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Friday, October 25, 2013

Passing on. By John von Daler.

                 It was summer in #Surrey. The long rolling garden behind the red brick, ranch-style house stretched its green tongue into the valley, lapping up deer and rabbits and pheasants that also thought of Lime Tree Cottage as their home. I had come to #Marley Common because my mother had #died.

                Mother was not the type of person who just died. On the one hand she made almost no fuss about her serious ailments; too much of her life had been spent in describing imaginary pains that could "strike like a sledge hammer on the right big toe, shoot up that leg and cross through the heart all the way up the neck, pounding into the forehead with the white flash of potassium causing pain like an ice-pick someone kept stabbing into your brain."
                Real death had only minor dimensions compared to the hypochondria of life. I had called her from Denmark a few days before her death and had asked what she was doing.
                "Having my breakfast, dyin' and goin' ta hell!" she had answered and then changed the subject.
                On the other hand, now her death left behind it a serious vacuum. After she died Dad had decided to go into a shell. For his sake my sister and I aquiesced about having no funeral. We took walks with him and talked about Mom. When she was in the ground we stayed with him to get him to promise to visit us at the very least once each in Denmark and the U.S.A. He would not have an easy time without her.
                Now we were going to sleep over in the house, Dad in the master bedroom, my sister in the guest room and I in the bunkbed room for grandchildren at the end of the house behind the laundry room.
                I stood watching the lawn fade away in the twilight and then went like the others to bed more out of sheer boredom and loneliness than out of tiredness. In the darkness of the lower bunk I rolled around for a few hours, trying to find that entranceway through which sleep is just a step away. But it illuded me and I lay staring into the dark.
                Out of this dark wakefulness I began to become aware of a dry tapping like the tail of a happy dog on a wooden floor. It came from the wall beside my ear. On the other side was the outdoor garbage can station.
                I have read enough Edgar Allan Poe not to take wall-knocking lightly. However, this was real life and I have enough enlightened Scottish blood in me to want and expect answers to mysteries. I listened to this quiet tapping for a while and considered the possibility that Mom might be checking in, just to let me know, you know, arrived safely, flught was fine...
                But then I got an attack of rationality and decided to investigate, so I went around to the backdoor in my bare feet, turned on the spotlight by the garbage cans and inspected the place for wayward tree branches or roving foxes. Nothing seemed to be disturbing the plain and neatly closed metal cans. The brick wall to my room was pristinely bare.
                I went back to my room and as the tapping began again I fell into a deep sleep thinking, Mom doesm't want to scare me or hurt me. Got nothing to worry about. And I did not wake up until morning.               
                I got up and went out to look at the view across the back lawn from the back door. One of the almost tame pheasants had come to eat breakfast. It came up to me and cocked its head, Where is she? The lady with the food?
                I looked out at the deep green valley. I don't know. Thank God, I just don't know.

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