“Funerals are pretty, compared to death” – Tennessee Williams
Continuing to fill in from memory, as the huge hiatus in my blog of 10 years ago continues.
Steve’s Mum’s funeral must have taken place at the end of February/start of March 2007. I found the whole thing incredibly stressful, not least because I’d never met her, and yet here I was going to her funeral. There was also huge drama around Carol Steve’s ex, who was phoning him up all the time saying how she wasn’t going to go if I went; then that she wasn’t going to go even if I did go – I mean what the hell? She’d known the woman for a couple of years – go or go not, but don’t fuck about like this, as Yoda never said.
Carol was doing what the exes of socios do 9 times out of 10. They are driven crazy by the socio, and they then act crazy, so the new girlfriend (in this case me) believes the socio when he says, ‘my ex is crazy’. Well, she went in the end, as she was always going to, but only to the church and I didn’t see her as it turned out.
The day of the funeral, I met Steve at his Mum’s (now his sister Sam’s) house. It was full of people, rammed. He somehow managed to find room to attack one of the men there, a friend of his Mum’s from when he was a kid. It came out of nowhere, a massive shout of, ‘what the fuck’s he doing here, the fucking cunt!’ and a thrown punch before anyone could react. Everyone was blaming the grief, letting him off. It turns out he had better reason than anyone could have suspected for having a go at this bloke, but I didn’t find that out for a long time.
We drove to the church, and for someone who felt nothing, Steve was a mess. He was having to be supported by his brothers when the coffin arrived at the lych gate, he was so overcome with emotion. I didn’t dare leave him at this point, and waited until they had got him together and everyone had hoisted the coffin onto their shoulders, then I legged it ahead of them into the church.
Bloody hell, there wasn’t a seat left! The church, no kidding, was packed. I managed to squash in (and I mean squash) on a pew near the back. Bloody went on forever that service. Honestly, Princess Diana had nothing on this woman to hear the vicar talk. I came to realise that whatever Steve was, he was living proof that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, because I never heard anything after that day to make me believe that any of what was said was true. My own Mum had a different face for the outside world to the one she showed us, but Steve’s mum really took this to another level. Of course, I didn’t know that at this time, and could only marvel at what a great turnout it was, at how many lives she had touched.
After the church, it was off to the crematorium. A smaller service here, and this time Steve’s brothers made me sit next to him at the front, even though I pointed out that I’d never met her. But that’s his family, you see. You get the big welcome, they treat you like you are special. You are the best thing that has ever happened to Steve, and so much better for him than any of his previous girlfriends. Until the next girlfriend comes along, when you are as unceremoniously dumped by them as you are(n’t) by him. Again, I thought they dumped Carol because she was acting so crazy. Subsequent experience has shown it is just what they do.
My abiding memory of that day is how she ‘went behind the curtain’ to Snow Patrol’s ‘Chasing Cars’. I haven’t been able listen to that song since.
Then we went on to a social club for the wake. Steve really came into his own here, and drank himself stupid. I was staying sober as I was driving, and could have done with leaving after a couple of drinks, as I had to be back to pick up my son from school. Steve kept on wanting to stay, kept on drinking more, until in the end I said I had to go because my friend Sue had kindly picked up my son an hour before, and it was now getting into ‘taking the piss’ territory.
He decided to stay on his own, and his sister, Sam, said she’d look after him, cos he was well out of it by this point. I’d lent Sam my cardigan because she was cold, and I remember her being surprised, so we obviously didn’t know eachother that well at that time, so I couldn’t have been seeing Steve at her house that often at this point. So he hadn’t lost his job yet….
Strangely enough, there were no more tears, and I never saw him cry about his mum again, or indeed express any distress at her death in the entire 6 years we were together.
Shakespeare said that ‘All the world’s a stage’, and the church had been the scene of another Oscar-worthy performance from Steve.