound like pretty routine stuff, but in the company of Laura it becomes supreme fun. Every evening spent with Laura is a treat.

©Jane Paterson Basil

Long weekend

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It’s been a long weekend, starting on Friday afternoon. Laura was with me in my flat when I received a call from the inneffectual stand-in Supervisor of this sheltered housing complex (our lovely permanent Supervisor, Sandra, has been ill). He told me that it had been reported that Laura was in the building, and her ban was still standing, so she must leave immediately and not re-enter.

Laura was banned from the complex about fifteen months ago, as a result of a noise complaint. She was in psychosis at the time. She endangered nobody in the building, nor would she have at any point, but I was very shaky and her confused, aggressive presence increased my anxiety.

I have twice since been refused an assured tenancy due to this disturbance. It’s up for review next month and I was told I could expect it to be granted if there is no further trouble – but they said that six months ago, and changed their minds without any good reason.

Even a ‘lifetime’ ban from a shop tends to expire after a year or so, if there’s no cause to extend it, but I wanted to talk to Sandra as I felt that she’d support me in getting the ban squashed. However, she’s had a lot of illness lately, and I never managed to catch her when she was in the office. The few things I’d noticed about the stand-in hadn’t been promising.

So the ban was still in place when Laura got beaten up by that monster, and ran to me for support. Naturally I took her in – it’s in a mother’s contract, written in capitals. It overrides landlords rulings, and I didn’t think there would be a huge problem anyway; her behaviour is now beyond reproach. She hasn’t stayed with me every night, and we’ve arranged for her to move to safe place far from here, soon.

Laura was about to go out when I got the phone call. I told her what had happened. She raised no objections, even going so far as to comfort me, assuring me everything would be OK. She left to meet a friend, and I went down to the office to speak to the drippy stand-in nitwit, who at least made sympathetic noises and gave me a number to call.

I spoke to a secretary who said I’d get a callback from the appropriate officer. I wasn’t surprised when I didn’t. This was Friday; the weekend was looming. I prepared the food we’d planned to cook together, then we met and ate together, outdoors. She said she had somewhere safe to stay. I knew that her ‘safe’ place would put her at risk of weakening and using drugs, but I had to let her go.

On Saturday we met in the morning and again in the evening, dining on a park bench as we watched the sun go down. She said she had somewhere better to stay than the place where she’d been the previous night. We parted.

Yesterday was Mothers Day. It began with a lunchdate with my two elder daughters and their families. After lunch we all went to the park, where the little ones romped and played. I left them at about 4pm to meet Laura. We enjoyed a pub meal with coffee and followed it up with a long walk, sitting down every so often, as I tire easily these days. She said she was going back to the place she stayed on Saturday. I reminded her that we were having lunch with my sister today, and she was excited about it. She and my sister have a special bond. Sadly, Christine’s house is too crowded for a short-term guest.

She left me at about 7pm, walking in the opposite direction to the cosy sofa that was to be her bed for the night. She told me she had to see a friend first, but I knew she was going to a dealer’s house. I can spot the signs, however subtle.

This morning I couldn’t contact her. I went looking for her at the address where she should have been – she doesn’t know that I know it – but nobody was in, and I felt her absence stretch backward – I could sense that she hadn’t been there last night.

I came home, and – wonder of wonders – Sandra was back. I saw her through the office window, so I went in to ask if she’d seen Laura press the buzzer. She hadn’t and she made me sit down and tell her the whole story, then dialled 101 for the police, and handed me the phone. The police treated her disappearance as an emergency. As there were serious concerns for her safety she was put on the missing person’s list. A police officer quickly arrived to take down more details.

Meanwhile, Sandra got hold of the housing officer, and told him he must speak to me urgently. She was asked what she’d have done if she’d been in charge on Friday. She said she would have said Laura should stay with me.

As the policeman was about to leave, I got a phone call – from Laura. I was right – she never reached that safe sofa. She’d spent the night at a dealer’s house. It wouldn’t have happened if Laura had been with me.

The police officer arranged to meet her somewhere outdoors as she didn’t want to lead him to the dealer’s house. On the way to meet him, she bumped into her brother, Paul, who was out looking for her (he had a pretty good idea where she would be, and he was right). She’s had an aversion to her father’s home for some time, but between us, Paul and I persuaded her to stay there tonight, safely away from this town.

Thanks to Sandra’s intervention, the housing officer phoned me, but he said he had to speak to another officer before allowing  Laura back into the building. He asked if I knew of any official who could vouch for her, and I gave the drugs services – it was my only choice. He promised to try to get back to me tomorrow.

This evening I rang Laura. She was happily surrounded by Paul, his girlfriend, her dad, and the cat who disgraced herself on Saturday. She says she may stay there again tomorrow night. There was laughter in her voice.

And me? Maybe I’ll be able to eat some cereal, fruit and yogurt. A meal would be too much to cope with. I’m walked off my feet, my brain’s been fried by constant radioactive calls, and I need some sleep, but for the moment all’s almost well with my corner of the world.

Later, I’ll deal subtly with NNND (nasty neighbour next door), who made the complaint. She hates being caught telling tales, and she’s so bitter and twisted that she can’t stand to see people happy. I’ll give her my most sarcastic smile, and sweetly thank her for giving Laura the opportunity to meet a couple of helpful housing officers AND to prove herself worthy of entering the building. Maybe I’ll get Laura to help me with the garden. The added advantage there would be that NNND would see the other residents stopping to talk to Laura. She’s an attractive, personable woman, and quite a few of them like her.

Sweet revenge…

©Jane Paterson Basil

How high is the fridge

 

I was with my friend, Elaine, this afternoon, when my son rang me to tell me about an achievement. He had some free time on his hands, as his girlfriend, who likes to be called Krusti, (though she’s not crusty) wasn’t around. Mid-sentence, he suddely started making “Ugh! Errr! Yuck! What the…” noises. I asked him what was wrong, and he shouted:

“The cat’s done a crap on the fridge. What’s going on? Why would she do a thing like that? It’s horrible. It’s a classic cat-shit – you know, the kind that can’t be anything but cat shit. I’ve got to go now. I have question her about it. She’s got some explaining to do.” (He has a close relationship with his cat, and thinks he may have been a cat in a previous life, so he was probably serious.)

He came out with a few shock-horror expletives, then tried to excuse her by saying that maybe she’d been unable to get outside in time. He repeated that he was going to find Rusty and interrogate her about it, and put the phone down.

Roaring with laughter, and with tears in my eyes, I told Elaine what had happened. My explanation went something like this:

“(Ho ho hee hee), Rusty (gaffaw), Rusty’s done a (hahahahaha) crap on the fridge, and Paul has gone off to (roar, choke, cough) question her. I expect he’ll try to make her clear it up.”

Elaine looked at me stonily. “I don’t think that’s funny,” she said.

I carried on laughing, at the same time trying to remember Paul’s exact words, so that she’d share the joke. I mentioned that he thought Rusty may not have been able to get outside.

Now she looked puzzled.“Jane. It’s not funny… how high is the fridge?”

I’d never seen Elaine so po-faced. She usually laughs at the things I find funny. Being too slow to come up with “Dunno, but it smells pretty high right now,” I stood up, and held the side of my forefinger against my forehead.

“How did she get up there?” she asked.

I explained. “There’s a window beside the fridge. She’d have jumped onto the sill, and then onto the fridge. She often gets up there.”

“What?” She shook her head as if to loosen the dust of disbelief. “Has she ever done anything like that before?”

I couldn’t understand why she was so upset by my hilarity.

“No, she’s usually very clean, apart from all the hairs on the carpet. She’s long-haired, so it’s a bit of a nightmare hoovering up after her.”

“What?” she said again, but she must have decided to gloss over the hair issue, since she added “Why would Krusti crap on the fridge? Is she mad?”

That finished me. It took a while to splutter out the words “not… Krusti… Rusty…. the cat.”

Finally she saw the funny side, but by then, I almost needed medical attention, and by the time she’d stopped laughing at the misunderstanding, so did she.

You may call me squeamish, but in the interests of good taste, I chose to forego an image for this post. 😉 🙂 😀

©Jane Paterson Basil

Like a metaphor

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She lived her hard life like a metaphor,
this suffering woman, who made no lists,
and never questioned
which may be the supreme sacrifice
amidst so many stolen freedoms.

Sliding from brief sleeptime at dawn,
she’d rush to complete each arduous and loving chore
of housekeeper, mother and wife, before leaving for work,
nimbly cycling; riding with her head held high,
strong legs taking the long, uphill climb in her stride,
and upon arrival, cooking, serving, feeding dusty factory folk,
washing the dishes, then preparing lunch for one o’clock.

So many hungry men,
so many greasy plates to clean and put away.

A simple sandwich and two cups of tea
seemed to be her main means of survival and revival.
She was cunning and her loved ones were blind;
she kept her tipple hidden.

Back on her bike at the end of each weekday,
she turned left at the gates, and from there
it was downhill all the way,
her slight frame edging woods that hid deep, flooded memories of tin mines.
Past the pub she’d fly,
her eyes skimming familiar places,
her mind skimming some secret blunted dream.
Beyond the sawmill she’d ride, beside the ditch along the side of the lane,
where she would sometimes wobble,
and fall in.

When she dripped home, we only saw the mud that clung to her clothes;
we didn’t guess she was immersed in the mire of addiction.

She hid her tipple well.

Written for The Daily Post #Immerse

©Jane Paterson Basil

Recovery

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Last year, though drug-riddled and ill, still she wanted to please me. She saw a vintage sewing machine – my favourite make – in the window of a charity shop. She thought of me, and asked to see the manager, who told her she could put down a deposit. The manager knew it was for me – we go way back to schooldays, when we used to spend our weekends together, sitting on five-bar gates, swinging our legs, flaunting our budding sexuality, watching cars go by, and getting into scrapes with unsuitable dates, using each other as an excuse for escape. But that’s another story.

When I next saw Laura, she asked me if I would like a sewing machine, and I gruffly said that all I wanted for my birthday was for her to be clean.

She bought the machine anyway. It weighed a ton, but she carried it back to my flat, and I was grateful. It was beautiful, and worked like a dream. I thanked her, gave her a hug and told her I loved her, but I couldn’t resist smiling sadly, and saying, “Maybe I’ll get that other gift next year.”

I turned 62 yesterday. She gave me a book and a lovely card, hand-made by her, but most important of all, she delivered the miraculous gift I had been longing for.

Laura is clean.

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Laura was a child of spirit, born into a world of flesh, and she didn’t adapt in the way that most of us do. She spent her childhood confused and unhappy, but she was brave. She tried to fit into a world that understood her no more than she understood it. She was beaten down, time after time. The day came when she couldn’t take another beating, and she turned to street-medication.

She has felt, and witnessed, things that we cannot imagine. She knows what the bottom of the pit looks like, because she’s been there – in a place where we have never been, because our hearts beat differently.

I knew that she had to witness pure darkness before she could see the light, so I turned away from her. It was horrible – I looked down on her from my safe window, saw her staggering by, and felt my insides shredding. I coped by being angry, by feigning indifference, by talking to Serenity, my mannequin, by chanting affirmations – any way I could, I coped. I woke some mornings terrified that she may have died in the night, all alone – yet knowing she hadn’t, as I would have felt it as her life ebbed away.

She was sliding on black ice. She slid until there she was in utter darkness, with her eyes closed. When she opened them again, there were glints of light twinkling in the distance – not one, but many. There was her boyfriend Joe, me, her sister, Sarah, and other family members who never stopped loving her – and not only those, there were many – twinkling away, in this country, and all over the world – in America, Australia, Canada, Africa. I hope you all know who you are – all you who sent your good wishes, your healing thoughts, your love and your prayers – she saw your light. I know I’ve mentioned it several times, but I can’t get over what you have all done for her.

Laura’s 31 now. She’s no longer a schoolgirl; she no longer has to try to fit into a tight box for the convenience of school or society. She can practice her own unique dance, and she will be admired for it. She’s been burnt and frozen by life. She’s been cut, bruised,and fractured, but her scars make her more beautiful. She is her own person, brave, strong and creative. She’ll achieve her own kind of greatness.

Joe says that when the world points its finger and speaks of the mistakes of others, they speak out of ignorance. They don’t know the background. They don’t know that what they call a mistake may have been the right thing for the individual at that particular time, or that it may have seemed like the only choice available. I think he’s right.

We have a lot to learn from those who have climbed out of that dark pit.

I’m in shock, and for once it’s happy shock. I keep finding myself smiling about nothing – except that it’s not nothing. It’s all-consuming.

©Jane Paterson Basil

Laura’s birthday

rose-670447__480I’ve had a fortnight of reading, copying, pasting, editing, and formating the best 150 poems I have written over the past two years; a manic race to complete an album of my verse, to give as a gift on my daughter, Laura’s birthday, two days ago.

I succeeded, in spite of constant interruptions from friends and family, and a particularly nasty and unexpected brain-rape, on the 22nd, by a strange sexual predator who made me so angry that I thought I was having a heart-attack. It was hard to work the following day, since I was physically shaking. I’m a bit confused by the unwanted attention I’ve been getting lately.

It happened that I’d been invited to a family dinner with my brother’s ex and my nephew. When Linda discovered that it was Laura’s birthday, she invited both her and her boyfriend, Joe. Laura, Joe and I walked to Linda’s together. Laura looked beautiful; nicely dressed and well groomed. Every time I see her I notice a new improvement. She was well and happy. This was to be the first family event she was to attend for over three years, and I was very excited.

My sister had had a tough week, and felt too tired to attend the dinner, but she met up with us beforehand, as she wanted to see Laura on her birthday. By the time we parted company from her aunt, Laura was positively glowing from the compiments laurahair12she’d received.

It wasn’t a big party – only seven of us, so I wasn’t too worried that she may feel overwhelmed, but I didn’t expect it to go as well as it did. She had a lovely time. She ate a proper meal, and a desert, and talked confidently. Everyone was impressed with her, and they liked Joe. It was lovely. I felt so pleased and proud. They left before the rest of us, as Joe’s nephew was staying over for the night, and he wanted to spend a bit of time with him. Although Laura clearly enjoyed herself, I expect she was emotionally exhausted after a couple of hours, so it was good that they had an excuse to leave, but the ice has been broken. From now on I expect she’ll be included in all the invites I get from that part of the family.

She’s managed to build up some savings. Before, every penny she received funded her drug habit.

One day at a time…

©Jane Paterson Basil