Strolling in Morden Hall Park this morning, I encountered a group of volunteers strenuously striving to eradicate ivy from the bases of trees. They were armed solely with spades and cutters. They did not have the forks which I had found indispensible in digging out the pernicious tendrils (see 27th August post) that had required so much time at The Firs. The man was tugging away with hands encased in protective gloves.
Wandering over to the wetlands I noticed a makeshift plank bridge which provided a short cut to the Natural Play Area which I have been terming an adventure playground. The father of a family enjoying the swings agreed with me when I had told him I hadn’t been prepared to risk it and had taken the long way round. ‘Especially in this weather’, he remarked. The playground has been developed by the National Trust in consultation with Liberty Primary School.
I had had occasion to visit the reception area of the Civic Centre on my way through Morden, to hand Jackie some documents for signature. There I had read a poster proclaiming that ‘Muhammad is the only prophet mentioned in the Bible’. In Deuteronomy, we are told. I had been given a copy of the Qur’an on my visit to the mosque on 18th May, but have not got round to reading it.
I have a number of books I have not got round to reading. One of these was ‘A Grief Unobserved’ by my friend Maggie Kindred. I determined to rectify that on my return to Links Avenue. Being unable to put it down, I read it at a sitting. Described as ‘insightful and sensitive’, this slender publication is designed ‘for parents, carers, and professionals who work with them’. As a parent and as a professional I have a thorough grasp of Maggie’s subject and can assure you that this small paperback is as good as anything I have read, and more readable than most. She speaks from the heart with a clear professional head. We know exactly what life’s journey has been for Em, from her early bereavement, through her further losses in childhood and adolescence, and, perhaps most importantly and optimistically, her painful road to recovery. Quite appropriately this is seen from the perspective of someone who believes in the significance of nurturing in human development, but no-one should underestimate Em’s inherent strengths.
My own son Michael was, at fourteen months old, two months younger than Em when they each lost their mothers. Vivien’s death was recorded in my post of 17th July. Readers will recall that I took him up to my parents house where we remained for two and a half years. We never returned to our home at Ashcombe Road. I had been unaware that, as Maggie tells us, children always seek the absent parent where they last saw them. I was, however, instinctively aware that when my toddler son wandered at night about the much larger Bernard Gardens address, he was searching for his mother. Probably because he was a boy, he had very little speech at that age, and, as Maggie explains, would not have had the cognitive ability to understand what was going on.
So how was I to tell him? I had not yet discovered the direction explained in my 18th July post, so knew nothing about therapy. What I did know about was stories. His mother and I had always read to our son and shown him books and pictures. I knew of nothing then appropriately written, so I made one up. Each night as I tucked him in I told him a story about a little boy whose mother had died and what it meant. Anyone who has read or told stories to small children will know the value of repetition, also highlighted by Maggie. Woe betide you, though, if you make any changes, leave anything out, or mistake any details, for you will be corrected by the smallest listener. It must have been a year before the little chap, just before nodding off, asked: ‘why did my Mummy die?’ Then, just as now as I write, my emotions welled up. They were so mixed. I felt a deep satisfaction that my way of telling him had worked, but complete impotence as to how to answer the question. To this day I can’t remember what I said, but his question reverberates in my mind.
So, Maggie, for the simple, clear, and heart-rending; yet positive, way you have presented this necessary work, I thank you. This should be essential reading for anyone remotely connected with its theme. It can be obtained from www.pneumasprings.co.uk or www.kindredgamesandbooks.co.uk
Having travelled by car to Thornhill in Hampshire, Jackie and I ate at Eastern Nights, with Bangla and Cobra respectively imbibed.