My mother was always singing. All day long, round the house, doing her work, making the dinner… she sang.
She never sang in public, only ever in the safety of her own home. Growing up, I thought everybody’s mother sang; as it turns out, they didn’t.
She had quite a repertoire too, my Mum. You name it, Jim Reeves, Elvis Presley, The Beatles and then, as they came along, I even remember Elvis Costello or even The Stranglers creeping into the show too.
There are some songs that I have only ever heard my mother sing – I’ve never heard them anyplace else. Occasionally, I’ll hear one of them on the radio and go, “God, that’s one of those songs!”
One such song was called ‘I saw Esau’. I really thought she’d made it up, until I heard it one day. It’s an odd experience when that happens.
One song I still haven’t heard elsewhere was called ‘Five Minutes More’ (Give me five minutes more of your charms). I Googled it up, just now, and there it is, it seems Frank Sinatra did a version of it. Cool, I’ve only heard it in one place though.
I’d always had this little vision that one day we would sing together, my Mum and me. I imagined it would be at somebody’s wedding. Maybe she would start and then I would join in. I’m not actually a great singer or anything but I can sort of hold a tune and I usually know all the words.
Anyway, this dream of mine faded after Mum suffered a series of strokes which left her disabled and in need of permanent care. Whenever I visited her, weather permitting, I would wheel her off around the country roads and we would talk about all kinds of stuff. I treasure those days.
But on the days that it rained, there was no going out and there wasn’t much else to do but read the newspapers and keep an eye on the little television up above the bed.
On one such Saturday we were reading away while the afternoon movie was on. The film was ‘High Society’ with Grace Kelly and Bing Crosby, (not to mention Frank Sinatra). I like this film but I wasn’t giving it too much attention.
Then in one scene, which I’m sure you all know, I noticed that Mum had put down her part of the paper and was paying particular attention to the TV. She hadn’t sung in a long long while but softly and rather indistinctly I could hear that she was singing now.
“For you and I have a guardian angel on high with nothing to do
But to give to you and to give to me Love forever true.”
I joined in, softly and indistinctly myself. Nobody else was around, nobody ever heard.
It was just Me and Mum, Bing and Grace.
When it ended, we didn’t mention it or anything. We just went back to our sections of the newspaper.
A month or so later, Mum took a turn for the worse and I remember thinking, ‘Is this how it has to be, death by a thousand blows? Wouldn’t it be nicer if it all just went more quickly.’
Two weeks after that, I had my wish and she was gone.
So I got to have my duet after all. Not at a big wedding or in a grand hall. But it was every bit as good, in its own little way.