Still Centre Stage

Around midday yesterday the opening verse of Jimmy Osmond’s 1972 hit ‘Long Haired Lover From Liverpool’ rang out in a West Yorkshire hospital ward for elderly ladies. Although memory didn’t afford its performers with full lyric recollection any voids were filled with chirpy and reasonably melodic “La, la, la.” substitutes.

What the room’s other five ladies in dotage thought of my moribund mother and younger brother Ian’s regression back to March/April 1972 is anyone’s guess. Personally I smiled as wide as the current chasm in my heart at the impromptu a cappella performance – A scene which took me back to the living room of our Gateshead home when I was eight year old.

The catalyst of this spontaneous short singalong was our kid recalling the single as the first record mum bought him, when he was six year old. With Maggie’s brain tumours heavily impairing her cognitive wherewithal it was wonderful to see her recall parts of a refrain from half a century ago; a song which’d evidently been sketched indelibly onto her existential canvas.

This episode just one of many trips back to Ian, sister Helen and my childhoods. Laughing with mater at 1970’s scenes including our kid stealing and eating the ham out of my sandwich in a Filey cafe, yours truly’s (thankfully) failed attempt at throwing my brother overboard on the Oban to Isle of Mull ferry and Ian’s failed attempt at a magic trick which rendered dad’s cotton handkerchief egg bound.

Yesterday, it was heartening to witness her spirited fight against the cancer which in the not too distant future will rob us of our beloved matriarch. What played out in front of my younger sibling and me yesterday were heartwarming sights of the old Maggie. The bright and funny lady whose mischievous life observations and spontaneous bursts into the most arbitrary of songs had entertained us for over half a century.

One instance of the real mum manifesting followed my adjustment the cell phone in my trouser pocket. An act which received the mischievous maternal admonishment of “Will you stop playing with yourself!” An order I defensively retorted to by pointing out I was moving my mobile device, not my appendage.

With tongue in cheek, yours truly going on to point out that, as the shape of what I adjusted was clearly evident, my manhood would’ve had to’ve been victim of a pretty bizarre steamroller accident for me to’ve been partaking in a game of ‘pocket billiards’….. My brother Ian laughed. Mum, though, shook her head in mock despair and labelled me a “Silly bleeder!”

Our sister Helen, my adult kids Jonathon and Rachel, along with friend Jo, have also been sporadically afforded the same levels of entertainment from our moribund mother during their own hospital tarries.

In adulthood when I’ve been slightly over the top with my constant ribbing of the assembled ‘audience’, if Maggie was present she’d try and temper yours truly’s giddiness by occasionally positing “Your a good turn, Gary, but you’re on too long!”.… Watching her performance yesterday its pretty clear that despite her stark medical condition she’s still an excellent turn.

Sadly, though, her curtain call is imminent. She’ll leave stage to a mixture of tears and her audience’s feelings of being blessed she was part of our lives. Her encore the wealth of wonderful memories Maggie’ll leave which’ll live on in all lucky enough to have met this lovely Leeds lass.

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