"Grandma's here" screeched the children whose noses were touching the window waiting for their grandparents to arrive. Lucy went to the door and opened the door to her parents. In they came handing over bags of sweets, colouring books and clothing. Lucy laughed to herself thinking how her mum had just used having grandchildren as another good excuse to go shopping.
"Do you want a coffee?" she asked. A silly question really as her parents were big coffee drinkers especially her Mum. Lucy blamed both her own addiction to coffee and to soap operas on her Mum.
Soon everyone was sitting down squeezed into Lucy's small lounge with the children playing and Mum regaling everyone with stories from church and the British Legion Club. Mum was always so much fun and had an incredible style for someone now in their Eighties. There really was no stopping her.
"How did your operation go, Mam?" asked Lucy. Irene had been in hospital to have some lumps removed from her scalp. This was quite a common event for her. Lucy remembered loads of times since she was a kid when the lumps would come up and Mum would have to go and have them seen to.
"Ok, love. Just got to have the stiches out on Thursday."
Lucy went into the kitchen and had soon served up home-made soup accompanied by crusty rolls. Pudding was apple crumble and cream, her Dad's favourite. For years, Mum would not eat at Lucy's house for some reason always identifying herself as "the cook". That had changed a couple of years ago and Lucy loved preparing meals for her parents. They sat around the big pine farmhouse table and Lucy felt great. Brilliant and involved parents and 3 lovely children. Plus her husband and best friend, Daniel. A fantastic family and a lovely day.
In the afternoon, as her husband and Dad swapped stories from their RAF days, Lucy washed up. As she came back into the lounge, she was amazed to see Irene pushing the mouse around on the computer instructed by her 4 year old son, Rory. Would the woman never stop trying new things and learning? She knew her Mum was modern but so far she had run away from involvement with computers imagining they could blow up if you pressed the wrong button. It was a really touching scene seeing her son as instructor to her Mum.
"We'll have to be getting off now. I don't like your Dad driving in the dark these days". As they left, on impulse, Lucy gave her Mum some red roses out of the ones Daniel had bought her for Valentine's Day the day before. Irene was thrilled to bits as they were her first Valentine's flowers. Ken was a good husband but not into the commercialism of 14th February.
The phone call came the following Wednesday.
"Hiya Mum. How are you doing?"
"I'm not well"
"Why? What's up?" Lucy asked distractedly knowing that Mum's not wells usually consisted of a cold or a headache.
"Those lumps on my head. They have found cancer. There's nothing they can do".
"Right". Lucy could hear her own voice sounding quite cold and robotic. She felt unreal as if she were a character in a telly programme. She had worked out quickly that her job was to be strong for Irene. So her voice did not waver and the conversation continued with Irene saying "They don't know how long I've got but we'll make some good memories with whatever time God gives me".
And they did in the next 6 months before Irene passed away. Lucy visited her Mum but the Valentine's Day visit was Irene's last to Lucy's house. And as for roses, well her Dad proved himself a romantic after all when he bought roses in the exact shade of Irene's wedding bouquet for the top of the coffin.