Last weekend you'd have thought that God had taken a power washer to the world the rain was coming down so ferociously and, unusually, the wind was blowing it against our bedroom window. The words of the 1972 song Storm in a Teacup came unbidden to my head, as did the image it always, also unbidden, conjures up.
I am walking down a hospital corridor. I stop and pop my head inside a door on the right. My cousin is singing, 'One drop of rain on the window pane doesn't mean to say there's a thunderstorm coming ...' to his girlfriend in the bed. I smile and say hello but don't want to intrude so carry on a little further and go into a door on the left. My mother's in here.
She is awake but unknowing. I stay with her a while remembering.
A few nights earlier she'd been talking. She'd told me I smelled nice and then said, 'You look like someone. Is it Peter?' My cousin's girlfriend, Anne, standing next to me, had squeezed my hand sympathising with the pain of not being recognised by your own mother. And then it was time to go.
Anne had offered to drive us - me, my gran and my great-aunt, to the hospital to visit my mum who'd had a serious stroke. My gran took the front seat and I got in behind the driver. 'No,' my gran said, 'sit the other side. Let Auntie Gay sit there to balance the car.' (My gran and her sister were both large ladies so it made sense in my gran's head to even the load.) I got out and let Auntie Gay sit behind Anne. We set off for home, in the dark evening, Auntie Gay doing her best to be positive and distract me. 'All the lights look pretty on the works over there, don't they?' she said. I remember shrugging irritably, impatient with her. Then the unthinkable happened.
As Anne pulled out from the junction a lorry smashed into us on the driver's side.
Auntie Gay died almost instantly but, as luck would have it, a doctor coming from the hospital was in a following car and he revived her. But her injuries were horrific. My gran broke her leg, Anne would lose her right eye, and me, I walked away with a few scratches on my forehead.
A day or two after that the surgeon decided to operate again on my mum to try and clear some of the blood from her brain. She had another stroke while in the operating theatre and didn't speak again after that.
My uncle comes into the room. He says he is going to stay the night and do I want to as well. I nod. We spend the night sitting on hard wooden benches, my uncle popping down to the ward every now and again. It is early morning when he comes back and says, 'She's gone.'
He drives us home and I say, 'I'd prayed that if one of them had to go it would be Auntie Gay.'
A few days later Auntie Gay dies.
One drop of rain on the window pane doesn't mean to say there's a thunderstorm coming.