Tales from the Foothills of Mt. Narcissist — The Strange Case of my Fathers Ashes

I used to have my own business, a little shop. For many years I lived above it and my employees and I earned our modest living from the shop, which is on a busy shopping avenue. Naturally from time to time friends would drop things in if I was away or busy, or leave a message and my staff would put it by my flat door for when I got back.

Since 2011 the shop has been rented out to some lovely guys who transformed it into a thriving, vibrant and very fashionable hairdressing salon where they employ around 12 people, mostly young women.

After my father was cremated in 2013 my elder sister, Diane, got all his ashes, so after about 6 weeks and she hadn’t contacted me about them I rang her to ask if I could have some. Bereavement being as it is, a process. She simply said “no, I haven’t finished grieving yet”. I didn’t waste my breathe to mention my own identical situation, I just said OK. Because I know this game dear reader.

In fact I never mentioned it again. Which no doubt annoyed her because I had ducked the time honoured game of her torturing me about something for as long as possible and enjoying my distress. So imagine my surprise when my husband rang me one day some seven months later (I was away in my caravan in some field somewhere) and told me to sit down and try not to get upset. Cue large lump in throat. He said:

“your sister has delivered your fathers ashes to the shop down stairs. The young receptionist who she handed the box to nearly fainted when she then told her what was in them. Simon (the owner of the business) just brought them up here, he was quite upset too”.

Bearing in mind these tenants of mine did my hair before I went to Dads funeral, and knew how upset I was, but other than that I have a purely professional landlord/tenant relationship with them. We are not buddies and I don’t normally go there to get my hair cut. If they have a problem, they ring me and I try and sort it out ASAP. They pay their rent. End of.

Stunned I packed my caravan up and got back home to my flat as quickly as I could. The next day I went and bought a very pretty, very expensive bouquet from the local florist and put a “Thank you and I’m sorry” note on it after enquiring as to the young receptionists name. It was her first week on the job, she was a 17 year old trainee, she had never handled the ashen remains of an old man before. She had had to be given the rest of the day off, such was her shock. And I can completely understand that. Poor lass.

Why hadn’t Diane just rang me, told me she would be in the neighbourhood and arrange to give the ashes to me? She rarely came to the city I lived in then, only to visit her dentist. A phone call would have done it. Or even if she hadn’t been coming to the city I would have happily gone to her house to collect whatever portion of his remains she was allowing me. Anytime to suit herself.

But no. Having not distressed me enough with her waiting game (or so she thought), she had to have another hit. This time in a “sabotage my relationship with my tenants game”. Brilliantly imaginative you have to admit.

There is a twist to this tale though……..

About a year later I saw my mother. And she asked me why Diane and I were on frosty terms. I told her what she had done with Dads ashes and she said:

“oh that wasn’t Diane, that was me. Diane was driving the car though”.

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Footnote: my sister used to have a shop on the same avenue, but sold it years ago, blew all the money and now lives in rented accommodation. Diane is not her real name.

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