‘Back then,’ she’d say, meaning the olden days, meaning her days, their days, ‘even then,’ she said, ‘I never understood your father. When all was said and done, daughter, what had he got to be psychological about?’
She meant depressions, for da had had them: big, massive, scudding, whopping, black-cloud, infectious, crow, raven, jackdaw, coffin-upon-coffin, catacomb-upon-catacomb, skeletons-upon-skulls-upon-bones crawling along the ground to the grave type of depressions. Ma herself didn’t get depressions, didn’t either, tolerate depressions and, as with lots of people here who didn’t get them and didn’t tolerate them, she wanted to shake those who did until they caught themselves on. Of course at that time they weren’t called depressions. They were ‘moods’. People got ‘moods’. They were ‘moody’. Some people who got these moods stayed in bed, she said, with long faces on them, emanating atmospheres of monotonal extended sameness, of tragedy, of affliction, influencing everybody too, with their monotones and long faces and continuous extended samenesses whether or not they ever opened their mouths. You only had to look at them, she said. In fact, you only had to walk in the door and you could sense coming from upstairs, from his room, their room, the exudation of his moody, addicted atmosphere. And – should the moody be of the type who did manage to get out of bed – that hardly precluded them, she said, from blanketing the atmosphere as well. Again with long faces and unvaried pitch they’d be at it, slouching down the street, dragging themselves over the terrain, round and about and down the town in their epidemic grim fashion, infecting everybody and – given they’d got out of bed – they’d be doing this on a much wider, enveloping scale. ‘What these people with the moods and heavy matter should realise,’ said ma – and not just once would she say this but almost anytime da was mentioned in a conversation – ‘is that life’s hard for everybody. It’s not just for them it’s hard so why should they get preferential treatment? You’ve got to take the rough with the smooth, get on with life, pull yourself together, be respected. There are some people, daughter,’ she said, ‘people with much more reason for psychologicals, with more cause for suffering than those who help themselves to suffering – but you don’t see them giving in to darkness, giving in to repinement. Instead with courage they continue on their path, refusing, these legitimate people, to succumb.’
So ma would be back to her onwards-and-upwards talk, to her hierarchy of suffering: those who were allowed it; those who were allowed it but fell down badly by outstaying their quota in it; those who, like da, were upstart illegitimates, stealing the right to suffer that belonged to somebody else.