Toast Me No Toasts

Toast Me No Toasts

A Story by Devons
"

"To absent friends!"

"

"Well, that's the end of that for the rest of my life!" my mother said as she bustled historically and characteristically over the threshold of the back door. She gave that familiar shake of the body and clothes that people often employ when they've come back in from the outside world, and let the door slam shut behind her on what once contained her working life.

  A most horrific feeling for a moment came over me. It was the more horrific for not really being felt at all, but merely identified as though crossing off a list or checking a box. The sort of dreaded recognition that doesn't seem to come immediately because it seems to take a little time to register - and in that brief period of time during which the proverbial penny drops, the grave realisation is suspended to such a powerful extent that when it comes it weighs heavier than the gravity of a millstone around one's neck as you find yourself drowning. It was as though I were witnessing the tragic story of the ordinariness of someone's life whilst simultaneously realising that it was actually about mine. And I could already foresee the future memory of this horribly poignant moment as it is one day recalled by the solicitations of some well-meaning fool at a dinner party who proposes a toast "to absent friends!"

  And when I picture that well-meaning fool I picture my father. Although I dearly hope that when that time comes he won't be around to proclaim it. But someone will. Someone always is. Some equally justified fool who mistakes the tradition for sentimentality. Who mistakes form for tenderness; mistakes a mere speech for sincerity; and mistakes posterity for caring.

  And I've already witnessed the effects on the generations of lachrymose middle-aged women at wedding receptions. And the awkward momentary silences at Christmas dinner tables. My father's been doing it for years now; ever since the first anniversary of the death of my brother-in-law's father. "Absent friends!" Though I don't believe that he was even for a moment his 'friend'. But it is the lot of such so-called respected and dignified personages as my father to take on the responsibility of this ancient convention. For God has made him the Commodore of Convention; the Lord High Admiral of Responsibility. And sadly such mantles are passed on throughout the eternity of Man's civilised inheritance like an exalted blood-line. There will always be someone like him. There will always be 'an England'.

  "To absent friends!" he'll say. And, year on year, one more number of his generation is added and included implicitly in that momentary facile salutation. His mother, who died of old age and neglected senility in a nursing home; and his sister, who was found dead on the sofa one morning by her grandchildren. She should have seen the doctor about her health. A blood-clot spread up her leg and one night it spread to her lungs. "Grandad, granny's still asleep and we can't wake her up." And the stone-cold church funerals in cold-hearted stone walls, and a blankness and a numbness where you really think you should be feeling something, but you can't and you don't. But the reliable old aunties will break into their tender sobs of reminiscence for weddings of the past, and christenings and Christmas parties and birthdays in church halls; and they smile down tearfully upon the bewildered little ones who gaze up at them in wide-eyed innocence.

  And when I picture an auntie I picture my mother. And an oblivious little nephew stares up at her in confused awe, and she hugs him affectionately as though to adore the fragile preciousness of life. Feels too much, always cries when someone dies, always weakened by the tragic mawkishness of defenceless purity. And when some poor old lady she once knew from work succumbs one day, she is privately touched. "Shame. She was a dear old thing, too.." And she retires quietly to her bedroom where the pressure of her pregnant soul is rent once more by secret tears. And her sadness once more becomes a collective mourning for those that had passed before; faraway long-gone figures in her life whom she remembers in that instant, and the kind things they said to her and did for her when they were alive; all the beautifully insignificant moments she had shared with them in life, and the end of so many eras.

  But one day she'll be one of them. And that sentimental inheritance shall be willed like a madness to someone else in the blood line, to be visited upon them year on year, anniversary upon funeral upon wedding upon baptism upon Christmas dinner speech "to absent friends!". And I have always thought myself miserably capable of such selfishness as to wish my own death before that happens. I should be one of them. One of those distant ghosts of the past, recalled along with my obscure, moribund comrades-in-ether on a dreary grey-dark afternoon, as she shuts herself away and sits on the edge of the bed, sobbing for the memory of how we once were. But I could not wish that upon someone so loved and so cherished as she. I must survive. Even if to carry on living after she's gone would be a hurt only answerable with death itself. And if in the soothing of this pain the temptation of suicide does not prevail, then please, make no speeches - toast me no toasts "to absent friends."



© 2015 Devons



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This is one of the most profound, moving pieces of writing I've read in the Cafe .. a treatise to the differences in death's ethics, the difference of thought and age and all ..

'And the stone-cold church funerals in cold-hearted stone walls, and a blankness and a numbness where you really think you should be feeling something, but you can't and you don't. But the reliable old aunties will break into their tender sobs of reminiscence for weddings of the past, and christenings and Christmas parties and birthdays in church halls; and they smile down tearfully upon the bewildered little ones who gaze up at them in wide-eyed innocence.'

What an extraordinary end to life death is, it's the closing down of a billion components which - for some reason, burn out, some to sweet gentle sighs, some to loud applause and murmurings of greatness. Choice doesn't necessarily come into the equation, we have to die, we have to mourn in our own way.

Sadly we can't tell people not to toast or grieve cos if you're loved, respected, wanted, there'll always be someone somewhere to remember you ad infinitum

Sorry, your wonderful writing, not mine .. it made me think and feel.

Posted 6 Years Ago


3 of 3 people found this review constructive.




Reviews

We are a complex being, genetically driven by so much more than that which shows on the superficial surface. Something happens, a response is triggered; an emotion felt and somewhere inside our heads, the memory is implanted; a portal is opened to something gone, something we can never get back; those 'absent friends,' being a perfect example.

Whether it's a blessing or a curse makes no difference; we really have no choice in the matter, for we can never exist alone in the now, because we are capable of remembering, and if in doing so we become that well meaning fool, then so be it.

To close, I would agree with emmajoy when she says this is a most profound and moving write; and at a first reading seemingly quite complex; and yet in it's complexity, it quite brilliantly succeeds in boiling down and simplifying life itself.

Beccy.



Posted 2 Years Ago


Devons

2 Years Ago

Yes, indeed, there seems to be a sad inevitability about it all. And, as you imply, at least we feel.. read more
Proud is right..JW nailed that, this a piece of writing that knows no boundaries because of the way that everyone can identify with the feelings and the sentiment. You hit on some stuff that is always there at the back of your mind cooking and trying to slowly leak into the forefront as "reality" and we hopelessly push it back to the back like sand bagging the shores a a swollen river that is gonna take the house, but we work in vain because if we don't, we can't say that we did our best. Wow...this was truly great writing. Sheer madness I tell you. Nice work.

Posted 6 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

I have to say the first time i read this was weeks back and i simply shied away from reviewing this story...but here am now..trying to sort out apt adjectives for a write that i really not know how to review.Simply cause sometimes i really am amazed by your extraordinary way of perceiving a certain situation.Such as here..i can almost feel your perception piercing through people over decades and seeing them for truly how they are,what they are...without any bias of a blood relationship or any prejudiced preconceived notion.You are able to observe someone or something for who or what it is and then put into words..how courageous is that.Again i am not sure if courageous is the word to be used here :)..but when i sit down to think of this write it really comes to me that this must have been a difficult piece of writing for you.It is not only extremely challenging in its language but also in its theme.Death is a dark subject and to write about it in a rational,logical way retaining the sentimentality and vulnerability it requires is a feat hard to measure up to.
I love the lines:
A most horrific feeling for a moment came over me. It was the more horrific for not really being felt at all...
And I have always thought myself miserably capable of such selfishness as to wish my own death before that happens. I should be one of them. One of those distant ghosts of the past, recalled along with my obscure, moribund comrades-in-ether on a dreary grey-dark afternoon, as she shuts herself away and sits on the edge of the bed, sobbing for the memory of how we once were..
And as all your writes this has so many dimensions to it that can not be justified by a single reading...
You always give whatever you write so much of yourself..it is much admired..

Posted 6 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

This is one of the most profound, moving pieces of writing I've read in the Cafe .. a treatise to the differences in death's ethics, the difference of thought and age and all ..

'And the stone-cold church funerals in cold-hearted stone walls, and a blankness and a numbness where you really think you should be feeling something, but you can't and you don't. But the reliable old aunties will break into their tender sobs of reminiscence for weddings of the past, and christenings and Christmas parties and birthdays in church halls; and they smile down tearfully upon the bewildered little ones who gaze up at them in wide-eyed innocence.'

What an extraordinary end to life death is, it's the closing down of a billion components which - for some reason, burn out, some to sweet gentle sighs, some to loud applause and murmurings of greatness. Choice doesn't necessarily come into the equation, we have to die, we have to mourn in our own way.

Sadly we can't tell people not to toast or grieve cos if you're loved, respected, wanted, there'll always be someone somewhere to remember you ad infinitum

Sorry, your wonderful writing, not mine .. it made me think and feel.

Posted 6 Years Ago


3 of 3 people found this review constructive.

this makes me think about people that show up when someone passes away
why didn't they enjoy them while they were alive?
they come ot these events to "show face" for the public
meanwhile everyone knows that pride and anger are their driving forces
i have people in my life that i had to let go in presence because they were insecure and envious of blessings - so they weren't really friends
but when bad times come - they come running to see me down
no one needs seasonal friends
but they definitely make you see the world in different shades while appreciating those that truly have their best interest at heart for everyone involved.


Posted 6 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

And she retires quietly to her bedroom where the pressure of her pregnant soul is rent once more by secret tears. And her sadness once more becomes a collective mourning for those that had passed before;

Very deep and emotional, this feeling of causing pain to others through death, my children fear my death and yet I am young, and how I utterly dread the toasts that will be herald on occasions.........I see my daughter in this piece as a mother herself, who will remember me..........her soul hurting, and I cannot bear the hurt.........but we all are going there, and it sucks..........but I pray I die first, before any of my friends and family, I don't want to be toasting anyone.
This was an amazing,insightful and very intelligent write.


Posted 6 Years Ago


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you cynical old bugger!! I won't toast you...I'll eat it :)

You have a wonderful way with words...

Posted 6 Years Ago


sigh.... when i read your work, i'm never a writer nor a reviewer; i'm simply an admirer, sometimes a learner, and always a fortunate reader~

Posted 6 Years Ago


this is astonishingly good Glyn. and i don't mean astonishing in that i can't believe YOU wrote it, but astonishingly as in i just can't believe HOW good it is. your language throughput beguiles, and the tone you use is so gentle and wry it pulled me along.

the part that touched me the most was of the aunties and mum. they were portrayed so tenderly, so beautifully you nearly broke my heart.

you have totally enraptured me with this tale of the difference between generations, and our parents eccentricities, and the gentle passage of life and death.. i feel as if i ended this blinking at the glare of light.. last writer who made me feel this way was Dylan Thomas.. wonderful Glyn

this is one of those writes that i hope you feel proud of. start to finish, this is a seminal piece of work. i can't wait to see more stories from you, should you decide to create more.

Posted 6 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.


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Shelved in 4 Libraries
Added on November 2, 2010
Last Updated on July 23, 2015
Tags: death, hypocrisy, memories

Author

Devons
Devons

South West, United Kingdom



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