I accidentally published this post last night, titularly known merely as ‘Fuck’ – but I mistakenly hit the ‘Publish’ button several narrative eons too early. Sorry to any of you that got confused by its disappearance or whatever – I know there were quite a number of hits to it, so I feel like a bit of a dick. Sorry. FAIL!
Jesus. I don’t know where to start with any of this. Everything in the run-up to, during, and in the aftermath of, Maisie’s funeral was shit. I was shit, a circumstance that I will explain why when I’ve reached the correct chronological juncture.
So then, in order…
I had previously written a full-length post about some of the stuff that happened in the days and weeks that preceded Maisie’s death, but actually publishing it would feel rather disrespectful. I mean, I know I’ve made a point since she died of not making her out to be something she wasn’t, and I’m not going to discontinue that philosophy, but the level of detail to which I’m characteristically drawn really isn’t required in this case. Suffice to say that Maisie and Kevin (my cousin, her live-in son) had a massive row with Sarah (another cousin, Maisie’s live-in daughter) and ScumFan (Sarah’s son and, you guessed it, Maisie’s live-in grandson). It was so vicious that Kevin and ScumFan came to blows, though curiously Kevin – who, despite his mild-mannered exterior, has a propensity for unacceptable behaviour – later apologised to his sister and nephew. They accepted this, and duly said sorry for their part in the row. Maisie, however, would not let it slide, and in true Hotel California style, the resultant atmosphere was as thick as a combination of treacle and vomit.
I went to my mother’s house on the Thursday before Maisie died to find Sarah and ScumFan sitting there, having apparently been in situ since the Tuesday evening, their escape intending until at least the Friday night. Unkind things were said. Some were true and just, some were less forgiveable. It was more or less universally agreed that Maisie was manipulative (yes), that she always seemed to have a particular problem with Sarah – as opposed to her three sons and two-daughters-in-law – (yes in duplicate), that life in the house – at her behest – was frankly bizarre (yes in triplicate). But we also cracked a few rather unpleasant jokes at her expense, about which I now feel slightly bad. Not OMG I’m such an evil human being, burn me at the stake RIGHT NOW bad, because there were occasions in which she deserved a good parodying, and it’s human nature to pick up on a person’s faults and criticise them, even if you can also see the good.
But what I feel worse about is some of the bile I spewed here about the woman. In my defence, a lot of that arose in the summer of 2010 when she was incredibly nasty to my mother. I reacted with anger to this – rightly, I feel – but perhaps I went too far. Not that she’d ever have read it, but the fact that I thought (and wrote) such aggressive, bitter enmities – without at least later qualifying them – leaves me with a gruesome metallic taste in my mouth (or is that the Lamotrigine? ).
Anyhow, due to an engagement on the Saturday, ScumFan had to leave (along with his mother) on the Friday. Sarah especially was dreading her return to Hotel California owing to her mother’s behaviour during the week, and I honestly don’t know what happened when they arrived home. All I know is that on Saturday, my mother rang me to advise that Maisie had been taken into hospital.
One thing that’s important to understand here is that Maisie’s life completely revolved around being in Hotel California, or at least with 4,083,832 family and friends around her in some other ostensibly normal setting. She abhorred the notion of hospital admissions in the past so much that she’d have preferred to fuck up her health to avoid them. She was admitted several times over the last decade, but never once had she not steadfastly fought against the idea. On that Saturday morning, though, someone had called a GP to attend to her. When said GP opined that she should be hospitalised, Maisie did not resist in the slightest. This, my dears, is the micro-social equivalent of the Earth circling the Sun backwards.
Despite whatever had gone on between them, Sarah went with her ailing mother in an ambulance, whilst Paedo (and Kevin? ScumFan? Not sure) followed in the car behind it.
Her initial prognosis was a bit meh, but not – as far as could be ascertained at the time – by any means critical. In fact, at one point the quacks thought it was something as apparently simple as a bug (complicated a little by Maisie’s weight, respiratory problems and diabetes). Over the next few days, they did all the usual faff of blood tests, chest x-rays and so on. At one point, they wanted to do an MRI scan, but Maisie refused; her grounds for this were that if she had to lie flat on her back, that she’d not be able to (a) breathe and (b) get up again. If that sounds bizarre, be advised that for the past several years she had slept upright in a chair in her living room, because lying in bed would have had these results.
Anyhow, as the days went on, she had seemed to have been feeling better. ScumFan, apparently (alongside his mother) reconciled with Maisie, proffered the view that his grandmother would most likely be discharged by the weekend.
Alas, his optimism was to be short-lived.
Wednesday: The Death
A and I were intending to take another trip round the Emerald Isle from the Friday of that week until the weekend just passed. As such, I was intending to leave our cats with my mother on the Wednesday, stay over with her that night, and visit Maisie in hospital on the Thursday afternoon. At one point on Wednesday when I spoke to Mum on the phone, she initially suggested we go to see her sister that day; I demurred, however, on the grounds that “I [could] just go tomorrow.” My mother was seemingly quite content with that, not envisaging any great deterioration in Maisie’s condition. In any case, I found myself massively delayed by the sheer idiocy of Mr Cat, who didn’t bother to come home that afternoon (and, in fact, he only turned up 24 hours subsequent to it). Beyond being irritated, however, I was relatively relaxed. Herein comes the “…if only I had…” bullshit. If only I had put our cat-accommodation concerns to one side for one measly, poxy afternoon, then I could have seen Maisie one final time. Whilst that may not have benefited me greatly (although by the same token, neither would have been greatly offensive, Paedo’s probable presence aside), it would have made her day.
What ifs are fucking pointless, stupid and usually wholly irrational. I consider myself a thinking person, as opposed to a feeling one. So why am even I afflicted by this phenomenon? I’m not a normal human being; I’m a self-styled dickhead providing no service with plenty of sneer. So what the fuck? I mean, let’s get some perspective on this: the what ifs are not totally overwhelming my psyche or anything. I’m not so consumed by guilt and self-loathing that I bawl my eyes out every time I inhale, or that I intend to throw myself off the Si Du River Bridge (though that said, should I ever wish to leap to my death, the backdrop to that piece of civil engineering genius would encompass a pretty spectacular and dramatic scenery on which to fix my final gazes). But it is there, and it is there enough to upset me. ‘Disappointed’ is not a term I frequently use in a self-referential context, but it it is apt here. I’m not disappointed because I’m apparently not a robotic droid; I’m disappointed in myself for letting down this complex person that was, until less than a fortnight ago, my aunt.
Bah. This introspection requires a post of its own. This one was meant to be about the chronology and specific events of the last fortnight, so let me return to that.
I contacted my mother about 5pm to apologise for my lateness and to verbally pour scorn on Mr Cat’s inconvenient – and, I am convinced, deliberate and pre-planned – decision to jaunt off on an extended mission to find himself a bird (post-feminist double entendres, anyone?). She told me not to worry about it and to come whenever I could.
Less than twenty minutes later, she rang me again. For once, I am glad I answered the hateful, repugnant device that is the fucking telephone. Having not been able to support her in those brief, shocked, horrified seconds she experienced would have been tantamount to abuse.
“Pandora,” she gasped. “Maisie’s dead!”
“Oh my God,” said some robot somewhere, speaking in what appeared to be my voice. Maisie being ill was not uncommon; as observed above, being forced into hospital wasn’t unheard of either. And ScumFan – and Mum in some ways too – had either inferred or even explicitly stated that the woman was getting better. And now she was dead? What the actual fuck?
My reaction was odd. I wasn’t struck by anything like one would normally expect – no horror, grief, overwhelming sadness. Arguably, given my quietly fractious relations with the McFauls, one might argue that I could have felt relief, or at least a release. But I didn’t experience any of those things; instead, I experienced a strange, unpleasant rush of adrenaline that stung every nerve in my body. I suppose, retrospectively, it was a quite normal experience: that of human shock. At the time, however, it seemed weirdly inappropriate.
I don’t remember if I quizzed my mother on what had specifically happened. I don’t remember saying much, in fact, but then the phone call wasn’t long. I do recall that I told Mum I’d come over to her gaff straight away, but she urged me not to drive until I had A with me. Yeah, because someone who’s partially sighted and at least partially emotionally detached from the whole sorry saga is going to magically turn me into a slow but still competent Lewis fucking Hamilton (I’m sure A won’t mind me saying that; he says as much to me himself). What I did instead was drive to his workplace, pick him up, and then we set to going to my ma’s.
We hit traffic. I chewed my lip nervously. A fiddled with his phone as he apprehensively scratched at his face. Even the car engine seemed to empathise, emitting as he did a (quite probably imaginary) sound of churning, vague discomfort. I looked out the window at all the world-weary faces of the home-commuting rat-race. They returned my stares of empty sympathy with their own piteous gazes. The sky was dark grey, brooding ominously like an amorphous Edgar Allen Poe.
The setting was well and truly set for the following few days.
I’ll continue this tomorrow. I have to go and see Paul. Did you see that one coming, readers?! I shall attempt to explain and detail that over the next few days too.