Wednesday, March 28, 1984

Goodbye to all that

A boring coach journey up to Easterby, which I reached at five minutes-to-three after setting off from Watermouth at eight-thirty. The house was silent and empty, workmen digging up the garden path which is being re-laid.

A note from Dad told me that one egg and one sausage was in the fridge (“Mum restricts you to this as we are economising”) and that he would see me when he got home later. The note also said that they've had a “black weekend” (Dad’s words) because Mr. Tillotson, from across the road, died last Friday night: this immediately set up all sorts of echoes and reflections kaleidoscoping through my mind and left me feeling rather gloomy.

I got the full story when they both got home. Mr. Tillotson’s illness had been a protracted one, and he’d never really recovered from a stroke he suffered a few years back, but the final conflict came upon him suddenly, and a few days were all that elapsed between illness and death, which happened so quickly that his brother didn’t even have time to get to the hospital. Dad has to check the cold and empty house opposite every night, a task which leaves him in a morbid state of mind.

He can’t rid himself of the recurrent image of Mr. Tillotson’s long-dead wife, captured forever in an instant of smiling black-and-white happiness on the dressing table in Mr. Tillotson’s bedroom. They’re both dead now and the house they proudly moved into before the war is empty. I won’t ever see him again and this is a strange thought: I bid him goodbye at Christmas, shook his hand as he wished me “all the best” in frail tones, never knowing, never being able to know, that that would be it.

In our minds we live forever and there’s no 'time', yet our bodies weaken and the lights go out one-by-one, then we too die, and the morning comes and the living wake. . . .

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