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Comments 45

I am the Keeper of Stories now Mum’s gone

As I let the bath water cool around me last night, I remembered being 10 or 11, paddling in the chilly English sea. Forty-five years have passed, yet I can still recall the sand sinking beneath my toes, and the seaweed slithering against my pale legs. I wasn’t enjoying it anymore; it had been fun briefly, in the novelty of visiting the beach for the first time, but I was cold, and wanted to get out.

I was only knee-deep in water, and Mum had taken my younger brother back to the warm dry sand, telling me to follow when ready.

But I was trapped! Writhing and heaving between me and my family was a two metre-thick band of brown kelp, some strands as thick as my skinny legs, freezing me in fear.

What lurked beneath?

My vivid yet anxious imagination created snakes, grabbing hands, various sea monsters, and perhaps a pirate’s dead body or two for good measure.

I couldn’t even wave to Mum, who was fussing with my brother and had her back to me.

I looked up and down the water’s edge for a gap in the terrible mass, but it pulsed with the gentle waves as far as I could see, as though it were breathing.

Around me, children and their parents splashed out beyond the seaweed, laughing and playing in the sun diamonds they made. I just hugged myself, staring in misery at the barrier before me, absolutely unable to beat my fear.

Hours went by. Or was it minutes? It seemed like half the day, with me trapped so near yet so far from where I wanted to be: happy on the sand, cajoling for ice-cream.

I could see Mum and my brother sitting on our striped towels– he was pushing sand around with his annoying dumper truck, and she was reading as usual, glancing up every now and again to check I was OK with a cheery wave.

I sent desperate telepathic messages:

“I am NOT having a good time. I am NOT OK. Please rescue me at once. I am freezing, and in danger of death by seaweed misadventure.”

Nothing.

I hugged myself tighter, and looked again for a gap in the morass of salty eels.

Was it thinner over there? Could I see glimpses of sand between the grasping hands and thick snakes?

Over and over I tried to make myself walk through the seaweed, but I just couldn’t move. I could see Mum starting to pack up, waving at me to come in.

“My feet have sunk too deep to move. I am desperate to be saved. Please come and pick me up.”

Again nothing.

I could see Mum frowning, puzzled at my reluctance, and I just wanted her hug so much. I burst into tears, took a deep breath, and hopped/ran/scrambled my way through the dreaded kelp, almost like a cartoon character who spins her legs in one spot before actually moving forward.

It felt like the scariest and bravest thing I’d ever done, by myself, and Mum laughed in a sad way when I gasped out my tale of woe. She hugged me tight when she understood I hadn’t been enjoying the paddling around as she had thought, and I relaxed against her salty warm body.

We joked about it later, eating vanilla ice cream from a waffle cone, stuffed with a chocolate flake, and somehow I became proud of my determination to beat the threatening seaweed.

As I lay in the bath tonight, almost three months since Mum died of dementia aged 85, I realized that no one else knows that story, or really cares. I could tell my son, but he’s 21- full of life and its boundless, confident energy- he wouldn’t understand. He’s a surfer- the ocean and its weedy creatures are his friends.

I am the sole Keeper of that Story now, and so, SO many more…

I miss you Mum.

In gratitude for days by the beach, and salty hugs, G xO

45 Comments

  1. This is another side to “interrogating memory”: keeping stories like this – carefully validated, of course – from fading. Your son may or may not be interested now, but he will be some day…perhaps when he has children of his own.

    I feel as though I have become the keeper of a different set of stories now that I have written “Interrogating Memory.”

    It is a good feeling, actually. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for sharing your story.. Made me tear up too…52 year old sitting here remembering times sitting with my Dad, gone over 2 years now…. and wishing I could sit and chat with my own daughters, too far away…. here’s to remembering and sharing the treasured memories

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh indeed we must chat and share- FaceTime or Skype is a great way to bridge the gap of distance- my Dad died 13 years ago and I still miss him… I used to love hearing his funny stories 😦
      Thank you so much for reading and commenting, and sharing your vulnerability. Kindest, G

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Memories like this can knock you sideways or comfort, can’t they. This one did make me tear up–likely because of your recent loss. Grief is a tough thing, and my experience is you have to sit with it. Sounds like you were doing just that…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, you’re so right: grief is tough, and also softening- I am trying to ride the waves as they appear- thank you for your caring comment

      Like

  4. I think realizing that’s one of the toughest parts about losing a parent: realizing that the person who shared so much of your history and who knew so much of your story is gone. I’m so sorry…..

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Ann. Yes, I really felt it viscerally: I’m the only one now who knows so much about me & my childhood with both my parents… thank you for commenting and caring, G

      Liked by 1 person

  5. What a great story! and Now you have shared it with our crowd of friendly bloggers, sympathetic on several levels. Your memory has morfed into a Story, which may well pop up in at least my own personal collection of stories…being qualified as something that caught my eye from “One of my blogger friends, once.” In fact, I am influenced by your Story to the extent that I plan to borrow the idea and write my own blog on the subject. The rough draft has languished on my blog list for a long time…time to tell that story of my own. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • That is fantastic news all round, & thank you for being so positive and inclusive; I look forward to reading your Story 🙂 Blessings, G

      Like

  6. I was about to say “Write these stories down!”, but then I realised you’re doing just that.

    I’ve listened to endless stories from my grandparents (now sadly gone) and parents – sometimes the same ones over and over.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. G, I’m teary just reading because I understand. The frozen in fear, the healing powers of a Mum’s love and losing your Mum. I’m sending you a huge hug…I am the keeper as well. My Mum passed last year and she had dementia too. xoxo

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I always meant to ask Mum how she made the pastry for her beigli, but I never got around to it. I always meant to ask Dad for the names, and maybe the addresses, of distant family in the US. I never got around to that either. Time is finite.

    Write down those memories for your son, because one day he will want to know. One day he may want to tell that story to his own son. -huge hugs-

    Liked by 1 person

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