A Conversation with Mum about Funerals and Going Off
She phones back after I’ve left a message on her answering machine.
Mum: We were out.
Me: Yes, I figured.
Mum: No, I mean not just up the street. We were out, all the way out.
Mum: We’ve been out all day.
Me: There’s no specific distance or time limit on being out. If I get the answering machine I figure you’re out.
Mum: That’s a good to do.
Me: Yes, that’s how it works, generally. Unless you’re call screening.
Mum: You do that.
Me: Yes, mostly to dodge you.
Mum: Anyway we had the funeral. I’m getting quite good at those.
Me: Getting good at funerals. Like a professional mourner.
Mum: Not quite, but you know. I’ve got the clothes organised, summer and winter. I know how to go to them.
Me: Good to know there’s no funeral wardrobe crisis. Is there a special way to do a funeral?
Mum: The way I do it seems to work.
Me: I guess it was sad.
Mum: No, actually it was great.
Mum: Oh it was so funny and there were poems and Barry made a speech and you know how funny he is, well he forgot a page and oh we laughed and laughed. And the flowers were lovely and they had good catering, and there were so many people I hadn’t seen for ages.
Me: Sounds like a wild time was had by all.
Mum: I don’t mean it like that. Anyway Nola’s gone right off.
Me: What does that mean?
Mum: She’s got this damn walking stick (she says walking stick with disgust as though it’s a new husband fifty years her junior) and she’s lost all this weight and she’s grumpy as anything.
Mum: So negative and even Kathy said so. Won’t do anything. Stays home, won’t go out. Told lies to the doctor and all.
Mum: I said, you’re depressed, Nola.
Me: How was that helpful?
Mum: It’s the truth.
Me: That’s like telling a fat person they’re fat, it’s not like they don’t know, nor can they do anything about it quickly.
Mum: It’s not the same at all.
Me: Don’t tell me because Nola is skinny now.
Mum: I was going to say that.
Me: I know you were. Do you get what I mean?
Mum: It’s not the same. Maybe she doesn’t know she’s depressed.
Me: Do you think that skipped her attention when Kathy took her to the doctors to talk about it and she told lies?
Mum: It might’ve. Anyway she’s gone right off and she should just snap out of it.
Me: Because you said so.
Mum: Laughs. Yes.
Me: Excellent. You don’t think it might be more complicated than that?
Mum: Oh, look, I’m probably just as bad. You’d tell me if I was just as bad wouldn’t you. You have to tell me. Especially if I was being horrible. If I was being mean. I might not know it.
Mum: Of course you couldn’t really tell me because I’m not going to want to listen am I?
Mum: But you’d have to. I mean you couldn’t not tell me if I’d lost it, that wouldn’t be fair on me. It wouldn’t be right if you didn’t tell me. I’d have to be told.
Mum: How would that be if someone else had to tell me I’d gone off? That’s not right. Imagine that. Someone comes up to me at a funeral and tells me I’d gone off. That would be a terrible shock.
Mum: Really, that’s the family’s job. They should be the ones to say if one of them has gone off. You’d have to be the one to tell me. You father wouldn’t. You’re brother wouldn’t.
Mum: It would have to be you. Not that I’d listen to you, but you’d have to make me. I don’t know how, but you’d have to find a way. That’s what has to happen, if I go off. Okay?
Me: In hell
Mum: Are you still there?
Me: Yes, but I’m very, very afraid.
Mum: I think that’s the right idea.