after the funeral
There wasn’t much to do else to do after the funeral but sit in the lounge of the local RSl and watch the interior slide-show of a life forever gone flicker away its images. Grief is a serious state of mind never to be confused with anything that has gone before. The contemplation of a loved life gone forever is but an introductory lesson into the realisation of Eternity, a concept beyond the understanding of anyone alive.
Then somebody dropped a glass onto a table.
Some woman sitting alone back there with a sudden mess on the table, on the floor and all over her clothes. Strangely though the barman hurried over and tidied it all up – and he was apologetic, she just sat there like a drunk trying to keep her head still. The manager came by as well to be sure that the lady was cared for, and another drink hurried over for the one lost – and a fresh coaster beneath it.
She slurred her words. She had difficulty lifting the drink to her mouth and when she caught my eye, for I had turned again, she smiled, and with a wobble placed her glass back onto the table and that’s when she decided that we should meet.
Edith, as she was known, travelled alone from Holland to Australia every year. She was eighty-three and unmarried for all of them. She thought that Avalon was about as pure a sea-side village as could be found on this earth and like a bird to its nest this is where she flew every year. This is the club where she ate, this is the table where she sat. We are the people that she loved.
Of course by now I had joined her at her table and realised that her tremors and unsteadiness were the characteristics of Parkinson’s Disease. Yet here she was, and her drink was drunk and every eye on the club payroll was watching me to be sure that Edith was being treated like a lady and that her next half gin and tonic was not long in coming. They of course knew every detail of what she was about to tell me.
Edith was a child in Amsterdam during WW2; her, her brother and both parents lived in the centre of town during the German occupation. A narrow three story tenement in a street lined with similar buildings.
She was leaning forward now and her hand rested lightly on my wrist, I could feel her shaking.
But she laughed, and drew me closer. ‘ We could never understand, ‘ she said, ‘ why we were no longer allowed to play in the upstairs rooms.’
This was her and her brother.
‘ The door at the top of the stairs was always locked but every day mother went up there with what was left over from our meals. This went on for years.’
Edith’s taxi arrived about 9.30 and I nearly broke a tooth trying to kiss her goodbye, she did indeed have a hard head.
She told me that nobody knew what eventually became of the Jewish family her parents were hiding for all those years, one day they were gone and the upstairs rooms were again unlocked. They had left no sign that they were ever there.
Lives gone forever.