Memory is a testy beast

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Three days before my mother died, I
lost my watch, and not for the first time.  It is a watch I have worn for at least fifteen years.  When I could not find it in any of the likely places, I took this loss as an omen, a sign of change ahead and
bought myself a new watch in honour of my mother. 
Three days after we buried her, I found my old watch again, this time in the freezer.  It
must have slipped off in the action of lifting the freezer lid and it rested there on top
of the puff pastry until I saw it again last night when my husband was making
lamb pies for dinner.  
The watch was still ticking
time, if not a little cold, as cold as my mother’s body when I had leaned over
her coffin and touched her hand the night before her funeral. 
The funeral parlour people had laid
my mother out for a viewing in a blouse and skirt my sisters had chosen for
her.  My mother’s hands were interlinked, as if in prayer, in a way they were not the day she died. 
Then they were stretched out in front of her on the patch work quilt the
hospital had provided in a bid to make her look as if she were in an ordinary bed at home.
My sister told me later that they
massage people’s limbs after death when embalming them into more fitting
shapes.  But the woman in the coffin was no
longer my mother.  Her smile, stretched tight
across her thin lips, looked too wide by half and her face had been
compressed. The sight of her left me cold.  
I could not shed a tear for my mother then in
the funeral parlour because the wax work figure in her
place reminded me of someone I once knew, a colleague, whom I was not fond of,
and so I chose not to stay too long with my mother’s body in the coffin, but to
enjoy my memories of her as she had lived.
I last lost my watch a few years ago in Brighton, England, when I was there for a conference.  It seemed an omen then, too, to lose a watch
among the brightly lit stalls along the Brighton pier or down among the pebbles
on the beach, so different from our sand here in Australia. 
I found my watch again that time, too,
this time in the bottom of my bag.  But I
will never find my mother again and it takes some getting used to.  This sense that she will not return, that I
can never again ask her questions about her life or mine. 
And memory is such a testy
beast.  The week before my mother died I
went to collect some items from the drycleaner, most of them were ready but a
few had not been completed and so I said I’d collect them on my next
visit, which I did. 
I now find my trousers are missing, loved trousers, black with an embossed check in the fabric.  They must still be at the drycleaners, but no,
the drycleaner reckons today, I must have misplaced them at home.
I tell the drycleaner – I’m a long
term customer and know him well, as well as anyone can know a drycleaner – my
mother died and this past week has been unsettled. 
Then I regret the telling.  He might think I’m a bit unhinged.  It lets him off the hook.  No longer his responsibility to look for my trousers
among the rows of plastic coated offerings, all attached to a number.  None attached to my number. 
I tell him, I’ll look again at home.  Maybe like my watch, but unlike my mother, my
trousers will show up soon. 

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3 Comments on Memory is a testy beast

  1. Jim Murdoch
    August 17, 2014 at 11:03 am (3 years ago)

    I used to manage a drycleaners. Not a job I’d planned on. One I stumbled into. I was friends with the previous manager and one day when I popped in to see him he was run ragged because his shop assistant had phoned in sick so he asked me if I wouldn’t mind helping out which I did. That led to a part-time job, then a full-time job and eventually, after my friend moved on, the manager’s position. I was good at it. Not managing especially—I’m actually a lousy manager since I have difficulty delegating—but the shop went from strength to strength and at the end of my first year at the annual conference I got awarded the cup for the most improved sales in the previous year. That felt good.

    I don’t think we ever lost much. Occasionally tickets would come off in the machine but it wasn’t hard to see where the missing items went. It was a happy shop and I’m sure that had a lot to do with the improved sales. We did photos too and I recall one man saying that the reason he came to our shop and not round the corner was that we talked to him; nothing more complicated than that. Interestingly there was another drycleaners right across the road from us. I’ve no idea how well they did but obviously there was enough business in the town to keep the two of us afloat. They were the more professional-looking—they wore uniforms—whereas we were a bit casual but got away with it because we were nice.

    I have two watches which Carrie bought me. They’ll both be about fifteen years old. She got me them on the same day, a casual one for day-to-day use and a nice one for special occasional. Needless to say the latter has hardly been worn but it’s still a nice watch. It sits in the top drawer of my bedside table and I would expect the battery’s dead, long dead. When my mum was ill she let my wife use her watch to keep track of her medication and after she died Carrie just kept it on. She wore it for two years, until her arthritis made wearing it uncomfortable. But she still has it. And she still uses Mum’s coin purse, in fact she had to repair it a few days ago but insisted on doing that rather than buying a new one. I bought her a pocket watch one year. First woman I’ve known who wanted one but it pleased her. I had one too once that I bought in Edinburgh over thirty years ago. My dad overwound it but I still have it. I bought my daughter a Tigger watch once. She loved Tigger and Tickle Me Elmo.

    Reply
  2. Birdie
    August 17, 2014 at 8:26 pm (3 years ago)

    It has been almost three years since my mom died. Just today and dragonfly flew up to my front window and hovered there for a few minutes. (I had my tea leaves read and the read specifically said that dragonflies represent my mother.) I broke down crying. Will the pain ever cease from missing out mothers?

    http://ditchingthedog.wordpress.com/

    Reply
  3. Anthony Duce
    August 18, 2014 at 3:46 pm (3 years ago)

    Wonderful writing. Like the connections made between the lost that can be found, and the loss that can’t.

    Reply

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