Monday, December 24, 2007

“Our kid”

I sincerely apologise for the length of this story, but believe me it was necessary, thank you for your indulgence. ~

I sat staring blankly at the television screen, just me, the TV and a chair. I had sat there now for some little time, a lump in my throat, my emotions just ripping away at my insides as I tried to summon up enough courage to turn the damn thing on! I was angry, I was an empty vessel, yet my feelings ran rampant. I longed so much not to believe the tape, a tape I had yet to watch, even though the dreaded content I knew already. ~

The Christmas card had arrived well in time, as it always had when the family sent them over from the old country. My youngest brother now held the reigns for that annual chore, ever since Mom passed away a few years back, God I still miss her so much.

No more those welcome phone calls, the unmistaken English accent, and who could forget the incredulous questions each time?

“Hello. Is that Eric? Is that Canada? “

The almost disbelief in her voice like that of a child, that you really were not standing in the next room, but indeed 3000 miles away. ~ She never did get used to the magic of the telephone.

Then Ron took over the cards & ocassional phone calls, the greeting there being,

“Hi there Our Kid!” a pause, “Are you doin alright then?”

A favorite phrase that somehow had attached itself to me from Ron. Both the call and the card were very special that year, for they became the very last I would receive.

A couple of weeks later Ron collapsed and died, no apparent warning. ~

I was angry at myself for not being there and worse, not being able to travel such distances now, because of my own health problems. ~

One of the in-laws promised me that the whole funeral & service would be filmed on tape for me. ~

I pressed the TV remote on/play button. ~

The dark screen sprang to life, as swiftly, figures appeared scurrying past the camera in an effort to get seen and be heard. The sounds of “Hi,” “Hi Eric” fell on my ears, with the odd waving hand slipping by, belonging to only who knows who. The camera scanned the church as people moved down the aisles to find a seat, I strained to see if there was anyone I recognised. Quite frankly I was amazed at the numbers of people present, some sad, others chatting away among themselves as they waited for things to settle down and the service to start. I never realized that so many even knew Ron. Tentatively I looked down at the front of the church aisle towards the alter, I was looking for the coffin.

With none in sight it looked more like a turnout for a wedding, with a moderately jovial crowd.

Quietly, I sat looking through my own personal window, protected from the crowd I could see and waited. Sobbing silently as with a flurry of activity, two ushers wheeled in the coffin on a covered trolley, the lump took a violent jump.

A guttural sound forced its way out of my throat, as tears started to flow onto my cheeks. In my mind I was crying out “Ron No!” and the tears became a deluge. Elizabeth came over and hugged me, her own tears falling over my face.

Settling down a little I rewound the couple of minutes of tape I’d missed. At that point the Vicar entered and made his way to the alter, went through his ritual, then turned to address the congregation. I sat there staring, hardly hearing most of the first words he uttered, these were mostly of the routine kind anyway and he had a musically accending voice that was difficult at best.

It had been decided by me prior, that I would furnish the Eulogy, to be read by the vicar on my behalf. ~ He proceeded to move along in that direction, after spending what seemed like an eternity voicing accolades over Ron and his life. ~

Finally my turn arrived as the vicar picking up the eulogy, started reading. He read with a reverance and pride, maybe the most impactive speech he had done in a long while. His reading and voice reflecting to me, that maybe he had practised this before the service began, I just swallowed hard, only to have another lump lodge in my throat. ~


I come to you today, tho’ conspicuous in my absence, to join with you, both relatives and friends in a celebration of life, for my brother Ron.

Dear Ron, my heart, tho’ full of love for you is also so heavy with grief at your departure.
For some time now you have been on my mind, I guess getting cards from you over Christmas will do that to a person. Of course at times like that, I usually dig out any photographs that I have of the family and reminisce about how I wish I wasn’t so far away, for I have missed you so much.

Not so amazing is how now, at a time like this memories come flooding back to me.

Always foremost in my mind, was always your strength of purpose as you bounded through whatever life threw at you. Many times in my life I have envied you your strength of character, something I wished I had had more of.

But I also remember, your apparent fragile state when as a child of two, you fell off the second stair from the bottom and apparently broke your arm, an accident that soon lost its sense of pain after the crying stopped, for now you had a nice clean cast to show everyone and of course be made a fuss of.

I remember as a child the time before the war and our evacuation to Blackpool, when we had to go in the Sunday school "Manchester Walk" one Easter Sunday I believe, you holding my left hand and Harold holding my right. I have never forgotten that day, for we had to wear little velvet suits that our Mom had made for the occasion, I remember mine was a light Blue.

Even later your excitement at owning your first motorbike, a BSA if I remember correctly. I was left feeling quite humble, for I just had a bicycle although that was my choice. As time went on, the apprehension or excitement at having to go into the army like our brother Harold did under national conscription or as I did as a regular and then you got the cushy job as cinema projectionist for your army service. I still have the photo of you guzzling back a beer on a nice sunny day.

There are so many memories of those years of our growing up, good times, rough times and a few good battles on the golden mile after a few beers, when the ‘Valentines’ took on all comers, I guess in those days we had quite the reputation. Like the three musketeers, it was always "all for one and one for all" with us. I think of those days often and still get a wry smile on my face.

I remember too, all the good times at the clubs, such great friends and friendly camaraderie, as we played our games of darts, cards and domino’s, we did pretty good in those days.

In more recent years since our parents and Harry passed on, we seemed to get even closer you and I. I can still hear your voice when you picked up the phone and uttered those now famous words ‘Hi there our kid’, such a term of endearment from you, one that I shall never forget. I love you Ron, it breaks my heart to realize I will never hear those words again over the phone, or receive the cards you always picked out to send me with such caring and love. I will always love and remember you Ron and all the members of the family no longer here. I dedicate this poem to you that I wrote in my grief.

See you ‘Our kid’ Your loving brother Eric.

Au Re-voir

Warm moisture feel I on my face
Lips tremble tears abound,
My arms around you in embrace.
In sadness, I cradle you.

Misted thoughts do crowd the space,
In my endless swirling mind
Of better times, or better place
But of this you’re not aware.

I grieve for your reality,
Yet celebrate the freedom of your soul.
As silently away you slip,
From the realm of my reality, into
The memory pastures of my mind.

Eric Valentine ©


Margie said...

Hello Eric
First, let me apologize for not being here in such a long time.
And, thank you for your kind visit on Sunday.

This post is a heart-wrencher!
It brought me to tears!
You must miss your brother Ron so very much!
Your poem is lovely!

I wish you a Merry, Merry Christmas and many blessings in the New Year!


Leon said...

Ach, the loss of a brother is so difficult. You reminded me of the phone call from my nephew 12 years ago (December 26) telling me his father, my oldest brother, had died. It's something that never seems real.

Nothing anyone says can truly console you although those good memories you have can keep him alive just for you for a very long time.

I hope that your writing the eulogy, the poem and this post have a soothing cathartic effect.

Keep writing, my friend. I truly think it helps. And thank you for your willingness to share your pain with those of us who know you only through your "scattered chatter" and comments on our blogs.

Eric Valentine said...

Margie! What a surprise Christmas gift, a visit from you. It really is good to see here again. We hope to see more of you again.

I am happy you enjoyed the post, hardly the thing for Xmas, but memories fall when they may. ~

We hope you have a very Merry Christmas, you & your family, with a New Year filled with good things my friend. :)

Eric Valentine said...

Thank you for your visit on this our Xmas eve Leon, I really appreciate it my friend.

It is surprising , but then maybe not so, just how certain parallels fall in life. I think all people experience these things and yet all are so different.

I have buried every member of my family now & each time it hasn't got any easier. ~ But such a field of memories I now have to keep me warm on a lonesome night.

It is true what you say, for none can hear your pain like yourself.

You are a true friend Leon, though I only know you through your blog too, I thank you for all the compliments you send my way. :)

Keep well this festive season. :)

newnorth said...

very powerful and touching. It had to be tough being so close to your brother and being so far away. I'm glad you had the telephone calls though.

Hope you have a Merry Christmas. I finally saw your stormy video and I shivered the whole time.

Julie said...

Eric, thankyou for posting this - I believe its a help to share and express grief. What you said meant a lot to me as my Dad died suddenly on Christmas day a few years ago, and we were due to go up North and see him on Boxing Day. We recorded it on DVD for grandson who wasn't able to be there. Dad would have wanted us to enjoy Christmas in his memory, and we do. Thinking of you, and every best wish this Christmas, Julie

zirelda said...

Oh Eric... Hugs for you. And I hope your day is a happy one filled with good memories and may you make a few more today.

Happy Christmas to you and Elizabeth.

Eric Valentine said...

You have a good family relationship Newnorth, so you know that feeling well. :)

Wishing you a very nice Xmas morning, may you receive most of your list. :)

Eric Valentine said...

Thank you for this visit Julie and for sharing a part of your story.

Life can throw out some amazingly comparative stories when we look sometimes. I'm so pleased I was able to give you some measure of comfort with my story.

You are in our thoughts and have a nice family Christmas. ~ Eric

Eric Valentine said...

Good Xmas morning Zirelda Elizabeth said thank you. I hope Santa was good to you and your family.

Life is full of memories & you are all part of this days! :)

Best of Christmas wishes from our house to yours.

Enjoy that egg nog! :)

samrina said...

So heart touching post Eric...

Wish you a Merry Christmas!! hope you had a great time :)

Stay happy n healthy forever.

Take care

GaP said...

Salut, Eric...

Wow. Powerful stuff. And having spent so much time in Scotland and the UK in general in the Nineties, I could picture everything in context...

Thanks for the tale, and your vivid memories of your brother and family. I'm sure somewhere, somehow,he's touched by your memories of him. Awra Best, Eric. And Happy Hogmanay...GaP

Eric Valentine said...

Hello Samrina, thank you so much, I will try to be healthy & happy always my friend. :)

Have a happy festive season. :)

Eric Valentine said...

Salut, GaP.....Glad you enjoyed.

Thank you for your kind words, it's always nice to get a visit from you. Living in Scotland and UK sure can help understanding the ways my friend. :)

Thanks for your seasonal wishes and a Happy Hogmanay to you and yours also. Have one for me. :)

Augs Casa said...

My heart is heavy for you mate. I am sad for you and feeling the sadness in your post makes me sad. I really wish I could do something for you mate, but alas I can only be your friend. I can never replace your brother, but I will "always" be your friend.

Deepest condolences mate. You are in my heart and prayers.


Julie said...


- thankyou for what you said. We've had a good Christmas; and wish you brighter days for 2008

All the best


Eric Valentine said...

Augs, what can I say my friend. I appreciate all that you say and thank you for your condolencies.

This did happen a couple of years ago. It was that I just now thought I would like to write the story ~ it was Xmas & of course no cards this year ~ that was the crux of the whole story my friend. ~ Ron is forever in my thoughts and a memory that will live always.

Tnak you for being the good friend that you are mate. :)

Eric Valentine said...

Julie, thank you for thinking to drop by and you are welcome my friend.

I am happy that your Xmas celebrations went well.

All the very best for the New Year to come. Eric

drips of paint said...

hi Eric,

thought of you today and glad I saw this post ...

peace & a hug

Eric Valentine said...

Tim ! It's so good to see that you made it here. I thought of you also my friend this festive season. :)

Peace & hugs to you also. :)

Stephanie said...


It has been quite awhile since I was last here reading your blogs. Tonight I decided to visit and was deeply touched by your loss of your brother. I had tears going down my face as I read it all. Your poem is lovely!


Eric Valentine said...

Stephanie it is so nice to see you here after all this time.

I am flattered that my post was able to touch you in that manner & you enjoyed my poem.

Hope all is well with you & you had a fine holiday. Do take care and please, call again anytime my dear friend. :)

Janice Thomson said...

It's never easy is it Eric. A truly touching tribute to your beloved brother - the last verse of your poem says it all so beautifully.
You are in my thoughts this holiday season.

Eric Valentine said...

Thank you Janice for your visit & the gift of your words.
So many times your poetry paints the images so well.

Thinking of you, do take care. :)

shades of twilight said...

I cried.

Singing Stream said...

{{{{{Eric}}}}} I'm so happy that Elizabeth is there with and for you..Thank you for a beautiful story, but most of all for the depths you share yourself and write from. I am so honored to know you. I can't not put it into words tis that sacred. Namaste' (The Divine in me bows, to the Divine in you) Eric...

Eric Valentine said...

Thank you Shades for your visit. I will treasure those tears that you share.

Happy New Year and good health to you & yours. :)

Eric Valentine said...

Hi Singing Stream, I really and truly do appreciate your kind and encouraging words. We have been friends a long time, and it is such a pleasure that you still find my writings so enjoyable. :)

A Very Happy New Year to you and Craig, from both of us. :)

Singing Stream said...


Eric Valentine said...

Singing Stream, (((Backatcha))) :)

Pranayama mama said...

I'm very sorry for your loss.

Eric Valentine said...

Thank you for your visit here, I appreciate your kind thoughts. :)

swenglishexpat said...

Eric, I am so sorry for your loss. It is hard, but as long as you remember Ron, he lives in your heart.

Eric Valentine said...

Thank you so much Swen my friend, yes Ron will always be in my heart and now joins the ranks of many other memories in my memory chest.

Shameless said...

I'm late to this, Eric, but it was truly moving. You told it with courage and grace. :-)

Eric Valentine said...

Thank you so much Seamus, your visit and compliments are most welcome to me.

I'm glad you were able to drop by and catch my post my friend. :)