Her name was Jackie, but somehow I could never quite get myself into that state to call her that, although she used to tell me to. To me she was Mrs Paul or simply, Paul's Mum. I'd introduce her to people, "Oh, this is Paul's Mum, Paul's Mum this is Blankety Blank." She'd then look at me with a pained look that you see parents giving an idiot child and say, "Call me Jackie." It worked for me.
She'd tell the most wonderful stories to me about Paul. About how he once tried to skip school but got rumbled by the cat, who, upon her returning home early, sat the top of the stairs yowling until she came up, upon which the cat led her to the bedroom and sat pawing at the floor under the bed. There lay Paul. Sprung. She'd ask me to come over and fix her computer, in exchange for food, which I'd gleefully do. Paul would also drop by and we'd all sit there, eat, watch FoxTel and wait for the software to install on whatever machine was lying around the place. She was great to have a feed with as the discussion around the table was always entertaining and worth while. Name a topic, she knew something about it. For reasons known only to himself Paul sealed a deal to buy all of those giant, life sized Star Wars Episode One figures that Pizza Hut had back in the late '90s. Pauls' Mum and myself were sent out to grab a few. There I am in a crowded Pizza Hut wrestling with a six foot seven Darth Maul (I'm about six three) and all I could hear was Paul's Mum yelling across the room, "You've got to take him from behind Danny!" The laughter still hasn't subsided. I got my revenge by setting a seven foot Jar Jar Binks up by her front door and it used to scare the hell out of her each time she'd come home. Chuckles all the way. I have hundreds of stories like that involving Paul's Mum, but I want to keep them to myself for now.
Over the years we became close, often having discussions about life and the meaning of it all. As years went by I'd see her less and less, but she'd always turn up at record fairs, which is one reason I started going to them again. She'd stand there and talk to me, someone would walk past and she'd be all happy and cheery, "Hi, how are you!" and once they left she'd lean over and whisper, "I've never liked that man." Without fail every time she did that it'd crack me up. She'd ask me about my kidlets, about my life and where I was going and what was I doing. She'd always be worried about Paul and his brother Troy, and more times than not she'd ask me to watch out for Paul on our many nocturnal jaunts, which I would. Paul is like a brother to me, and his mum was part of my extended family.
Last year Paul's Mum's mother died. It was protracted and messy and we discussed death a fair bit around this time and how when our time came we'd just breeze through it and hope for the best, how we'd not want something long and drawn out. Morbid stuff, but somehow Paul's Mum made it amusing at the same time - she could do that with serious matters, inject the humour effortlessly. She looked drawn to me and tired, but I put that down to what she'd just been through. At the same fair I invited her to our wedding and she said that she'd be there. Sadly she didn't make it, Paul turned up, late as usual, and said that she was a bit tired.
The last time I saw Paul's Mum was at the last fair of the year. She again looked very drawn and tired, so we did the bulk of her work. We showed her the photos of the wedding and shared the latest gossip, much to her delight. As we were leaving it was then that Paul told me she had the cancer. She was about to go back into hospital, but she'd not say anything to anyone because she'd not want the pity or the concern that comes with it. I was shocked, but Paul said that she should bounce back from it. When we left I said my usual, "See you soon eh?" to which she replied, as usual, "Yep. Take care!" and off we went.
Paul's Mum left us this week past. I found out just before I was due to go out for the usual Friday Night Drinks and I had a few words with Paul this morning. It was quick, well as quick as these things can be, and as such there wasn't much suffering. It left me a tad out of kilter with things last night and it's still making me cry even now, but only when no-one's looking. I don't know if I can stand going to the fairs anymore, at least here, because I'll miss her too much. I miss her now and dammit, I'll have to stop writing as things are getting a bit too blurry.
I hate goodbyes.
I feel a little more alone in the world today.