An excerpt from ‘Sophie’s story‘,
page 274 from Paul White’s book, Within the Invisible Pentacle.
My father died on the Sixteenth of September 2012. The same day as we lowered my mother’s coffin into her grave.
Up to that point, I think my father was in denial; a self-denial, in which he told himself she would walk through the door at any moment.
We stood around the grave, my two younger brothers and I, along with a few people from our street.
I would call them neighbours, but I did not even know their names. Yet I am sure my mother could have told you much about each and every one of them. She was that type of woman; friendly, sociable, liked. She was the type of person even strangers opened to. They all seemed to share their feelings, their worries and fears with my mother, without hesitation.
I guess it is the same, wondrous quality my father noticed in her all those years ago.
There were also three or four people from the warehouse where my father worked until it closed two years back.
For this small town, the closing of the warehouse, a main storage and distribution centre for a giant, international conglomerate, was the last straw.
It really did break the camel’s back.
The camel in this instant was the failing spirits and resolve of the townsfolk. The mine closed in the mid-seventies, the factories followed a decade later and the rest… just sort of… petered away without notice.
Businesses, offices, shops, they all faded away and the town slumped into decay and abandonment.
Once the warehouse closed, the last workers lost their jobs, many folks simply packed up and moved away. The few who chose to stay, like my parents, survive on charity and government handouts.
We are a world apart from general society.
When the warehouse first closed Dad was not downhearted, far from it, he was full of big ideas, backed up by shed full of bravado. He and Tommy Deacon had plans, business plans. They would combine their redundancy monies and start afresh.
“Things,” he said, “never looked so good.” There were new opportunities, new horizons to be explored.
The thing is, they never looked so bad as after Tommy disappeared with my father’s money. He even sent a postcard of a golden sandy beach; I think it was Montego Bay.
The card read, “See ya, ya tosser.”
In all my fourteen years of life, I never saw my father show anger about anything. So, the rage he exhibited that day scared me in a way I can never explain.
I was, let it be said, terrified.
My mother tried to comfort him but to no avail. They agreed it was best if she took us, the children, as far away from him as she could.
A week later, my mother and I, I being the oldest child, stole into the house one evening to see how my father was faring. We found him in a heap, a drunken stupor, on the kitchen floor. He was filthy, unshaved, smelled of vomit, urine and worse.
He was never the same after Tommy’s disappearance.
Neither was my mother.
Not only did something die within my father during those dark days, but the relationship, the care, the trust, the love between my parents altered. I am uncertain how, or what, or even why. It is not something I have ever been able to decipher, to put my finger on.
They still loved one another, that was clear. It was unwavering, yet… different.
My father drank more, sometimes with the other men in the public house on the corner, but more often he drank at home, alone.
My mother carried on, but it was as if she was suddenly old. She managed less and less. I took over most chores. Like the washing, cleaning and cooking.
School was a relief for my brothers. It got them away from the house.
“Work hard, study hard,” I told them. “Only by doing well will you ever get away from here.” I am happy they took my words to mind.
For me, I left school. I stayed home, tended my father’s alcoholism and nursed my mother.
Cancer they said.
“Yes, it can seem to suddenly appear.” the doctors said. “Although it has probably been growing for some time.”
Six weeks later my mother was dead.
Her last words to me were: “Don’t you go worrying yourself about me. It’s better this way. Be careful, love.”
I am still uncertain of the meanings of those words…
… to read more of Sophie’s story, grab a copy of the book. You can get it here, https://mybook.to/wtipentacle
Or visit Paul’s website at, https://paulznewpostbox.wixsite.com/paul-white