14 Jun


 photo image0-4_zpsmjphicfu.jpg  It’s quite chilling, the first time you discover the reality of mortality. At least, for me it was.

Let me elucidate.

During my earliest years I was told all sorts of things and I’m prepared to bet they all got muddled together into the kind of reality a tot can understand but a grown-up struggles with. So stories of little pigs having their houses blown down by the big, bad wolf got mixed up the baby Jesus in his manger and it’s wrong to play with your winkle because if you do you might go blind.

I probably played with my winkle when no-one was looking which could be why I’m short-sighted today!!

And in the melange of random tales and even more random bits of tales there was a suggestion that things might end sooner or later. The odd fairy tale character might have died, Jesus went to Heaven at Easter and the house down the road is empty because old Ma Smithers passed away or went blind or something.

I just invented Ma Smithers, but I’m sure a parallel occurred. Maybe Mr Wotsit or somebody like that.

But none of this actually applied to me. So what if a stranger died? What’s dying anyway? Why say dying means going to Jesus when the Sunday School teacher told us what happened to him! I’m here, all alive and well, with my brother and my parents, and that’s us and always will be us. And maybe always was. After all, I can’t remember being born if that’s how I started. There’s always been me and my teddy bear. Mummy and daddy have always been here. Haven’t they?

I liked school too. I’d not been going there for long and it was a pain that it got in the way of “Listen With Mother” on the radio, but I was growing older and some things must pass. But school meant other children, boys and girls though I never actually got my head round why there had to be girls as well as boys and why they were allowed to have such long hair when we had ours cut short-back-and-sides.

Some of them had pig tails. I ask you! Pig tails! And pony tales! But that was girls and I was rather glad I wasn’t one myself. They wore dresses, for goodness’ sake!

And then came that day I remember so vividly it’s as though it was yesterday, but it was towards the end of the 1940s and that’s far from being merely yesterday.

Morning. Early, on a school day. The taste of toothpaste in my mouth. Face sort of washed, and hands almost dry. Best short trousers, and shirt just about tucked in. (It was always short trousers back then and we knew no better. But short trousers meant if we tripped up running we ripped our knees rather than trouser legs, and ripped knees were painful. They were. I remember.)

And then, half way down the stairs…

“Peter. You’re not going to school today. Just come here a moment. Let me explain: your daddy died in the night…”

Was it “daddy” or “father”? I’m not exactly sure. Was he a daddy or a father? There’s a difference, you know. You play with daddies, laugh with them, smell the uniqueness of them. But fathers are there. Shadows. Figures to respect. And often in hospital.

For some reason I didn’t know my daddy. Or my father. Or if I did I can’t remember knowing him.

So if he’s dead, when’s he coming home…?

That was the sudden and harsh lesson in mortality smashed against my brain by life (or death). Jesus died and that didn’t matter to me. Some big bad wolf did something nasty to Red Riding Hood’s granny, but who cares? Some old person down the road passed away, but passed away where?

And if he’s not coming home, not today and not ever because he’s dead … I get dead now, just about … where does that leave me?

Young, but growing older every day. Sod it, having birthdays to celebrate it! And growing older means growing closer to being dead myself!

And why was mummy so grateful in her prayers in church? Two sons, no income worth talking about and the 1950’s looming. Why did she thank her God so often? And what for?

Father (or daddy) was mortal. And so, it will transpire, am I.

© Peter Rogerson 14.06.15


4 Responses to “Mortality”

  1. Barbara H. Horter June 14, 2015 at 4:35 pm #

    Very touching and very true to so many albeit in different ways the same happening and the same wonder at loss…marvelous writing as always….I’m trying to keep up with all you write…it is a very transparent and beautiful child/man’s view of life….

  2. georgiakevin June 14, 2015 at 10:58 pm #

    As always your post made this reader think, long and hard, ans as always your writing is superb!

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