‘The truth is that I cannot now wash, dress or visit the wee boys’ room without help’

Eufemia Didonato

Sunday 14 March, 2021

Mother’s Day, Mothering Sunday, call it what you will. Even when your mum isn’t here, you don’t forget them. A day for a bit of reflection of what you miss and what went before.

A year ago, I visited my mum’s grave. It was the first time I had gone since her passing and it just seemed like a nice, and right, thing to do. Mother was laid to rest in the old graveyard at Stow St Mary of Wedale and Heriot Church. She had certain stipulations regarding her funeral and resting place, and that was carried out as per her wishes. 

Visiting the cemetery this time, two years after losing her, it comes back to me that her funeral wasn’t without the odd wee drama. Robbie Brown, the funeral director and a man I packed down with for several years in the Melrose scrum, knew there would be one or two issues in accessing the grave, because of the location and it being on a hill. No problem, we had plenty of able bodied men to help him. But, I think now, mum might have moved around in her coffin a little, given the jiggling and jostling it took finally getting her into place.

Today, I am reminded of that as I make my own way up to her grave. There are several steps, then an uphill pathway that leads to the lair. The steps feel massive, not quite the north face of the Eiger, but trying to lift my legs is nearly impossible. The climb is nearly too much for me. 

Ben picks some snowdrops and ties a wee elastic band around them to hold them together. Lovely and simple, which, to be fair, is not what you would necessarily be thinking when you had to man-handle me. For what goes up has to come down and that was easier said than done, as firstly gravity takes over, and secondly, I can see where I might end up. That sapping of confidence is becoming telling.

On a daily basis, I don’t really notice any major deterioration in my demeanour. Where it is easier to see is when there is a gap between activities or escapades, like a trip to the dentist, or the chiropractor, or out our drive and on to the track in front of the house. It only needs to be a couple of weeks, and I can tell that I have limitations that weren’t there the last time.

When that is a year, as it was between trips to mum’s grave, I’m all too aware of my decline. What I could do 12 months ago, or what was manageable, is now virtually impossible. If I see it, others must see it. If I don’t admit it, maybe others will ignore it as well. But for how long?

Sunday 27 June, 2021

Under the heading ‘Well, we’re up this far so it would be rude not to pay him a visit’, my Sunday breakfast is interrupted by the appearance of a couple of well-recognised interlopers, none other than Will Greenwood and Scott Quinnell, two former adversaries, two former team-mates, two friends for life. 

We’ve all found ourselves in the same place, at the same time, on a few occasions since, but it was the Lions tour in 1997 that brought us together, for always. After the year we’ve had, it was just brilliant to see them. Will was officially at Bluecairn to do some interviews and filming, Scott was here to watch a professional at work. Best being honest.

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