Tuesday 28th March

And once June’s mother was dead she found that she really was on her own, which is strange because she had never felt that close to her while she was alive.  She almost didn’t have any relatives, well, older relatives left at all, just her sister – and between her sister and her loomed the great problem of Ted; who would end up with him, and the bitterness that would inevitably cause.  June’s father had a sister who lived up North somewhere, and they had last seen her at his funeral when June must only have been about thirteen.  They sent a letter to the last address they had for her telling her about mother’s funeral, but they didn’t receive a reply, maybe she had moved.  It was such a quiet little funeral, Phil and June. and Julie and Ted and a couple of neighbours from before their mother went into the home, it was driving rain and bitterly cold, and no-one wanted to hang about.  Phil suggested they go for a drink, but they had no idea where they might find a pub, so they all got back in the Bentley and drove around for a bit and with no-one actually suggesting it they drove back to Stowmarket and had tea at June’s house.  Phil drove Julie and Ted home, but not before Ted had managed to speak to June alone, on the pretext of helping her bring the tea in. He said that he thought they should lie low for a bit, take a sort of break for a couple of months or so.  June felt sick inside, was he saying that this was the end.

He saw the look on her face, and quickly put his hand on her forearm and said, ‘Only for a bit love, I think Julie might suspect something, that’s all.  She’s been very moody lately and keeps saying her life is in a rut.  I just keep worrying she might be watching me, so best to lie low for a bit.  But I promise you this June, you are the thing I loves best in the whole world, and nothing will ever change that.  Now, you take the milk and sugar and I’ll take the teapot and cups.’

*  * *

And all too soon they were laying Phil’s father to rest and he was blubbing like a baby.  He was amazed to see so many people there, but he had been such a popular doctor and the church was filled to over-brimming with Consultants and Sisters and even the nurses turned out in their smart white and blue uniforms.  Phil was meant to say a few words after the vicar had finished, but although he had promised his mother, in the end he had to bow his head and wave no at the vicar as he was suddenly overcome with nerves and a great big wave of grief mixed with self-pity came over him.  June gripped his hand and tried to steady him, but he just couldn’t stop sobbing.  It was because he felt that he had let the old man down, he died thinking Phil had turned out well, but neither he nor anyone else knew what a failure Phil really considered himself.  Here he was, this successful solicitor, with a big house and looked up to by all and sundry, but when you looked closer it was all mortgaged to the hilt, not only the house but his life.  He was in debt up to his eyeballs, loans everywhere and no real hope of getting clear, he could barely make the repayments most months, let alone start repaying the capital.  Everything he seemed to touch fell apart, nothing was working out and his own Dad had never owed a penny in his life, he would have been horrified if he had found out.

So would everyone, of course, Jones at work, and June and the girls, what would they say if they had any idea of the mess he was in.  And mixed up with his own self-pity were all these confused feelings about his Dad.  He had so dominated Phil’s early years, and even when he was away at University Phil felt he was doing it all for him, as if his wishes meant more than his own.  And so he just stood there useless and blubbing, when he should have been telling the congregation what a marvelous man his father had been.  He just stood there trying to stifle his sobbing; even here he knew he was letting his father down.  June next to him rubbed his arm and whispered, ‘It’s alright Phil.’  He looked over to his mother, but she had her hankie to her eyes and didn’t seem to notice.  Thank goodness the girls weren’t there to see him crying.

*  * *

All of a sudden Jane’s grandparents were dying all around her, first Nana, and then her Granddad from Norwich.  They weren’t allowed to go to the funerals; children weren’t encouraged to in those days she supposed.  Jane really missed them though, she knew they hadn’t seen them in ages, but they were still her family, and they used to always visit at Christmas and Birthdays.  Jane couldn’t stop crying when Dad told the girls, especially Granddad, but maybe that was because she hadn’t known he was ill at all; Nana had been in a home for a couple of years, and Mummy used to visit her, and tell them how poorly she was.  But Jane hadn’t been expecting her Granddad to be ill, it was all so quick and only a couple of months after Nana, it just got to her badly and she couldn’t stop crying for days.  Jane used to love spending Christmas at Norwich with her other Nana and Granddad, it was very old-fashioned, their house, stuck in the nineteen forties with big table lamps and old threadbare sofa and chairs, and a big wooden radio and no television at all.  Jane’s house was much bigger but never felt so cosy somehow, always a bit too untidy and uncared for.  Harriet said she was silly to cry for them, that she was just crying for myself really.  And maybe that was a little bit true, but she didn’t have to say it; Jane thought Harriet could be really cruel sometimes.

*  * *

Jane cried when Granddad died, ‘but then she cried at anything’ thought Harriet.  She used to catch her crying at plays on the television.  ‘Didn’t she realise it was all make-believe; it wasn’t real life for goodness sake.’ reasoned the older girl.  ‘And Granddad was old when he died, and so was Mum’s Mum, they were both really old.  I mean did she expect people to live forever, the place would be a bit crowded if they did, don’t you think Jane?’  They didn’t really know them that well either, they only used to go there at Christmas when Dad dragged them there in the Bentley for another boring day.  So she really didn’t know what Jane was thinking about with all that crying stuff, maybe she was just looking for a bit of attention herself.  Harriet told her to buck herself up a bit, she would have to get used to people dying as she got older, it would be Mum and Dad’s turn next.

‘How can you say that?  Harriet, you are so horrid, I hate you.’

‘And I love you too, Janey dear.  Don’t worry it won’t be for ages.  You’ll have to live most of your life first, before they die.  You know; get married, have a load of kids, wipe their bums for them and send them off into the world, and then your job will be done, and you can get ready to bury Mum and Dad.’