Thursday, 3 May 2007

New Life


We had an unexpected phone call on Monday evening, from J’s aunt. It was to tell us that her brother-in-law (J’s last surviving uncle) had passed away last week and the funeral was on Wednesday (yesterday), up in Macclesfield.

Families. Mine is complicated, and has its fair share of skeletons in the cupboard! J’s, on the other hand, is VERY complicated, and his late mother’s paternal side is responsible for this!! That half of the family is not close with the rest of the cousins – they tend to be close to their own immediate units of parents and siblings alone. I suppose, this is quite normal for most families, but I am lucky in that mine is a bit of a “tribe” for want of a better expression. Don’t get me wrong, we are not in each other’s pockets, but there is regular contact, even if it is just by phone or email.

J’s paternal side is also close and in regular contact, but he was a bit taken aback to only find out about this uncle at the last minute. And more than a little sad.

And so, we were up at 5.30am yesterday to make the journey north. Unfortunately, I am NOT an early morning person and so I won’t regale you with tales of how wonderful the morning sunshine felt on my face, nor how uplifting the dawn chorus was. No, I was trying to nap in the front seat without smudging my carefully applied makeup or messing up my hastily blow dried hair. I’d calculated we would be there in 3 hours and so another hour’s kip in the front seat should leave me bright eyed and bushy tailed for giving J directions during the last bit of the journey. That was the theory, but unfortunately the sunshine DID wave its wand over me and so I stayed awake – highly irritating for a girl who needs at least 8 hours!

The journey ended up being a delight. We didn’t go on the motorway after we reached Lichfield. No, we headed to Ashbourne and Leek, rising ever higher and snaking through the beautiful Staffordshire and Derbyshire countryside, the fields edged with dry stone walls (unlike the hedgerows and trees of Herefordshire). And then we arrived in Macclesfield with an hour to spare. Enough time for a mug of tea and bacon sarnie at a café on the outskirts of town. Replenished and revitalized, we met up with J’s middle brother and his wife, and went on to the crem. You know how these things go so, again, I won’t go into it, but suffice to say it was a humanist ceremony and I have only been to one other in my life. Different, but still incredibly moving.

Afterwards, it was back to J’s cousin’s house and we sat in the garden, soaking up the sunshine. Stronger bonds were forged that afternoon between this younger generation – our generation. Maybe things will be a little different for the family now. Enough business cards/telephone numbers and email addresses were exchanged; shy glances became forthright smiles; there was laughter in the air and many hugs were given and received when we left.

I drove home as J sat quietly reflecting next to me. Eleven years have taught me when to leave him be with his thoughts. This man of mine is many sided. He is the joker in the pack; the one everyone relies on to lighten an atmosphere and who can make anyone feel instantly at ease. He is also highly intelligent – not in an academic, certificates out of every orifice kind of way: his knowledge of social and political history astounds me. I am proud when I see someone do a double take at this man they have “judged” as a jack-the-lad. One minute he has been telling jokes or laughing with someone, and then he can turn and seriously debate this country’s history. His mind has soaked up names and dates for almost every event of importance (or not, as is often the case, when he can sprint to the finish line in a pop quiz!). I am frequently bemused that he can tell me who was prime minister in 1854 or who the lead singer of Blah, blah, blah band was and what their 2nd number 1 was, but can’t remember that I have asked him to hang the washing out!

And then there is his heart. The biggest and softest I have ever known. When you receive the key to the lock, it opens and enfolds you into its protective world, just as his arms wrap you in his bear hug. His quietness on our journey home spoke to me louder than he could know: he feels keenly the divide in his family and I know he hopes with all of his heart that those times are now gone. He WILL pick up the phone and reach out to these cousins who have been distant for too long.

As our journey entered its final stages, the Malvern Hills appeared to our right on the M5. Wherever we have been, we know we’re nearly home when they come into view. Our hearts lift and shoulders relax as they keep us company along the final fifteen minutes before they slip out of view as we turn towards the village. “It’s good to be home, love,” he said and he squeezed my hand. I glanced at him and smiled as I scanned his face. He looked tired and his brown eyes held a hint of sadness. I pulled in.

“Are you okay?” I asked him, concern making me frown. “Yeah, I’m fine. Sad. He was mum’s last brother – only auntie R left now and then the siblings are all gone. It’s just us lot then. I hope we do a better job of it. You, know, the family thing. It doesn’t seem so important when you’re kids – you’re just concerned with your mates and all that. Family stuff is just………. well, family. But now, you realize how important it is to keep it going. To get along. You know……” He shrugged his shoulders and looked a little embarrassed.

“Yes, I DO know,” I said and squeezed his hand tight back. He loves my family. I know he does. But Christmas and Easter………. all the major occasions, in fact, it’s always my tribe that gets together. “Let’s get home and put the kettle on,” I said as I let in the clutch and pulled off.

As we sat drinking our tea, watching the sun go down over the trees, I played the answer phone messages. It was my brother. Usual stuff, then an “oh, by the way, sis”…….. He’s going to be a dad again. Another new life is beginning.

19 comments:

Suffolkmum said...

Gosh, so much to comment on here. I know what you mean about it always being your family that gets together at special times - it's the same for us. R loves my family, but they do dominate. I know he is also secretly a little sad that his extended family aren't close. I've never been to a humanist ceremony of any time, but would like to. J sounds very interesting, and more fool the people who just take him for a jack-the-lad. R is a bit like that - not in the least academic, but immensly knowledgeable. How wonderful that a new life is coming into your family.

The Country Craft Angel said...

J sounds wonderful-deep, kind and good. Sorry to hear of his uncle.
You sound very close.

It is often the case that as you hear of a death, then you hear of a birth. Nice to have a new baby in the family to look forward to.

So true what you say about families-I ought to try and unravel my lot sometime-all very complicated even though I only have about 5 family members!! I'm not close to any of mine or hubbies. Sad, as it's not how I would choose it to be. My friends and my 'family' and very precious.



warm wishes
xx

Inthemud said...

Your husband sounds a real treasure, interesting to hear all about your families, computer crashed as I was trying to read so, forgive me if I don't make relavant comments! Lovely blog though!

muddyboots said...

l lost a dog, all be it temporally [sp] walking up from Eastnor once upon a time. I agree with the Malverns being a landmarch to being nearly 'home' whenever we come down to visit friends & family as soon as you see Bredon hill or the Malverns you know its not far to go. used to spend time as a wee nipper looking 4 arrowheads on to of British Camp.

Faith said...

I've never been to a humanist funeral - would have been interested to hear more. My uncle died last winter and except for my mother (still alive) he was the last of the older generation. It's a sobering thought for 'us' to be the oldies. Your husband sounds lovely.

Faith said...

PS Oh dear so wrapped up in your blog I nearly forgot your angel card, so thinking about you, and focussing, I drew out 'patience' at 20.17 3/5. I hope it has meaning for you. Take care.

Pipany said...

Hi Woozle - yes the curtains are a Laura Ashley bargain and I will try the cafe rod idea, thanks. Now, on to your beautiful blog...J sounds like Dave - very, very funny yet can talk intelligently and sensitively on any subject, reeling out dozens of facts at the drop of a hat. The best of men, I feel. Hopefully the hole that he feels where his family are concerned will begin to be filled now. You wrote it so well, Woozle xx

Eden said...

this presses so many buttons for me. have been thinking so much lately about how important it is for family to see each other and not sure how to make that happen. Now feel resolved to try.
what a kind and good man J. seems.

Withy Brook said...

What a lovely man you have there. I am lucky that both of us have close, if scattered families. Sooo important to keep the contacts and so very sad when something causes a rift. I hope J can get people together again. I know the feeling about being the ones left (naturally at my age!!!) Suddenly you find that the ones who remembered the past have gone. And the responsibility of carrying the 'family' on into the future stops with you.
My daughter was at school at St James's, so the Malvern's have memories for me too, but now they are a stage on the way to Brecon, where my father came from.

toady said...

My Mum is the last one of her era but all her brother's children are still in touch. Great news about the new baby. Toady

ChrisH said...

Sorry to hear about your loss but strange the way a new life comes into being at such times. Oh a lighter note I don't do mornings either!

Pondside said...

Your husband sounds like a very sweet man - lucky you to have him and lucky him to have your support and understanding on a difficult day.

KittyB said...

It's that circle of life thing that Elton John had off pat in the Lion King. Never a truer word etc...

Exmoorjane said...

Oh Woozle, what an incredibly moving blog. I think everyone before me has echoed my thoughts really. I loved the way you wrote about J - and I'm so happy that you have such a wonderful man - and that you obviously appreciate one another so much. In these days of cynicism and sniping, it's so refreshing and soothing to hear of a good marriage. jxxxx

Blossomcottage said...

Lovely blog and such a
great family spirit, I love your JRT,they realy are very Cecil Auldin.
Blossom

UN PEU LOUFOQUE said...

The biggest and softest I have ever known. When you receive the key to the lock, it opens and enfolds you into its protective world, just as his arms wrap you in his bear hug

what a fantastic thing to say about anyone..Beautiful.

@themill said...

Wonderful Woozle. Moving and thought provoking. I can't believe anyone of us is unable to relate to at least one thing in your blog. Lovely man too.

Posie Rosie said...

What a lovely blog, it brought a tear to my eye, you write so beautifully Woozle, over hard circumstances. Your man sounds lovely, what a specails relatoinship you have.

WesterWitch/Headmistress said...

Lovely lovely blog. I haven't spoken to my cousin in five or six years and go all hurt over something or other and refused to phone her. Then she rang the other day and all was forgiven and forgotten. Your man sounds lovely and so do you.