Tuesday, 19 May 2015

A tapestry of echoes

A year ago today, I called in briefly on the way home from work to see Dad, who was putting the last touches to the sleeping arrangements we'd sorted out aboard Ondine in preparation for a planned trip away to Fowey in Cornwall that coming weekend.

I can't remember exactly why I'd dropped in. I think he'd asked me to drop something off, but in any case it was only intended to be a brief visit. As I found him fiddling about with the boat-tent, I paused to take a few photos. At that point, Mum, realising somebody was out front with Dad, came out to see what was going on. The look on her face as she walked into the frame said it all; bemused exasperation at her boys playing about with their silly boat again.

Then a moment later her face broke into a radiant smile and she gave me a hug. I remember thinking how tiny and fragile she felt in my arms. But then she always did. She then asked me if I was coming in for a cup of tea, and I replied no, it was only a flying visit and I needed to get home to the family.

I sorely regret that decision. But life is a tangled net of all the little moments we squander in our haste and inattention.

Although that was, but for those few, final minutes that seemed to stretch eternal late the following evening, the last time I saw her, it doesn't matter. I'm reminded that the tapestry of how our lives intertwine with those we love is defined as much by the time we spend in each other's thoughts as by the time we're actually together.

And that's the length of a lifetime. Life is a beautiful gift.

It's a terrible photo of her. She'd hate me for posting it. And then she'd laugh and forgive me anyway.

At the last breath, my throat was full of song;
The proof, for a short while, is with you still.
Though snapped at sharply by the whip-bird’s call,
It has not stopped. It lingers for your sake:
Almost as if I were not gone for long -
And what you hear will not fade as I fall.

from "Echo Point" by Clive James

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