I can’t count the number of times I’ve set off to see my beloved West Bromwich Albion on Saturday lunchtime and returned, crestfallen, a few hours later. It comes with the territory as a Throstle’s supporter. When I was growing up, Mum would frequently be there to welcome me home:
“Oh dear. Was it as bad as that?”
It often was. Even long after I’d left home, she would ask about the match if she knew I’d been there.
On Saturday, my wife and I headed Hawthorns-wards before calling in to see Mum post-match. To be honest, the result of the match was immaterial – though it would have been a welcome shot in the arm if we’d actually managed to score a goal (five games without one and counting) but immaterial or not, it didn’t stop me deconstructing another home defeat as we crawled through Smethwick’s Saturday tea-time traffic. Time was Mum would have made a similar journey. She was never a fanatic – cricket was more her game – but for a few years in the late 50s and early 60s, Mum had a West Brom season ticket.
So, as I did when I was ten years old, so I did now that I am 52. I told her the story of the match. Is it any wonder I became a sports journalist? Looking back, I can’t be sure how fascinated she was by my analysis of the performance of our left-back in 1974 but I can say for certain that my thoughts didn’t mean much to her on Saturday.
It’s hard to say what means anything to Mum now. Visiting her again this morning, I watched her sleep, waking occasionally, saying a few words which often defy interpretation, before sleeping once more. I’ve taken to reading to her. The first “grown-up” book I remember her reading to me was Little Women. It feels utterly appropriate that I now read the same book to her. We started this morning and I reached page 25 of 2495 (we’re reading it online so the pages are quite short). I told her she had to stay with us for a little while yet so we can finish the book but somehow, I doubt I’ll get much past the first couple of chapters.
Mum’s time is now short. Even from Saturday to this morning, less than two days, there was a noticeable change and not for the better. I’m grateful for the chance to say goodbye – to thank Mum for all she has done for me and to tell her that, whatever I do and wherever I go, she’ll will remain in my heart. It’s a privilege not afforded to everyone and we’re lucky.
But now I think Mum is ready to leave. Who knows whether I’ll finish Little Women or indeed whether West Brom will ever score another goal? I do know, though, that life will never be quite the same.