Beryl was an amazing woman.
Eyes full of love, cheeks ruddy from a lifetime of smoking, laughing and sweating it out in a hot kitchen, hair crying out for a hot oil treatment and a waistline that she swore was always about to disappear.
To enter her house was to be welcomed home. In her beautiful black country brogue she’d demand that you ate, racing off to the kitchen to produce proper home-cooked fare: steak, mash and gravy “Get tucked in, you’ll waste away”.
Bruce the Great Dane would look on from his perch on the sofa, regal and as far from canine as it was possible to get, waiting for his tripe dinner.
We never stayed long enough, never visited often enough, never spent enough time talking about the important things.
I first met her when I was 16 at Uncle Keith’s wedding to Debbie. Of course that wasn’t really the first time, but I had no memory of meeting her before that. The reception was in the Working Man’s Club, just two or three doors down from her house in Pensnett.
There was a fight of course, the men got lashed and the women tore at one another with their barbed tongues. It was completely alien to me, and yet I knew I belonged. I was part of this incredible family, because of her.
She came to my wedding, well not the wedding exactly because we kept that really small. She should have come to my wedding, I should never have excluded her, I’m so sorry about that. She came to my wedding party and I was so proud to have her there.
I loved her. I hope she knew that. I found it difficult to call her Gran, so I wrote Gran in her cards and letters but in my head she was always Beryl.
She gave to everyone, she gave everything she had, taking in the waifs and strays when they needed her, never forgetting a birthday or a Christmas. But of course, when she needed help there was none to be had.
She died in August 2006.
She died because her aortic artery ruptured, and nothing could be done to save her.
She died and we never got to say goodbye.
I went to her funeral. It was the first time I’d ever been to a burial and I was scared, how stupid is that? We met at her house and I thought I’d entered the lair of the Dudley mafia. Looking around I saw a swathe of black suits, gold jewelery, skin heads and smokers all united in their loss. So many people crammed into her 1930s semi to see her off safely.
And then she arrived.
I cannot describe the sounds of the hooves on the tarmac or the feeling that rises when you look at a wooden box and picture the person you loved lying inside it. I cannot even try.
I can tell you that it was suitably dignified and that I didn’t hear a single word that was said at the service because I had a hungry 3 week old baby crying in my arms.
I can tell you that I cried as I watched my dad throw the first handful of earth into the hole containing his mum, saying his own private farewell, and that i vowed to return, to bring flowers, to visit more often and talk about the important things.
It’s been nearly four years and I still haven’t. I’m sorry Beryl. But I will, I promise I will x
I wrote this post today for two reasons. Firstly because my lovely friend Rachael (@karamina) is running the London Marathon next month to raise money for Heart Research. I’ve sponsored her to run one of those miles in Beryl’s memory. She’ll run one for you as well if you like, go and have a look at her blog here.
Secondly I wrote for Josie’s Writing Workshop. I’d like to thank her, I probably wouldn’t have written this post otherwise. I chose Prompt No 1:
1. Tell me about someone from you past who you lost touch with and who you often think about. Perhaps imagine meeting them again. What would you say? What unresolved issues would you love to bury?