It’s more than 50 years since I last saw my bright yellow dumper truck. It used to be kept on top of the coal bunker, along with other toys and miscellaneous items, not necessarily belonging to me, in a room that we referred to as the outhouse. The word “outhouse” is a bit misleading, as it was part of the actual house on the council estate in Newport, South Wales, where I was brought up. It was not a separate building, but that’s what we used to call it. I knew no different.
At about four years old, I could only just about reach the items on top of the coal bunker, as long as they were near the edge, just being able to peer over the top on my tip-toes and stretch my tiny arms into the jumble of items which are now long forgotten to me – apart, that is, from my yellow dumper truck. That is something that I’d NEVER forget.
At some point, my yellow dumper truck vanished. I know not how, or when. I remember looking for it, but it wasn’t there. I’d ask mum, but she didn’t seem to know. I’d go back into the outhouse, jump up to see if I could see it amongst the miscellaneous items – maybe hidden behind something, or underneath something towards the back. As long as I was unable to physically get up there and rummage through the piles of things more thoroughly, there was always hope that it was there somewhere.
It never materialised and I grieved my favourite toy. Mum didn’t come up with any answers. It was only as I grew into an adult that I ever began to talk about this memory. Mum had no recollection of any of this, or of the impact the loss of my yellow dumper truck had on my young heart. It became one of those family jokes where one of us (I have two older sisters) would accuse mum of abusing us as children. I always claim that I have been psychologically scarred by cauliflower, and by the fact that, because of the way she had done my hair when I was very small, someone she was talking to thought I was a girl. “Whose little girl are you?” she asked. I obviously corrected her, “I’m NOT a little girl, I’m a little BOY!” I actually have no memory of this.
The reality is that if anyone had ever been abused by anyone, it was HER who had been abused by US, with the constant teasing she had to endure from us. She was a wonderful mum and we all loved her to bits.
Mum passed away on 12th December last year. She was 86. It was time for her to go. Although she had been reasonably fit up to two days before her death, the operation she suddenly needed, that ultimately her body was unable to cope with, would have resulted in her quality of life nosediving to a very poor quality. She went at the perfect time. And she passed away peacefully with family around her reliving some of the best “mum” memories. Even to the last, she was able to respond in such a way that she knew and appreciated what was going on. I’ll bear no scars from those last moments. They were as perfect as they could be under the circumstances.
We’ve all rallied round to help each other. It’s what, on the whole, families do. In fact, it seems to have brought us all closer together as a family. I see more of my sisters than before, and we try to support Dad as much as we can. Other than the fact that his arthritis is beginning to slow him down, he is a very fit 86-year-old. He doesn’t look his age, and he has all his mental faculties. He drives very competently indeed and is able to live an independent life.
I like to think that Mum’s still with us. As I’m writing this I’m wearing her reading glasses. In my car, I keep a picture of her watching me playing guitar on stage in about 1985. It’s as if she’s still watching over me. I still talk to her, but she never answers, of course. Or does she?
Until a couple of months ago, I was driving quite an old car that had seen better days. It had become time to upgrade to something more modern and more reliable. I went for a Nissan Juke. It’s bright yellow. I can be a bit forgetful after my brain haemorrhage nine years ago, and it is now much easier to find it in a car park!
I’ve just come back from a two-day break with Dad in West Wales. We talked about Mum a lot. One of the highlights of the trip was a visit to a town where he was stationed during his national service nearly 70 years ago. As we were approaching the town, he told me of an old cinema he used to go to with a girl he was courting at the time. He said it’s probably not there now. As we drove through the town, he suddenly spotted it. The whole trip was worth it just to see the look of both ecstasy and astonishment on his face. We stopped and took pictures. I emailed them to him – he’s pretty up on his technology, you know! I doubt that there are too many 86-year-olds who use Facebook, YouTube, e-mails and generally get the best for themselves out of the internet.
As we were returning home, we were talking about how this new car had enabled us to travel more together, in comfort and without any fear of breaking down or becoming stranded. And then it dawned on me…
Maybe my new bright yellow car is a reincarnation of my bright yellow dumper truck, organised by Mum from the spirit world to make up for the trauma of my childhood and to give Dad some happy moments during this difficult period.
I don’t really go for such stuff as a rule, but I would never discount anything about things that we don’t understand – and nobody understands about what happens after death, irrespective of what they claim to know, or think that they know. It’s all a mystery, and there is only one way to really find out.
Having said that, I wonder what Mum would have thought about Dad reminiscing about a previous girlfriend while being driven around in her gift of a reincarnated dumper truck?
I have a website which has nothing to do with dumper trucks or reincarnation: http://www.markdpritchard.com