Why mark a day? It’s just a day. Why mark a day with sadness? Why do anything? Why note down the things that happened on this day in history? They create circles, loops, endless spirals of sadness or elation or a noting of the passage of time.
I can remember the day I met my wife. I can remember the day I got the call about my book deal. I can remember where and when I was when my city phoned me to tell me she was engaged.
And on this day three years ago, my mother passed away. I remember the day well. I was at home. I shouldn’t have been at home. I should have been at her side. I was booked to do a reading at Rich Mix for a festival with Sabrina Mahfouz and Anjali Joseph. I was with my mum that day and I was tired. I’d been at BBC London late the night before plugging my book on a show with Nikki Bedi. I was on the promo trail and things felt good. And they felt bad. Mum had just been diagnosed with cancer. I left her to go and do this reading. The plan was to go back to my childhood home afterwards and see her in the morning before going to work with my dad (we used to work together). I decided to stay late at Rich Mix, blow off some steam with friends and go home to my own flat in North London where my wife was. I hadn’t seen her properly for a few days and the feeling of being next to her was going to be the tether I needed to feel anchored, grounded.
So I went home.
And I regret that decision every single day. Because it took away my final moments. It took away that last time I’d see her. I hadn’t filed any event as the last time I’d see her, because I didn’t know. All I knew was I told ordered to come home by my dad the next day and that was it.
I didn’t close the loop, it feels like. I didn’t get my big filmic goodbye and because of that, when this day comes around I get to reply my decisions, my movements, my memories, trying to jog them into remembering the last time I’d seen her alive. I’ve made up memories to replace the one I didn’t retain. I may have fed her Weetabix. I may have read to her about my book. I may have complained to her that she wasn’t trying to get better. I know she wasn’t happy with the extract Nikki had read on the radio the night before, about the mother in my book, a caricature of my memory of her when I was a teenager. ‘Is that what you think of me?’ she whispered. ‘I can’t believe you make fun of me like that.’
I think that’s the last thing she ever said to me.
So why mark a day? Why mark this day? I mark this day because she is now immortalised in words, in my caricatures of her in my work, in earnest blogs and essays, in Twitter and Facebook statuses. That is the physical sum of my mother now. The heft of language is her memory’s burden to bear. So I write about her because each time, it’s like a Time Machine, it forces me to remember and get things down exactly as they were. It forces me to give the tiny details about her a narrative. Which is why I wrote a short book about her cooking, because that sight of her cooking is ingrained in me forever.
It’s just a day. It’s a day we can do something nice. I’m not pushing my book on you. I’d love it if you bought it and stepped into my time machine and cooked my mum’s recipes and tried to picture her cooking as I often do. The book’s a pound and a quarter of that goes to Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, to raising awareness of lung cancer issues. Maybe you can make a donation to the charity if you think that 25p’s not enough. Or do a run. Or a sponsored whatever. Anything. Or just call your mum. She probably misses you.
Here's my book - please buy it and support the cause.