15 Jan

Old Swan Liverpool 1964
The old rosewood clock on the mantelpiece ticked away the seconds in an otherwise silent room, a time warp. A stolid, warn, brown leather suite, a mahogany piano and a small oak table in the bay window fit cosily into the meagre space. Shining brass wall hangings and ornate china figurines leant a touch of  sober frivolity to the gravitas which hung in the air, together with a faint aroma of pipe smoke.
It was a house once filled with family; eight children, a Dalmatian called Barry and chickens in the garden. Within its walls there had been grief at the loss of a young one, the joy of soldier sons returning safely from war and celebrations to mark marriages and births. Mary, the middle daughter had played the piano and there had been many a sing-along around the now neglected little upright.
No trace of that was evident today as Mary and her sister Maggie sat in vigil beside their father’s bed. The old man was close to death and the sisters waited quietly together for the inevitable moment.
Downstairs his grandaughter was home from school for lunch, enjoying hot chicken soup and contemplating possible excuses to escape the swimming lesson she had to endure at school that afternoon . Mary, her mum, pale and distracted, neither state being noted by her eleven year old daughter, came down to see her off to school and had just reached the door  when a strange sound pierced the silence of the house. Maggie’s grieving cry absorbed the essence of  that moment and Mary rushed back to her father’s side. But he had gone. Slipped away when she had slipped out of the room. A common habit of the dying.
Kathleen, his granddaughter , too young to be included at the scene, remained at the table listening to the ticking clock and trying erase the memory of the primal cry of raw grief she had just witnessed. She never would.


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