Sunday, 17 May 2015

What is love?

"... the unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another..." (Wikipedia)

September 2010 Pontefract West Yorkshire

I loved my sister Mandy.  BUT, she did my head in and I was on my way to give her shit.

Mandy had two problems. The first, she had no money and the second, her breast cancer had spread. See my 'Cunards Queen Victoria' blog for more about her.

She lived in Kirk Smeaton, a small village with a tiny shop and the ‘Shoulder of Mutton’ pub, just outside of Pontefract and two minutes walk from Brockadale Nature Reserve with its craggy outcrops of limestone high above the River Went - the northern tip of the old Sherwood Forest.

We spent hours and hours walking along the crags with her dog Rosie.  We walked off many a hangover and cried a lot.

So there I was, driving to Pontefract from Devon to bollock her, as by now the rest of my family was also imploding.  I put a familiar CD on. I know, same band as last time.  I’m sad like that! I find a piece of music and listen and listen till it nauseates everyone around me.

How can I change the world
If I can't even change myself?
How can I change the way I am
I don't know...

...Put down the drink, try not to think
Let it go, ... And so, reality is dreaming 
Just below my skin I'm screaming...

The screaming under my skin intensified all the way to Ponty (what t’ locals call it). “On arrival, I will head straight t’ ‘Shoulder’, down three pints of lager, a least one bottle of wine and a curry.  Then I can really let rip and roar like the Viking I am.  That will show her!”.

However, back to Mandy’s first problem, money! 

She solved it by spending money, the bank’s money, my money, the whole family’s bloody money, like crazy.    Mandy was beautiful inside and out, she had a Lady Diana look about her, always dressed in the most stylish clothes, heels to die for and a Range Rover to boot. She worshiped her children, kitting them out in designer outfits, had dinner parties for friends, was an amazing cook and of course had a dog, cat, rabbit and the rest.

At this point she was very much alive and had every intention of going out in a blaze of glory.

Readers who knew her will be giggling in agreement. She even got banned from the ‘Shoulder’ on more than one occasion.   I took her clubbing to Leeds, as you do, and she introduced her new toy boy to me saying ‘meet my Italian stallion’. I know had a problem as her previous stallion, a bloke from Halifax, who had been buying her drinks all night, was not happy and I was straight in his line of fire!  

Oh and she also had a horse!

Bloody Capital One Bank had given her a credit card with an £18,000 limit. Four weeks and a Range Rover later it was gone. Not to mention all the other credit and store cards.  I had Power of Attorney and ran her lack of finances.   

I even went to Court twice:

The first time was to rescue her son who had finally cracked under the pressure and played hopscotch on car roofs in the town centre.  Hardly blame him could you?

The second time was altogether more interesting.  We wanted some money from the ongoing divorce settlement and had to appear in court to plead for it, ma Lord.

The first hurdle was a court usher who insisted she remove her hat. (Any readers who have lost their hair from chemotherapy will know that their hat is a vital lifestyle accessory).  Words exchanged, tempers were raised and eventually the judge was called to adjudicate.  We won and the hat stayed on.

The second hurdle was a feisty woman lawyer explaining that her secretary had cancer for over ten years and is fighting fit.  She said, despite letters from the hospital saying otherwise, we should not be given an interim payment until all was agreed, as Mandy could live for years to come as proved by her secretary.

We lost and spent the next day arguing about who had finished the third bottle of wine without sharing the last glass, as you do. Mandy did prove the lawyer wrong even if we didn’t get the money.

It was hard work. 

The support team were brilliant. The Goddess was fab, or as we say up North, ‘went way beyond the call of duty’; the kids were brilliant, the whole family was brilliant. I discovered what love really meant during our time together.

At the same time the family’s and my nerves were in shreds and emotions sky high.

The trouble was having bought (or borrowed) the lifestyle, Mandy then had to keep it up.  Answer; borrow more, and more and more. Does that sound familiar to any of you? 

I didn’t!

Didn’t what?

I didn’t down three pints and a bottle of wine.  I ‘put down the drink’ and left the pub sober. Something inside had stopped me from repeating old patterns of behaviour. I still had insufficient insight or understanding of where these feelings were coming from so I ended up being quite grumpy (the Goddess said belligerent!) for the rest of the weekend.  However I managed to keep the lid on my anger until I left.
Not long after saying goodbye and driving away, I pulled over to the side of the road, got out of the car, screamed, shouted, ranted, raved, cursed and bloodied. I kicked the tyres and eventually sobbed and cried.  Wow, anger release in a conscious manner with no-one nearby to hurt.  My goodness, Lambo, you may have learned something that day.  I didn’t but that’s for later.

In Japan you can rent a padded cell with a baseball bat for an hour.  Bashing pillows also works and it’s free.

Two years before the end she was done with ‘stallions’ and met a wonderful man who said to her; ‘no buts, I just love you’. They walked, talked, laughed and cried together.  They flew to Amsterdam and joined my family for a weekend of fun. She appeared for dinner, dressed to kill, in her best 5” heels.  We partied long into the night.  She told no-one her feet were already covered in raw blisters from the chemo.  That was Mandy.

Sadly, the cancer problem solved the money one.  We spent New Year’s Eve in Leeds Royal Infirmary and from there to the hospice.  The Goddess tried to manage the flow of visitors ensuring calm and plenty of rest. Mandy had other ideas!  She was texting all her mates and demanding champagne and chocolate!  She wanted one last party and it lasted all week.  She was just amazing. She died three days later with her man beside her. Her mum, the goddess and I were trying to sleep, on the floor of the lounge next door.

On the day of her funeral the village was full to bursting and many couldn’t get into the church.    The Shoulder of Mutton team were fantastic, as were the regulars. They provided the reception for all the guests so we could all share our last goodbyes. Mandy would have loved it!  Maybe she was watching and smiling from afar?

I loved my sister.

And the point I am making is: 

There is no BUT in true love

Have a good week.


PS. It is OK for men to cry, isn't it?

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