I decided to take advantage of the lovely weather and go check the sheep. When I got there, Fumes was nowhere to be found.
Fumes is 14 years old. He was already an old sheep when I met him five years ago. Now, he's almost totally blind and this winter, I've been pretty sure would be his last. He's been doing ok, but going slower and slower - still perky, but not his usual shove-your-head-in-the-bucket-first-at-a
I emailed his owner a few weeks ago when I became sure he was on his way out, asking what she wanted me to do. She said "Open the gate to the gully, he'll go down there when he's ready." So today, I went to look for him in the gully. He was there alright, in an open area, sleeping in the sunshine. At first I thought he was dead but he was still breathing, and looked up when I touched him.
It's obvious he hasn't got long (I've become somewhat good at spotting this lately), but he's not in any pain or suffering in any way. So I sat there with his head in my lap and gave him scratches and happies, then left him to it.
Normally, if I know a sheep is going to die, I'll kill it myself rather than know it's suffering. But he's not suffering, he's just old, and killing a sheep is a violent death compared to the one he will have if I just leave him. It's also still cold enough so the flies won't strike him. I expect when I go back next week, he'll be in the same spot, only this time not sleeping.
To die asleep in the sunshine is the kind of death I would wish for him.
Fumes dying is the end of an era for me. Last winter it was the Whale of Woodburn Drive, this summer it was Giant George, now Fumes. These three are all sheep I've had 5-year relationships with, and all three were the kind of characters that stay in your mind. And yes, I did shed some tears while checking the others and filling the troughs.
I am a sop.
And then off I went to Mum's house, this time to sort out the things for the dump from the things that will be donated to the Hospice shop. I arrived to find a note on the door saying "Please replace my letterbox that you knocked over on *date I wasn't there*" and a phone number. So I called the number and said "Hey, nobody lives here, pretty sure you have the wrong people." Fifteen minutes later the neighbour turned up.
Suzanne is the sort of woman that makes you want to avoid her because she never has anything nice to say. Mum's introduction to her was when Seka jumped in her window and vomited on her bed and Suzanne came over to complain - and the relationship never really recovered from that. So it turns out that the people who bought grist's car took out the letterbox on the way out, then drove off*.
I hummed and harred, then suggested that I could see if grist had their number so she could get hold of them about it. She said that since it happened on my property, I should replace the letterbox (the letterbox is on the other side of a shared driveway from our house). I stopped her there and said "Hey, it wasn't my car, I don't know these people and this is nothing to do with me. I'm trying to help you and I can *repeat my suggestion*."
To which she responded "Not good enough" and stormed off. *shrug* Suit yourself. What an unpleasant woman. And it turns out grist didn't keep the guy's number anyway, so she's plumb out of luck. I feel for her in that I wouldn't like to have my letterbox taken out in a hit and run, but I'm not going to fix what someone else did on their behalf, and I'm not going to allow her to make me responsible either.
And then I gathered together the things Mum made, and sorted out gifts to deliver to her friends. At Sheila's house, her old dog Seamus (also 14) greeted me at the door, and Sheila (who knew I was coming) had been crying. She had been trying to write a card to place in the front of the books we donated to the Embroiderer's Guild library on Mum's behalf, and it had upset her. When I gave her the table centrepiece in hardanger that I'd chosen for her, she whipped her old one off and immediately put Mum's one in pride of place on her beautiful table, resplendent with a vase of daphne (Mum's favourite flower). Mum didn't quite live to see the daphne flower this year, and this made me sniffle some.
We sat down together and wrote the card, which she will reproduce since she's a very talented cardmaker, to place in all the books so people will remember Mum when they borrow them, then we spent some time reminiscing. Sheila still wears her wedding rings, I noticed. It was lovely, and sad, and in combination with the Fumes thing, the unpleasantness with Suzanne, and the trawling through Mum's stuff and psyching myself for dumping some of it, it was all a bit much. I had a good sob on the way home.
I guess eventually I'll stop feeling quite so emotional about Mum, but not today.
And at home, it's still a stunningly beautiful day. I'm gonna do some washing, unload the car, and mow the lawn. I might trim the hedge. It's a day for pastoral pastimes, and I'm up for some doing-without-thinking now.
* At least that's what Suzanne says. I wouldn't put it past her to have done it herself and then tried to pin it on these people and us.