by Naomi Dooner
This is an extract from a story I was trying to write.
| I've lived with my Uncle and Aunty for about six years now. I remember years ago, when I was a little kid, back I've lived with my Uncle and Aunty for about six years now. I remember years ago, when I was a little kid, back when I lived in a normal house with my parents. But one day, it all changed.
It was a rainy afternoon seven years ago, six year old me bounded out of school in my large red waterproof coat, ready to be greeted as usual by my Mum. But to my surprise I found my Aunty Linda waiting for me, clutching an umbrella.
“Where’s Mummy?” I asked.
“Mummy asked me to pick you up because she had to go somewhere very important.” She bent down slightly to talk to me, holding out her hand and gently tugging me closer under the shelter of the umbrella. “Come on Joey, we can go and see her now.” She stood up and walked me towards the car park. I remember her seeming a bit worried, but she was trying to hide it behind a smile. When I asked her questions, she had to think before she answered them, as if she wasn’t quite sure what to say. Once she’d strapped me into my car seat and we’d set off I asked,
“Where are we going Aunty Linda?”
“To see Mummy,” She swallowed. “And Daddy.” She added quietly.
“Where are they?” I asked looking over at her, she was staring straight ahead at the road and gripping the steering wheel.
“Well, your Dad had a bit of an accident, so your Mum has gone to see him.”
“You mean Daddy wet himself?”
“No, no. I mean,” She paused, and took a breath. “Your Dad, has gotten very ill, so he had to be taken into hospital. Your Mum went there to be with him, that’s why I’ve picked you up, and we’re going to meet her now.” That is when I first remember feeling worried. I knew that when people got ill, they didn’t usually go to hospital, unless they were very ill. I sat quietly for a moment, staring out of the windshield.
“What’s wrong with Dad?” I asked quietly. She didn’t respond for a moment, but then just said,
“Let’s wait until we see Mummy at the hospital.” Neither of us spoke for the rest of the journey, with only the hum of the engine and the squeak windscreen wipers to fill the empty silence, until we arrived.
When we got to the waiting room my mum came to greet me with a hug.
“Where’s Daddy?” I asked her.
“The Doctors are looking after Daddy.” She said, and tried to force a reassuring smile across her face.
“Mummy, why are you crying.”
She quickly wiped the tears from her face. “It’s okay dear, I’m fine.” There was some hushed and serious talking between Mum and Aunty Linda, before Mum disappeared again through some double doors. I remember a lot of waiting around with my aunty, and my Mum coming out now and again to be with us. Every time she came out I’d ask,
“When can I see Daddy?” But I’d always get the same response,
At last Mum came out a final time, and her and Aunty Linda had a quiet conversation. I then remember me and Mum getting back into my Auntie’s car and being driven home. Like in the journey there the car was silent, so I tried asking again where Dad was, but they brush it away by saying he was still in the hospital, or I’d be told later.
When we finally got back to our house the rain had stopped but gloomy clouds still hung in the sky. Aunty Linda got out the car and walked to the door with us, which she didn’t usually do. Standing outside she asked my Mum if she was sure she’d be alright, and then gave us both a hug before leaving. I thought that was odd, it was Daddy who was ill, not Mum, so why was she asking her if she’d be alright? Mum and I went into the living room, she asked me to sit on the sofa and then sat down next to me. She placed her hand on mine and looked at me seriously. “Now Joey,” She began softly. “I’m afraid I have something very sad to tell you.” At that moment I began to feel very scared, a cold shiver ran down my spine as I realised something had happened. I didn’t quite know what it was, but I could just tell it was something very bad. Mum took a breath and continued. “Your farther, had a very nasty car crash on the way to work this morning, and that’s why he had to go to hospital.” She paused and swallowed. “The doctors tried very hard to look after him, but unfortunately he was hurt very bad, so he died.” I was frozen. I just stared at Mum, not knowing what to say or do. I understood what death meant, but that was something that happened on TV, to other people, not my Dad. It didn’t make sense, Daddy couldn’t be dead. Eventually, in a very quiet voice I asked,
“You mean, Daddy isn’t coming home?”
“No darling, I’m sorry.”
“So I wo…I can’t see him again.” Mum sighed then put her arms round me.
“I’m sorry Joey, I’m sad too, but we’ve got each other, it will be okay.” I didn’t understand, it wasn’t okay, it wasn’t okay at all. Dad was dead, I was never going to see him again. We had each other, but that wasn’t enough. It had always been me, Mummy, and Daddy. It wasn’t right with just me and Mummy, it wasn’t the same. When she finally released me from the hug, rather than putting on CBBC like I usually did, or getting out my Lego, I just said,
“I want to go to bed now.”
“That’s okay, you go to bed if you’re tiered.” So I got up and walked up the stairs. I wasn’t really tired, but I didn’t know what else to do, I didn’t want to do anything. I think for the first time in my childhood, I wanted to be on my own. I couldn’t describe why, but I didn’t want to be with friends, or even Mum, I just wanted to be by myself. I walked into my room, shutting the door behind me. I stepped over some abandoned toys and curled up on my bed. Then I figured out what it was, I didn’t want to be by myself, I wanted to be with Dad.
So we were like that, just me and Mum. It's not that I didn't love my Mum or wasn't happy she was around, but no matter how l long we lived like that it always felt like there was something missing. The house felt empty, our family wasn't complete. I never got used to waking up and not making jokes with my dad over breakfast, to not being able to run up to him and give him a hug whenever he arrived home at six every night. But me and Mum went on living like that, just me and her, for a whole two years.
Apparently she'd known about the cancer even before Dad's accident, but with me being so young it wasn't easy to explain and I didn't really understand. By the time I was eight I'd started to understand what cancer was, and by then I'd already experienced death so I knew what was coming when people told me how ill my Mum was. I still can't decide which was harder to go through, the shock of someone dyeing suddenly or knowing that it's coming. With Mum it wasn't as much of a massive shock, I suppose I had time to get used to the idea. But how can you ever get used to the idea of losing your only surviving parent when you're eight? I remember the horrible anticipation just before my Mum died, never knowing if this was going to be the last day. I remember the discussions about how I was going to live with Aunty Linda and Uncle Lloyd. Mum and Aunty Linda had been very close as sisters and I'd always spent a lot of time with my Aunty and Uncle growing up, so they weren't reluctant when my Mum asked them if they would raise me. I've always been close to them so it wasn't that weird having them as my sort of adoptive parents. The only thing that was hard was having to let go of my old ones.