Porn dye

After dad was diagnosed with leukaemia he stayed in hospital for five weeks before being allowed home for a twelve day mini break. Intensive chemotherapy, tests galore, lots and lots of drugs, horrible side effects. At the same time, mum was still very poorly recovering at home from her nephrectomy, (have added this to my personal vocab list: nephro = kidney, ectomy = removal) following her kidney cancer. Dad was a haematology prisoner and mum was housebound. My sisters and I took it in turns to visit dad and to live with mum, to care for her and the house and to try to keep the garden and greenhouse alive.

Life became pretty crazy. With the day to dayness of visiting dad, being with mum, going to work, looking after our own families – we became an impressively organised sister machine. Needless to say, the emotional weariness of the situation was extreme. Tears were a part of the every day. Just in a fairly normal conversation they would leak out, unbidden and heaven help us if there was a hint of a slightly sad sentence in ‘Neighbours’! We were living on the edge – of reality, of hysteria… something.

On the cat shaped chalk board hanging on the wall in mum and dad’s kitchen we would jot down anything that cropped up day to day that needed to be bought. Bananas, bleach (Number Three’s favourite – she is rather partial to the smell of its germ killing properties), toothpaste and so on. I was cleaning up in the kitchen one day and looked across at the shopping list on the cat board. Tissues, prune juice, porn dye… I guffawed out loud. What the hell was porn dye? Two words that, combined, were fairly nonsensical. Certainly not a pairing one would expect to find on a cat shaped black board in one’s parents’ kitchen.  The ‘you’ve been Tango’d’ advert came to mind. A succession of naked bodies, mostly in various shades of orange, flittered though my head. I looked more closely at the cat. It was Number Three’s handwriting. Generally bad, but written with an oversized chalk and in a hurry, worse than usual. I stared confusedly at the words.

Ah! Porridge.

porn-dye

We left porn dye on the chalkboard, even when we rubbed out the other items, once bought. New lists came and went, but Number Three’s porridge cypher remained. Whenever we felt teary in the 24/7 of worry and care, we would often pop into the kitchen for a look at porn dye. It was a small snigger in the never ending gloom and uncertainty of daily life.

As time went on mum’s health gradually improved, enabling her to do a little more each week. One day, when chalking the latest necessities on the cat, I paused mid scrawl, distracted by a decidedly odd looking porn dye. I caught mum’s eye. She confessed that when rubbing out the last shopping list she had inadvertently erased porn dye. She had re-written it, trying to emulate Number Three’s terrible writing. A very bad forgery. Better no porn dye than fake porn dye.

We don’t need it anymore. It was written in the first weeks of dad’s hospital stay, when everything was blacker than black and mum was still so poorly too. That it was mum who rubbed it out was very fitting, I think. Porn dye makes me think of Nanny McPhee: “When you need me but do not want me, then I must stay. When you want me but no longer need me, then I have to go.” That said, porridge oats are still referred to within the family as porn dye.

 

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