Writer and Author

Getting Back into the Swing

I haven’t posted here for several months – in fact I haven’t written anything anywhere much since November. There’s a reason for that. In mid-November I got word that my mother was terminally ill. By the end of the month she was dead.

I’ve wandered through the past two months in a bit of a daze. When a parent dies suddenly it blows everything sky high. Every day for the past month and a half I’ve feeling around on the floor for the shattered pieces and trying to put everything back as it was. It’s not done yet, still the same bomb site, but at least now things are ordered enough to start to write them down.

As long as I can remember I’ve dealt with the world by turning it into words on a page. I’ve kept diaries, written stories, blogged about the way I see the world. When something hurts, even when something shatters, I’ll start thinking of ways to turn it into words. This happens with the good things two but I mainly write about pretty dark subjects so it’s the dark stuff that tends to get used first. The problem is that when it’s not dark, when it’s just red raw and seeping pain, then the words won’t come.  That’s the way it’s been. That’s finally the way it’s not any more.

My mother was a complicated woman.  Don’t get me wrong, I loved her deeply, but she could be a hard woman to live up to. She was an actress.  The kind of woman who could light up a room with her entrance. She was larger than life, funny, fiercely loyal and ever so slightly crazy. Talking to family over Christmas there were stories of late night dinners, dramatic flourishes and lots of laughter. Looking over old photos I see a vibrant woman, demonstrative and striking, commanding the centre of every photograph.

I remember her singing Summertime to me at bedtime, or reading me The Hobbit and having me in stitches doing Bilbo with a cold being invited to parties – “Thangk you very buch!”  I remember the dolls house she made me out of a cardboard box with the double bed in the master bedroom made out of a moulded piece of polystyrene packing with a lilac Kleenex valance. I remember her sticking up for me when I was being bullied at school.

If my mother had a defining fault it was probably that she loved too fiercely.  It was her love that made me the person I am today but I think in a way it also broke her.  When my dad died suddenly when I was a baby it hit her so deeply I don’t think she ever really recovered. Every year in mid December, around the anniversary of that dreadful day when she opened the door to two policemen, she would feel all the world’s sharp edges. Even though she had a second marriage, another chance at a love of her life, I don’t think the pain ever really went away.

In the days and months after that awful day. When life slowly got back to normal and the family home was emptier than it should have been, she did what she could to numb the pain. But over time the crutch fused and became an extra limb.

My mum was an actress of a certain generation. Gregarious socialising goes with the territory.  It’s much the same with journalism and writing too for that matter.  But alcohol can be a treacherous friend and will all too easily lead you into trouble.  If you start to trust it it will trip you up. And my poor mother fell.

I wouldn’t wish liver failure on anyone. It’s a brutal way to go. But that’s what happened to the beautiful, warm, daft, clever, woman I remember so well. The last time I saw her, just before the end, I could see that dear nutcase in her still luminous brown eyes. By that stage she was hearing Welsh in a Leitrim hospital ward, and seeing the mountains of her North Wales childhood out of the window but as she squeezed my hand she knew me and lamented the fact we didn’t share books the way we used to.

So that’s why I haven’t been writing much recently. But slowly it’s coming back. Life continues and the world keeps turning and there are stories still to be told.

 

Tani Bentis

My mother Tani Bentis

Tani Bentis RIP  1941 – 2011

4 Comments

  1. Ian Sadler

    i hope the pain of loss eases with the passing of time x

  2. Susanadaly

    Dear Abigail, that is a beautiful piece and I hope that the setting down of it here helps you, as you say writing has done in the past. Your mother couldn’t have wished for a more understanding and elegant eulogy/elegy. Lots of love x

  3. David Roberts

    Only just found out about Tani’s passing.  We were at school together in Holywell and in our last year were an “item” – entirely chaste – long walks and tea in the sitting room!  We went our separate ways and I followed her career a bit but have at times ever since wondered how she fared. I knew her as strong, funny and very pretty; how did I get to go out with the prettiest girl in the school?  Abigail, no one can tell you that they know how you feel; my wife. Lyn, died 2 months ago.  But we have to go on.  I will remember Tani and I am so glad that she became such a loving and loved mother.

  4. Stephen Smith

    My name is Stephen Smith and I was an actor with the Celtic Theatre Company at Seton Hall University in South Orange, New Jersey. Your mother and Des performed with us in May 1992 in a play by MJ Molloy called “The Daughter from over the Water.” They both stayed at my parents’ home near the university for that month during rehearsals and performances. We are all so very sorry belatedly for your loss. We knew your mother to be a kind, generous, and talented woman. We shared so many wonderful times with them in and out of the theater. I particularly remember a trip that we took with them on an off-day to Ellis Island in New York. It was wonderful to experience that landmark with them. Tani was a force, indeed, and greatly missed. Your remembrance is simply lovely. God bless you and keep you!

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