My mother’s Christmas present is in a box upstairs, in an empty room that was hers until yesterday. It’s a copy of Children of Hurin, by Tolkein, the only Tolkein related book she did not already own. She used to read to my sister and I from The Hobbit and, later, The Lord of the Rings, amongst other books. She did voices. Lately her eyesight and concentration had been failing, so I was going to read to her from it over the holidays. Yesterday morning my sister and I decorated the tree, showing my neice the things we had collected since being her age. My mother was a fiend for Christmas, and though the official line had changed from ‘she’ll be home in a day or two’ to ‘the end of next week’ we knew she would appreciate coming home to see the decorations up. Yesterday afternoon she died. Pneumonia. She was 54.
It reads back as too maudlin to work – I’d never write something so cloying in a story, and that’s without the years of pain, the lost opportunities, the dreadful burden on my sister, my father’s broken heart. But that’s what happened, and here we are. The phone has stopped ringing.