Soundtrack: Louden Wainwright III - Album III
It's been a while. I've been through a bit of a turbulent time over the past couple of weeks, and been without internet access, so you'll have to forgive me.
You may recall merely a couple of months back I posted about my uncle Alan being diagnosed with cancer. Well on 25th May he died suddenly. I called my dad the night before and got through to his answerphone. 'Hiya dad, just a quick call to say goodbye before I go on my holidays. Speak to you soon.' He calls me straight back. He'd just that second got off the phone to my uncle Dave. Alan collapsed again. He's suffering internal bleeding. He's come down with pneumonia. They've asked Carole for her permission to put him on morphine. Sharon, I want you to be ready. When your nan died it was the end when they put her on morphine. They want the last few days to be as comfortable as possible. He could die tonight, he could die next week.
Well that was a tough night. I knew that was it. He was ill, yes. But he was diagnosed less than 2months ago. And then before we know it, he's on morphine. He hasn't even been treated for this cancer. I was on the phone to my mum and dad all night. I was choking myself to sleep on my tears.
I had the next day off, and was on the train into town to get my haircut. I decide to send a text to my aunt. 9am. 'Hi Carole, I just wanted to tell you that I love you both very much. I'm here if you need me.' Message sent. 9.01am. Incoming call: dad. My stomach lurched. I knew what it was. Alan died just an hour earlier - just 54 years old. I felt like I'd just sent the most insensitive text in the world. I broke down on the train.
My poor sister didn't even know any of this was happening; she was doing her finals and it was her last exam the day after. We had to make the worst choice in the world and decide not to tell her until after her exams. We felt absolutely horrible, but this was the culmination of her Masters and we couldn't let 2 years of hard work go to waste. Thankfully she understood in the end.
And then the funeral arrangements were announced: 2 days after I was due to go on holiday. It was too late to cancel the holiday and get a refund. It was too late to transfer the date. A single flight after the funeral would cost me £400 - more than the holiday itself. And I'd be letting Thom down if I didn't go, as the holiday was to celebrate our anniversary.
I had the most horrible time trying to decide what to do for the best. Everyone told me I should still go away. My mum said that Corfu was the first place that Carole and Alan visited abroad, and they loved it so much they kept going back. Aargh.
I ended up going back to Rochdale that weekend to see Carole. I wanted to suss out what to do for the best. My mum, dad and I went to Carole's on Saturday night. We thought it was going to be a hard night on Carole - Carole and Alan loved their Saturday nights. They'd go out for a meal, come back and drink into the wee hours listening to Bob Harris on Radio 2. This was to be her first Saturday night without him.
And you know what, it ended up being a great night. Tearful, absolutely. Reminiscent, of course. We spent the night looking at photos I'd never seen; Carole and Alan married when Carole was only 16 and it was great to see photos of them in their hippy days. Alan with his long curly hair (vastly different to the number 1 shave he'd sported for the last 15years). We listened to the Drive-By Truckers - the only music Alan wanted to listen to while he was ill. Around a month ago they were in session on Bob Harris Country and my dad text in a dedication - the whole band wished Alan well, and Alan heard this while he was in hospital. They meant a lot to him. We got so carried away we forgot to turn on Bob Harris - about 22.50 Dave called to ask if we were listening as Bob Harris actually said his condolences on air. Apparently when Dave called Radio 2 the producer said quite a few people had contacted the show requesting this, and they knew Alan as he and Carole contacted the show all the time. We missed it. Carole was beside herself. I called my dear friend waz, and thankfully he was able to record the archived streaming of the internet, so I'll send that to Carole when I receive it on Friday.
The upshot of that night was Carole told me to go on holiday. 'Life has to go on. Chase your dreams, Sharon'. I'm going to accompany her when she scatters some of Alan's ashes at Glastonbury Tor (a place they used to frequent). I obviously felt horrible for not being able to go - especially as it sounded like I was going to miss a bloody good send off! Alan was buried in his Doors t-shirt (he was a hude Doors fan), and Carole made some beautiful music choices for Alan's cremation (The Doors and Jeff Buckley). There was to be a party at his favourite pub afterwards, and he's having half his ashes scattered in Paris (Alan went to Jim Morrison's grave there every year) and half at Glastonbury. So thankfully I will still get to say goodbye in my own way.