Funny Matters

Confessions of a Dysfunctional Daughter

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Lisa Hull Photography

(‘Sleeping Cat’ by Lisa Hull Photography)

Warning: Segue coming up. I repeat. Segue coming up

Yes. I know. It was only last month that I was on here bleating. About how sorry I was. For going off on tangents. Getting caught up with distractions. And how from now on I was going to knuckle down. Get on with telling the story again.

Well. I’m a fickle thing I’m afraid (I blame my star-sign). Because I’m about to do it again. Go off on a tangent, that is. And probably not just for this post. There’s most likely a mini-series of tangents brewing.

But please. Bear with me. You see. I have a confession to make.

Something happened the other week. A bit of a milestone. A milestone which should have happened a long time ago really. But it didn’t. And now I feel I ought to ‘fess up. It’s a fair cop, gov. And all that.

The week before last I went back to Hatfield for a few days.

Okay. Just to clarify. That’s not the confession.

I went back to the house – in Hatfield – where my Mum used to be. And where my stepdad still is. The place which until now I’d always referred to as ‘Mum’s’. But now. Seems to be just ‘Hatfield’.

So. I went back to ‘Hatfield’. To cat sit. Whilst my step-dad went away for a few days.

I know what some of you are thinking. And yes. Trekking up from Brighton (where I now live) to Hertfordshire for a 3 day life-disrupting jaunt. All for a domestic animal that’s famous for its independence. You’re right. It does seem a bit unnecessary.

Especially when perfectly good feline-friendly neighbours live right next door. Not to mention other family and friends a short drive away.

But. For some peculiar reason. As disruptive and awkward as it was. I felt compelled to go.

Hang on. Don’t get me wrong. I’m no sodding martyr.

I moaned about it to my friends alright. About how I’d have to drive for 2+ hours to get there. Spend 3 days away from home. Away from my normal routine. Just for a bloody cat. Though to be fair: a bloody cute cat.

Of course. My friends and loved ones around me – being the friends and loved ones that they are – came up with solutions. Ways around it. Ideas of how they could help instead.

But despite their reasonable and kind suggestions, I dismissed them. Much to their confusion. Hell. Much to my confusion.

Words came out of my mouth like:

“No, I’ve said I’d do it now”.

And: “I don’t want David to worry about the cat”.

And even: “but it’s my responsibility”.

All of these excuses possibly had some element of truth to them. Somewhere.

But in actual fact. I think there was something else going on. A different reason I felt this strange inexplicable compulsion to go.

And it didn’t take a long time of me being in the house on my own, to realise what it was.

Because. You see. And here’s the confession….

I hadn’t cleared any of Mum’s things out. Over two years on.

All of her stuff. It was just as it was when she died. Her clothes. Her make up. Even her tissues – crammed deep into pockets. Still faintly smelling of Olbas Oil.

As if she’d just popped out for a walk to the park. Or nipped round to the shops.

And. I’ll tell you something. It felt good. Not just good. But wonderful. Comforting.

Picture being a kid at school. You’ve hurt yourself badly. Or fallen ill. You feel desperately sorry for yourself. And all alone. You just want your Mum. Not the nurse. Not the teacher. Not even your best friend who makes you laugh. Then. As if by magic. At the end of the corridor. She appears. Touches your forehead with her palm. Strokes your hair. And bundles you into the back of the car. Home.

It was just. Like. That.

The prospect of spending 3 days on my own in the house surrounded by the familiarity of Mum’s things felt like rewinding the clock. Immersing myself in her. Like a child. In her arms. Cuddling her. My head tucked between her side and her underarm. Hidden away from the rest of the world. Lost in her smell. Her protective shield of unconditional love. Of her Mum-ness.

Like one of those dreams which are so lovely. So safe and comfortable. That when you wake up and realise it wasn’t reality, you squeeze your eyes shut again. Desperate to go back. And occasionally. Very occasionally. You do.

So yes. Of course it felt good.

But at the same time. It didn’t half suck too…

Because Mum hadn’t just died. She hadn’t just gone. It had been two years. Two years and two months.

And I still hadn’t cleared her stuff out yet.

I knew it was well overdue. I’d already been feeling guilty about not doing it. For the best part of a year. Maybe more.

And yes. I know the mantra. I’ve said it to myself enough times: ‘When you’re ready”. “In your own time”. “When it feels right’…

But that’s exactly why I let it slide. Waiting. Waiting for the right bloody time.

Guess what? It didn’t come. Of course it didn’t.

How on earth can something like that ever feel ‘right’?!

“Oh. I know what I fancy doing today. I’ll clear out my dead Mum’s clothes :-)”

Let’s face it. It’s bollocks.

We all know that it’s one of those things you’re expected to just get on with.

And sooner. Rather than later.

Something inevitable to be ticked off. Like losing your virginity. Getting a mortgage. And signing up for a Nectar card. Tick. Tick. Tick.

Time continued to pass. And suddenly the mantra changed. To “shit, I really should have done it by now. It’s definitely way beyond the reasonable boundaries of the ‘right time’!”

It was a weight around my neck. Something I should have done. But hadn’t.

When Mum’s Mum died. My lovely Nan. Mum was down at my Grandad’s quicker than a rat up a drainpipe. Clearing things out. Sorting stuff. Getting on with it. I couldn’t help but feel that she wouldn’t have left it this long. Which just made me feel worse. More guilty. Like I’d let her down somehow. By letting it slide. Not getting on with my responsibility.

I’m not sure how it even became my responsibility. And not my stepdad’s. Or my brother’s.

But somehow. I guess. There was just an unspoken agreement. That it was down to me.

Is it a female thing perhaps? That it just doesn’t occur to men.

Or maybe. It’s a ‘me’ thing. Always needing to be in control… it’s possible.

Or. Could it be. Quite simply. A mother/daughter thing?

Well. In my case. Yes. I think so.

So while I was there. In ‘Hatfield’. I had a realisation:

“Mum’s been dead for over two years and all her clothes are still hanging in her wardrobe. Fuck. That’s just plain dysfunctional!”

And then I started to weigh it up in my head:

Which is worse? Having to let go of the last of your Mum? Or admitting to yourself that you’re a potential guest for The Jerry Springer Show?

I made my decision. I would no longer be a dysfunctional daughter. I would finally say goodbye to Mum’s things. And clear them out.

Maybe subconsciously I knew this was the plan all along.

Perhaps that was the real reason I was so stubborn in insisting I cat-sit for 3 unnecessary days:

To take the rare chance of having this time alone. At ‘Mum’s’. With her. And her things.

To say a quiet goodbye. Just me and her. And her Berketex tops.

…And in my next post. I might tell you how it went…

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4 Comments on “Confessions of a Dysfunctional Daughter

  1. Laura
    September 13, 2014

    Great post Angela! You conjure up very well the weirdness and contradictions that surround this necessary (but when?) task! Well done for doing it. Sure you did it at the right time for you and that’s all that matters, I think? xx

    • Angela Wilson
      September 13, 2014

      Thanks Laura – yep, the older I get the more I realise how full life is of contradictions!…or maybe that’s just me!?….and thanks too for the chat about all this last time I saw you…it helped me realise what I was thinking/feeling! lots of love xx

  2. Michela
    September 15, 2014

    As always I can totally relate to this post, and the realisation that you just wanted to be alone wt mums things, for one last time. To almost feel like time had stood still. Looking forward to your next post on how it went! Xxx

    • Angela Wilson
      September 15, 2014

      Hi Michela! Yes, it was just like that – time standing still! I’m sure you’ve had you’re fair share of bizarre contradictory reactions like that!!Thanks so much for reading and commenting. Hope all is good for you – I’ve not been ‘in the loop’ for a while but hoping to catch up with your recent posts soon! xx

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