My matriarch was the least demanding and least avaricious person I have ever known, though I dare say, every man and his dog shall stress this fact about their own mother’s.
Like millions of other working-class woman with three children during that era, (one being mentally disabled), she spent every waking moment caring for her trio of dependants, feeding us, cleaning, always cleaning, washing our clothes and shopping.
The only occasion that my mother ever sat down was to eat and sew or darn our fraying socks and pullovers. She was too an incredibly intelligent woman, one who adored books, particularly the classics, anything by Sir Walter Scott or Charles Dickens was her idea of literary heaven – yet the lack of time afforded to her [as we became older], denied the opportunity to pick up the treasured volumes she so loved.
That said, she made sure that her children read books and for this I remain eternally thankful beyond words – no matter where I travel in the world modern day, I possess an almost pathological fear of being stranded without a good book, the absence of a PC, television or radio…or even daily newspapers, does not rattle me in the least, yet, to be without quality literature is a bridge too far.
My mum was no saint – and she certainly wasn’t a martyr, her job was to rear her children and care for them accordingly – and that was that!
When she passed away in the spring of ‘96, I became a bitter person – and to a degree, myopically selfish – From the moment of her sudden demise, I started to view the world through different eyes.
Mum never experienced the fruits of her labours until many years later – and at a very advanced age, the arrival of grandchildren and ongoing support from her able offspring, alleviated much of the misery she had unselfishly tolerated for so many years, but a short-lived respite it indeed was.
My mother sat down one day in her favourite armchair and simply went to sleep, never to wake, the years of drudgery and hardship finally taking their toll – she deserved to leave us with the quiet dignity in which she conducted her life – and for that at least, I was grateful.
On reflection at that time, I mused on the facts of the matter, no one had ever been there to assist my mother during that hellish epoch, so why should I even consider helping anyone but myself from there on in, be it financially, physically or emotionally, I didn’t want to know the plight of those less- fortunate than myself, after all, it was a testing enough time for my wife and I, essentially for my spouse, single-handedly, she raised our two children – this as I spent many months away – heavily engaged on military tours, each and every year for 15 years.
As I lifted my weary frame from the restaurant chair that enchanting evening, I came to terms with the fact that my reasoning had been seriously flawed – since the period of mum’s passing, I had unwittingly placed myself in social solitude – and therein – lay possibly, the source of my melancholic departure from all that had previously been dear to me.
On leaving the restaurant, my mood lightened – Rose and I then sauntered cheerily along one of Leith’s busy thoroughfares en-route home. The night had become uncomfortably chilly so we stretched our legs in a bid to return to the warmth of her domicile with maximum haste.
On nearing Rose’s front doorstep, we passed a group of three to four down- and-outs on the street corner, all male and not looking too comfortable with their plight, I figured they were either waiting for a Salvation Army Soup Wagon – or the local constabulary to move them on. As we strolled by the seemingly destitute assembly, I heard a voice saying, “Good evening sir, nice to see you again”.