I had a sobering conversation with Cathy the other day, about her kids and Mick, her partner and her parents and all the rest of the people she knew and cared about all those years. Mostly she bitched about them - the most self-centred, lazy... They’d never cooperate, any of them. They just walked all over her. Took her for granted. Sometimes she wonders why she even bothered and would they even notice if she just failed to come home one evening?
‘I bet they’re still stuck in front of the box now’ she says, ‘vaguely wondering where I’ve got to and who’s turn is it to go out and get the Chinese.’ She slowly shakes her head in exasperation and affection.
I try to be light about it. ‘I'm sure they did care’ I say, ‘really, deep down. Give them a bit longer. Christmas perhaps’ but I know I’ve said the wrong thing. There’s nothing obvious, but I can see it in her eyes.
‘No’ she says at last. ‘Actually I wish they wouldn’t. I’d rather they never noticed. Leave them be, in front of the telly forever, oblivious...’ Tears are coming again, and I’m giving her a cuddle again.
Nobody else in our little group talks much about people they’ve left behind. I think back, recalling the few I had in my life at the end. I’d been alone for so long by then I’d forgotten what it was like to have a social life, or people that cared about me. Justine was the last and she died ten years before I did. I picture my mum and dad, not as they had been at the ends of their lives but as they appeared in my dreams, which they did regularly right up until the end. I didn’t want to bother Cathy with it – she had enough to deal with. I resolved to talk to Andrea about it next time though.