memento mori

Today we were taking my eldest daughter out for a treat, her very first movie at the cinema, Cinderella.

Not far from it, I pointed out a landmark from my childhood, a kindergarten with crazy sculptures of a copyright infringing Yogi Bear and Huckleberry Hound. I told her we used to look out for it when we were visiting my grandma, her grandma’s mummy, it meant we were nearly there. Just around the corner is a hospital, and my daughter asked me if I had any memories of that.

I didn’t know it as a boy, but a couple of years later my grandma would die of bowel cancer at that hospital. I also didn’t know that 35 or so years later, I would have chemotherapy there.

The other night I was looking around to find other blogs about illustration and cancer. Reading one about a woman fighting aggressive breast cancer, I felt guilty and a growing sense of unreality. I never felt sick, never really had any symptoms, and had a very low level cancer. I feel like a bit of a fake when I tell people.

I do have memories of that hospital. I remember listening to the same depressing album as I drove to treatment each weak, and hitting a certain song at the same point of each journey. I remember driving through lunchtime city traffic, yelling the lyrics as I cried. All the fear I was hiding from my wife, and from myself, came out that once a week.

There was another landmark on the drive back from my grandma’s house. At night, craning round to look out the back window of our car, at the top of a certain hill the streetlights made the shape of a kangaroo. There used to be a huge neon bottle cap on the roof of the Gepps Cross Hotel, and that was its eye.

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