This morning I went for coffee with a friend. Nothing unusual about that - as Mr B is fond of saying, I could drink coffee for England if necessary - but today was the anniversary of my friend's son's death four years
ago. I could come and keep her company, I had offered, though if she would prefer to be on her own, then, as they say, a refusal would not offend. She had a think about it and the next time I saw her said she would like to take me upon my offer.
So I turned up on her doorstep this morning clutching a small bunch of narcissi - a harbinger of spring, even though we still have the worst of winter to survive. There was no answer when I rang the bell. I rang a few
more times because I have been known not to press door bells firmly enough. I recently stood on a doorstep for quarter of an hour pressing the bell (I was there for a meeting so I knew somebody had to be in) when a colleague turned up, pressed the bell properly
and we were admitted within seconds. As I pressed my friend's doorbell, I put my ear close to the door so that I could hear the ringing from inside. Still no answer from my friend so I had a peer through her front window. Not a sign of life. I tried the back
gate with one of my friend's cats purring at my legs as if convinced that I was the bearer of catty food, but couldn't gain access. Was my friend alright? I worried.
I am occasionally quite sensible so before
allowing myself to panic, I retired to my car to wait to see if my friend turned up. I would give her a quarter of an hour, I told myself. Within ten minutes, up she drove. I was very, very pleased to see her.
I was about thirteen, a good school-friend of mine lost her father. We, her best friends, were aghast at the horror and unkindness of it all. We all resolved not to talk about her father in front of her when she returned to school. How unwittingly cruel we
were! Every time she started talking about her Dad, one of us would swiftly change the subject, supremely confident that we were protecting her from herself. Hopefully I know better now how to take my lead from other people and not make up my own mind what
is best for them. My friend tells me she has much the same experience, with friends imagining that after four years she will somehow have "got over it." How little we know.
I love hearing about her son and
everything he meant to her. And I give silent thanks for my own boy and remember all the special times we have shared both when he was a small boy and now that he is all grown up with three amazing boys of his own.
My lovely friend, Eleanor, is mourning the loss of her brother and we have been talking, via email, about how people seem to underestimate the grief felt at the loss of a sibling. Yet these are the family members who have known you for most, if not
all, of your life. They are the ones who shared your childhood, who remember you in pig-tails, who watched you grow up, just as you watched them. I am looking forward to when Eleanor returns home and I don't have to resort to virtual hugs to show her I care.
Usually at this time of year - around about the date which would have been our Mum's birthday - I meet up with my sister and brothers for a Sunday lunch and an afternoon of reminiscences. The date was set for this coming
Sunday but a couple of days ago my older brother phoned to find out how I am but also to say he thought we should postpone our "Brothers and Sisters Day" until I was feeling stronger. I suddenly realised that my main reaction was one of relief. My Big Brother
Big brothers are indeed very special. I have a few precious pages of my Dad's "life story", written, I suspect, at the urging of my mother who liked to have the minutiae of life recorded for posterity.
Dad's short account of his early life is extremely poignant and I shall have to tell you more in future Daily Blogs - but today I will share with you what he had to say about his older brother who, like my friend Eleanor's brother, was named George.
Dad explains that when he went to school - the Davenant School in London's East End - he couldn't understand at first why all the other small boys were such easy prey for the "big boys" but for some reason he
was immune from the bullies. "Then I realised it was because George was my brother and George was strong and brave and a hero to the other boys."
Sons and brothers. Every one a hero to those who love them.