Boarding the train at Taunton, I remember the last time I disembarked from here. Now, after 14 months, I am off to the final Bibliomaniac bookshop talk at Liskeard Books. Then, my final destination was Stoke Mandeville hospital. My father was dying, so after a 12-hour holiday in Dunster, I left the family and paid the excess fare required to reach the vigil as I was no longer travelling with “friends and family” and there are no excuses for shortfalls in payment on our privatised rail network.
Since my father died in April, I have been thinking a great deal about my late mother. She was nearly 10 years his junior but died seven years before him. So often, the questions that come to mind are only conjured up when they can no longer be answered.
I never knew my mother before her accident. My sister Sarah and I were in the crash too. I was unscathed, my sister was lightly scathed and my mother suffered injuries that very nearly killed her. She would have died had my dad, who was only a few cars behind, not vociferously argued with the paramedics who were going to take her to the local hospital. Somehow, he knew she would die if she wasn’t taken to a major hospital. We later discovered he was correct.
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When rifling through drawers of my dad’s old letters, my sisters found correspondence from the ambulance crew thanking my dad for his letter which had made them “the envy of the station”. Despite the pressures of dealing with a severely ill partner and three young children, he took time to send a thank you letter. Now they are both dead, I think more and more on how their lives were changed by an accident caused by a dangerous driver.
My sisters think it is a little sad that I never knew my mum before the accident, but I wonder if I was the lucky one. What is it for a child to meet their mother again and see that she is not who she was. How disturbing that must be, both for parent and child. When she first came out of hospital she was in pieces and came very close to being sectioned. Then, she pulled herself together. I don’t mean that in the stiff-upper-lip, pull-yourself-together way. I really mean that, with an enormous act of resilience and fortitude she became whole.