Leaflet for UK & USA libraries, selected reading groups and other media.
Today, (24th May 2014) is exactly twenty years since I tentatively started a conversation with my mother that turned out to be such an extraordinary event that, inevitably, would turn all our lives upside down. Two decades later, here I am still writing about it.
But I have now reached the end. There is little else I can say. I hope over the previous months I have inspired and intrigued you to read my story in full. Yes, at times, it is harrowing and other times, uplifting.
I mentioned earlier that the end was portrayed in a somewhat ambiguous format. While I cannot speak for Fiona’s thoughts and opinions I can say that my life, although now settled, is still haunted by the events contained within those pages. For Fiona, she remains a lifelong friend and a faithful dear confidant. Sometimes I catch her looking at me in a quizzical manner , and I know and appreciate there are questions that, to her, remain unanswered.
Today as I write this I am preparing for a short holiday. Walking the West Highland Way with my two dogs. For me, the solitude of the mountains, the wind on my face and the mud on my boots is so heart-warmingly comforting.
And what of the book, An Hour Too Soon? Well, search and you will find it. Somewhat appropriately, it was dedicated to ‘the real Cindy.’ As you have probably guessed – that was me.
And what of this blog? It is to be made in to an eBook which will be available free of charge on selected platforms across the world (cover images above).
May Day 2014 and my penultimate post.
I wonder if the word recompense is the right one for me to use. Did I want to make amends for deeds done, an exoneration, a forgiveness? Call it what you want – it all adds up to re-balancing the scales of your life.
I was faced with a terrible dilemma and when you are confronted with such a decision it is hard to think past the two options available. Either you do something, or you don’t! To do nothing, for me, would be simple adding to the list of wrongs I knew were accumulating in my life. To do something would, in a small way, help to quell the torment I felt inside. And what a dilemma it turned out to be. To have successfully built a bridge and moved on – only to be drawn back into a vortex of remembrance.
Was I glad with the outcome? Yes, it partly washed my conscience clean and enabled me to like myself – just a little bit more.
And what of the new life I had created? It was not what I had wished for and not what I had dreamed of – although my vocation today is immensely satisfying. I am, however, a different person and perhaps a better one to the individual on page one of the book.
Next time, I sign off. I will also tell you what will become of this blog.
How do you pick yourself up after such a life changing , dramatic event? How can you even begin to regain your self esteem after such mental trauma?
This was not the first time I could identify (and sympathise) with the reasons people have for wishing to ‘opt out.’ Namely, taking your own life. The inner despair that I felt seemed never ending and it was all consuming.
But life had to go on. Why? Because, I suppose, my faith crept in and prevented me from ending it all. And besides, I do not have the courage to commit suicide.
Here’s an extract from one particular boring afternoon, when on this day I was faced with a dilemma. A collision course had been instigated and it was up to me to decide the correct way forward.
Page 283 (paperback)
For Cindy the irony, or perhaps her saving grace, came on an innocuous Monday afternoon. Looking back on it now she realised it may have been a guiding hand that had made her decide to go into town for no specific purpose except she did not want to return to the cramped living conditions they all shared with Emma. She had changed into her jeans and trainers, and taken the bus to the terminus. Once she had enjoyed walking round, spending the money that fell into her hand from her father ’s wallet.
She walked aimlessly along the under cover shopping area, dodging the prams and colliding with the occasional person. Cindy noticed a smartly dressed woman walking towards her and then looked a second time. Suddenly realisation dawned, but before she had a chance to make herself inconspicuous she had been recognised.
“You!” Cindy said involuntarily.
“Yes, me!” Fiona swiftly took in Cindy’s drooping shoulders, the bleak face, sad eyes and the mocking curve on the lips.
Cindy’s eyes held a flicker of envy and for the first time in her life she felt disadvantaged by her own appearance, for Fiona was smartly dressed and well groomed. They hovered, each remembering their last encounter, each unsure whether to walk on and dismiss the meeting as merely a blast from the past. It was impulse that made Fiona say. “Come and have a coffee with me.”
“You must be joking!” Cindy said abruptly and turned to walk away. She felt a swift and sudden wish to cry. A wish to have someone hold her; someone who knew her; someone who, more importantly, would listen to her rambling thoughts. For questions still raged inside her mind.
Sometimes you meet people who you instantly forget. Sometimes others leave an impression and sometimes people push themselves back into your life. This was one of those moments.
What was the best way ahead? Which way did I go?
Incidentally, time is drawing in – only two more posts after this.
On page 262, (paperback) the truth is finally revealed.
In this instance the revelation and circumstances of what actually happened became the start of a completely new chapter for me.
Let me briefly turn to my other grandma. This strange woman whose past nobody knew, whose life was a mystery. But then so was mine to my family. And how much do you really know about another person? They are like icebergs – you only see what is on the surface. That remark, (page 68 paperback) caused my other grandmother, my maternal grandmother, consternation.
The influence parents have over their children is subtle, sometimes cruel, sometimes infectious and sometimes to meet their own purpose. All I will say is that I had a loving family.
So, the truth is out there. But have you ever watched a film or read a book and thought you knew the ending before you came to it? Only to find you were completely wrong and that you had misread the plot? The clues were presented to you but were ignored through inattentiveness. But if you rewind – the answers are all there.
And what of the recriminations? Have you thought how I felt when I was confronted, when they cornered me with their evidence? It was not a scene I wish to replay.
Perhaps the book should have ended there – but it was not the end of the story.
It’s a weird thing – the past. Take a song. It can suddenly bring back a moment of remembrance of a scene, a person, or even just a face. You may be filled with a sudden gladness – a feeling of how good something was. (Or how awful!) There may be even a desire to relive that one moment.
Fiona, and all credit to her, tried to get to the bottom of why I liked a particular song that figured throughout the book. But she had no answers, for even she could never have envisaged the songs significance on my life. The book tells it thus:
“Tell me about Take The Long Way Home.“ Fiona asked.
“There is nothing to say; I just like the song.” Cindy replied. “Do the words mean anything to you?” Fiona picked up a sheet of paper on which she had written the song’s lyrics. She read, “forever playing to the gallery,” and paused before meeting Cindy’s eyes. She continued, “when you’re up on the stage it’s so unbelievable.” Cindy didn’t comment and Fiona had to continue. “It sounds like fantasy,” she observed. “Maybe like your life?” She knew it was a brutal statement but one which had to be made.
Cindy threw her head back and laughed. It was the first time there had been genuine amusement in her eyes and it took Fiona by surprise. “You’re making something out of nothing, Doctor.” Cindy laughed again. “The song also has the lyrics, “cos you’re the joke of the neighbourhood,” and “does it feel that your life’s become a catastrophe?“ You can read anything into my reasons for liking the song, Doctor Stevens.”
I won that round, but Fiona had a true ace up her sleeve. A real phenomenal surprise and one I had never dreamed of anticipating.
The trouble with surprises is they can be good or bad. In my case the surprise to come was just that = a surprise! I guess it is how you deal with incidents like this that shows the measure of the person you are. I refer back to the book as it describes the incident well:
There was an uncomfortable silence until they heard the sound of voices in the hall. Instinctively all eyes slowly turned as the door pushed open and Grant returned. She paused, glancing across at Cindy and Susan knew instinctively this was evidence against her daughter. There was a glint of satisfaction in Fiona’s eyes and she heard Cindy take a gulp of breath as through the open door came…
So how did I react?
I stood my ground.
Death comes, sometimes, as an unwelcome stranger. Why are we still surprised and shocked when someone we know dies? It is as if it should not happen. There seems to be very few ‘good deaths’ and by that I mean departing this life in peaceful acceptance. Today, death seems more violent and more disturbing, a bit like life itself.
So death is not a word people like.
But Murder is even worse.
At certain times you find that a particular word brings fear, but more often than not it can bring memories, either unpleasant or happy. I use to think of death (or dying) as being for the old. But then it all changed, and it changed me forever as I came face to face with murder.
But what about someone who had never lived? A soul returned to heaven to live again somewhere else. I wish I could think of it like that, but I can’t. I can only think of loss, hatred, misery and recompense. Yes, I knew all the compelling reasons why but it’s still … well I close my eyes and tend not to think of it. But as these years tick by, it gets so much harder.
We are taught so much about life and how to cope with the stress and strain of daily living. We view life as permanent and that makes us careless custodians of our time. We learn little of the important aspect of living and pay no need to our eventual immortality. It’s a throw away society – or two for the price of one.
And what of me? How did I cope with causing death?
What about a life for a life? Would that balance out the scales? Does it all make sense? Once again, the book explains it far better than I have been able to do in this rambling blog written on a wet afternoon.