The alarm on my phone rang out a little after 7 AM as it had on every 12th of February since 2009. Not my normal daily rise-and-shine-and-take-your-medications alarm. I sat up, rubbed the sleep from my eyes and stumbled downstairs to have a shower. Not my normal brisk purposeful shower. More of a deep cleanse, titivating every pore and follicle with salves, balms and unguents.
My shirt was ironed, my trousers pressed, my shoes polished and my hair brushed. I picked a favourite tie – a royal blue with a discrete Yorkshire rose pattern. She would be amused by this tiny acknowledgement of my Yorkshire roots. I dressed swiftly but purposefully with a glance at my watch. It would not do to keep a lady waiting.
A quick nod of approval from myself in the mirror and I was ready. Checklist, at eye level on the front door frame: medications for the day, house keys, phone, car keys, credit card and cash. I would stop for flowers along the way..
It was cold out, the night having undone yesterday’s snow melting, freezing it once more into treacherous ice. Still early, I thought. What must the roads be like.
I slipped a small piece of paper into my back pocket, a hastily scribbled note with the telephone numbers of my children.
I lifted my father’s old charcoal grey greatcoat from its peg, folded it neatly and placed it on the chest of drawers by the front door along with my car keys and the other essentials. I always forget something, no matter how diligent my preparations.
Final check – lights off, heating low, dishwasher left to run.
“Ready?” I asked the mirror. “Ready” it replied,
I deadlocked the front door and climbed into the car. Seatbelt on, mirrors checked.
I turned the key in the ignition. Although not used for more than a month, it caught instantly. A couple of blips on the accelerator, a flick of the rev counter then idle for a few seconds.
An involuntary sigh as I switched off the engine.
I sat there for a moment then gathered my things and went back indoors.
“Not coming to visit me this year?” I could hear her asking.
“No, mum. It’s not allowed.”
“But it’s my birthday”
“I know, mum.”
Every 12th of February since her death a dozen years ago, I have made this little journey to visit her grave, to leave flowers, have a quiet word and tell her our news. Even towards the end of her life, in a haze of pain and morphine, she always smiled at our news.
I wanted – desperately wanted – to visit her today, to tell her we were all well and to see her smile in my minds eye. For me it’s an essential journey. But not for the legislators.
I made the effort. I’m sure she knows that. It’s probably just as well that I can’t go. She never liked to see me cry.