Archives for the month of: November, 2011

Nine months have passed for the Earth

Sometime around 4 a.m I tried to find my jeans in the dark

Sometime around 6 a.m I made notes for you and watched the dawn force itself from night

Sometime around 10 a.m I stumble trip, stumble tripped  from the bus to a side room

Sometime around 3 p.m I talked to my boss before rushing to school

Sometime around 6 p.m we tried to do hangman while a nurse flurry bottlenecked the bedside

Sometime around 11 p.m we followed the bed upstairs and laughed at my Mr Bump icepack

Sometime around Friday morning I heard the noises as they fetched the nightstaff

Sometime around Friday I told Dad where the new lunch box was and noticed the weave on the blanket

Sometime around Friday afternoon I met the first of the faces and felt I was being managed

Sometime around 5 p.m I returned after only just getting home to Mum’s expression on the doorstep

Sometime around 6 p.m I sat by the faded flower mural for 45 minutes. In the desolate endless empty cold corridor next to our friend who silently studied his gardener’s hands

Sometime around later the nurse looked down at me saying  ‘he’s very ill isn’t he?’ and I experienced the first of the violent thoughts

Sometime around the evening I followed them to a private office. I watched the slow moving mouths down the wrong end of the telescope

Sometime after when gravity had tripled I shuffled the weight of my leaden legs to the lift

Sometime around 9 p.m I tried to make my voice work to your sister in law whose inhumanity ran free

Sometime on Saturday morning I looked at charts and sat in the orange relatives room. I pressed my head against the glass and watched the reflections of the outside world

Sometime around the afternoon I picked up our son from friends. Their natural garden wound round the doorframe like the crawling bindweed anxiety choking up through me

Sometime around Saturday evening I spoke to your friend as I stared through the debris on the bedside table

Sometime around early Sunday I avoided eye contact with Mum as they drove off. I hung onto your brother for a comfort I couldn’t get. The settee was too low and too soft, his voice a reminder, your rage searing through me, destroying, eating me up from the inside out just as it did to you

Sometime later I misplaced another small bottle of water as I swayed my way past the mural

Sometime in the afternoon I had minutes at home before our son came back. I noticed the TV and felt the raw pain tear up in my throat while my heart thundered and contracted before the doorbell broke through

Sometime around 4 p.m she didn’t know what to say like she didn’t when I first met her and everything was awkward

Sometime around the night I looked up at the rainbow you painted on our sons wall. The eyes in the letter O’s of  ‘My Room’ smiled down at me and I listened to his breathing

Sometime around Monday I listened to your brother spout on about his shiny new mini. The grotesque  carpark abyss, anchored weighted grey and cold in the relentless rain while my feet wouldn’t work

Sometime around the evening I looked at the images you couldn’t see. The narrow room of steely cabinets filed away our life as we sipped icy water

Sometime around the Tuesday car journey your Dad squeezed my shoulder as I replayed your chat on the doorstep

Sometime around afternoon I existed by your brother as our son played with the bead frame counting off the hard wooden seconds

Sometime around then I laboured with the time and the inclination

Sometime around later I gave the coffee back to her as she knelt by me with that expression

Sometime  around that moment their voices wouldn’t fade

Sometime around the evening they pushed me beyond the peeling mural to the relatives room, wheels squeaking on the sanitized floor.

Sometime after they bought me cardboard sandwiches. A pointless platter for my carcass

Nine months ago

I walked through the door, down the hall.  I dropped down close to him on the softness, I sat in my usual place and our son sat in yours. I took his hand and turned to face him.

xx

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I am aware that it’s colder today. Sat on my bench, can’t see the cathedral in the distance, its hiding in the fog. The bench is cold beneath me and the wind chills my face.

The crows are still around, their caws punctuating my thoughts. I feel alone and protected  at the same time. The hills and clouds and mist roll into one and I’m not sure where I am. Am I back on that other hill with his Mum before she was ill? Smiling into the wind holding my ears to shield them from the biting Northern blasts. That Christmas when I had a secret which I told him on Millenium Eve.

And this coldness brings it all back and I know I can’t sit here for much longer. And the cold wind makes my eyes run into the tears and it feels good.  This morning I like feeling too cold, Is it reminding me I’m still here?

For months I dressed inappropriately. Strappy T-shirt under short-sleeved top, vaguely aware that they were all in hats, coats and scarves. Vaguely aware of a sensation on my arms, defiantly walking through it, weather was irrelevant. I know I am still here now, I am cold. I want to look pale and thin, I want them to notice I look different. This change in me doesn’t come from ‘being a bit sad now and then’, it is gouged out by endless hours of anguish and sorrow, like the sea carving a landscape. It’s the chipping and gnawing away, the wearing down till all that’s left is a scarred kernel of who I was. My ears are starting to ache in the cold. I really need to be wandering in a long dark velvet dress under a black cape with a deep red lining. I should be on the barren moors somewhere but my Hampshire field serves the purpose well and my coat is sufficiently black and swirly.

Right now I am here, I am there, I am then and I am now. I feel the seeping in of winter and the familiar comfort of pain. I know I still exist.

This morning looked like any other as we drifted up to school but we both knew it was different.  He was quite happy about it while I resolutely wrestled with collection of feelings. Now in the final year of Primary, we had spent many months negotiating and moving as his needs changed and I accepted that despite my excuses and reasons, he could walk back part of the way himself. The process started last year, in the old world, as we agreed  staggered pick up points down to the big busy island where I would meet him in Year 6.

When February descended upon us, I reeled it in a little, with hindsight probably more for my benefit than his.  An attempt at normality was essential for him regardless of any torture I felt. For a while I stood my post at the designated spots and nodded weakly at the clumsy, the awkward, the genuine and the pitying glances and words.

And although he had announced he wanted to be met at the island for all of the final year, I sadly (for me) predicted it wouldn’t last once he saw others being given more scope. So last week it was agreed, though we kind of walk up together (as I go that way for my morning walk across the fields) from today, in fact in half an hour as I write, he will walk all the way home for the very first time.  Strategies are firmly in place regarding road crossing, and he will be fine, in fact it will probably start the evening off on a better footing as he’ll be feeling so grown up and not grumpy. We laughed about it this morning as I told him I couldn’t wait to hear the doorbell and in fact would probably climb up on the roof and sit there with a telescope – if I had one…or could climb. He knows to expect a squealy excitable Mummy “my baby’s back!” and now I’ve accepted it, I genuinely see it as a good thing.

My husband would be so pleased. I was often moaned at for holding too tight. I knew as well as he did that closeness comes from letting go and resistance is destructive. So many tales of ‘At his age’  he was roaming the forests with his best friend, pockets full of conkers, scuffed knees and shoes and not a mobile phone is sight. Knowing is one thing – doing is an entirely different creature. But today all the understanding of this essential phase only serves to underline how my world has changed. The day has had a constant film running in the background of images from babyhood and beginnings to toddlers, tears and so many trains (me and my husband ‘just testing them out’ on the kitchen floor late at night before wrapping them up for his third birthday) and the first day at school with my husband’s puzzled expression at my sadness, when to his mind, the Reception class was no different to playgroup. He didn’t get the fact it was the end of five years of full-time Mummying and the start of a slow lengthening of the cord.

So tonight in our ‘new normal’ it will just be me jumping up and down when he proudly returns and no Daddy praise later nor teasing me about how on earth will I cope when he leaves home? We talked about that a while back, (well probably nearly a year ago in chronological time, but it feels more recent,) and we pondered over how different it would be without him in the house…..and now that prospect is a little weird, to say the least, because I know that by that time another ten years or so may have passed and our family will have etched itself into a new way of being.

Today everything has such a strange air of unreality again. I am living in someone elses life and she’s just taking it slowly as her world unravels. My head cannot process the fact that here on such a key day, a day a part of me would have really dreaded, I am kind of taking it in my stride. I remember, I mourn, then I inch gently forward and allow it. Another loss. But a transition that in the scheme of things is more bearable – and next year Secondary School, that huge step we’d discussed many times and now I have to do both parts, and pay appropriate attention to it, (though my focus has shifted to just getting through the day,) in my son’s world it is both different and just as big, and maybe in some ways immense. But we have time to work with it, to explore and encourage, to restate and remind him of all that’s important.

We’ll be ok – he’s moving and shifting. He’s changing and so am I.

Neither of us are who we were on that winter’s night when we rushed back to the hospital, with hope and cold fish fingers in his Toy Story lunchbox, trying to find someone who could update us…and then they did. And the coldness edged in, crept stealthily up my spine, into my heart and soul and buried itself  deeply, permanently within me in the look in my sons eyes when I heard someone (apparently me) stammer out the words about what might happen.

The beginning of the end.

In our world the smallest things can have such impact.

An out of the blue text, a friend, a real friend from the old world, who lives miles away would be passing. Was I free? Could we meet? The last time I saw her we visited with our young son to see her new baby and we cooed and compared and remembered the times working together while our husbands struggled to find something in common. Over the years and the miles we have had less contact, life getting in the way like it used to do. I moved again, she had another baby and contact was down to a Christmas card. But we started out together, we volunteered and trained together and we cried and held each other when reality was too much. And somehow it was ok because somehow she was still a close friend, we just didn’t talk that much.

Sometime last year I found her on Facebook and an infrequent catch up began. She was the same person though her world was quite different and earlier this year after reading a book I knew we should talk about I emailed her and promised, really promised that week, one evening , when all the jobs were done I was absolutely positively going to ring.

And then came The Severing. The screaming. The inferno of confusion. The carnage of a life. The crushing terror. The Void…

Some point later, quite early I seem to remember, I sat at the computer. I really didn’t do much else then. I stared vacantly at the Merry Widows website not really close to approaching any thought that this would become my home for months. That a string of letters would be a necessary gateway to a tumble of people who knew, just knew and would be there to hold me. I clicked to Facebook found her and typed. I don’t remember what I said, I’m not going to look back at it, I don’t need to but do I recall the feeling. The desperate longing, the anguished emptiness as I attempted to put some words together which explained why I hadn’t got around to ringing her. I thundered out some garbled reference to what had happened, some wounded hollow cry, a whimper. The horror, the panic … Help me and hit send.

She was there.

She didn’t have my number but reconfirmed her own. And while the endless stream of cartoons bleated out from downstairs I shakily tapped out the digits. She wrapped me up in her voice, the same tones from years ago when she was younger and when I was real. She held me with her words as I retched and gagged out my shock. My son came upstairs to investigate and I tried to capture some breath to say I was ok, just needed to chat to my friend. (What did he feel in those moments? I have such work to do. I have to unravel his story soon…)

She was there.

The years were irrelevant. She had known him, she had her own shock but she cradled me from miles away and bandaged me up in her prayers. I was destroyed yet felt so loved. She couldn’t do anything practical from many counties away, and I didn’t know what I needed anyway. But she could listen, hold and love. She did it in that bleak brutal chasm of a February night and many times since. She put me in contact with another young widow who had travelled further, she sent me a special book and on Friday I got a text. She would be in the area Saturday. I’m writing out these feelings because they overpowered me. I couldn’t wait to see her but I was scared too. I lay quietly in my morning numbness waiting for reality to find its level while the varying veils of distorted dreams started to lift. I hadn’t cried, Then I read the text and sobbed suddenly with fear and understanding that her hug, her real there-in-my-lounge-hug would bring reality. She would come into this house, our house, our home and he’s not here, he’s not here, he’s not here …

And she would come with her love but also her past and mine and all the people we used to be. All of us walking in behind her. The free crazy girl from the Youth Agency in my bikers jacket that he raised an eyebrow over but secretly and not so secretly, liked. The same jacket that he said I shouldn’t wear as a new mother because it was so incongruous. “You can’t push a pram wearing a bikers jacket!” Well, of course I would have done had my back not been so weak that the heavy weight of leather was too much for me.

And she’s would be followed in by The Bride, so excited to see his reaction to the dress I designed and his face at the altar. Then the clambering up the fire escape of the Hotel where we had our Reception, (seemed like a good idea at the time – we left tin-canned and ballooned and they wouldn’t know that we hid round the corner and sneaked back in later,) but I was still in my wedding dress (because the zip had stuck on my Going Away outfit) with my bustle un-bustled because ‘someone’ had managed to tread on the train and accidentally (I’ll give him that,) unhinged the carefully scaffolded creation. So there I was, an unfurling cloud of taffeta, in 4 inch heels, pushing a drunk husband, shh-quietly-shh-gigglingly, up a spiraled staircase. I remember it with such clarity, so frivolous and absurd. He, unsurprisingly had a more veiled recollection due mainly to the large amounts of Southern Comfort consumed to aid delivery of the speech. Even now, here in pain, it still smiles out as one of the outstanding moments of my life.

And she was there in the crowd beforehand, clutching her gift to us. The smooth wooden bowl still sits on his bedside table crammed with essential bits and bobs of life. Its solid carved permanence will outlive me too.

And she visited when I was pregnant, glossy and billowing, full sail in the thin lilac dress. She unpacked her wishes while we tried to catch the baby turning, drank and gossiped, hoped and dreamed. I was full of beached promise and she was full of possibilities, and some time later I leaned on my pushchair full of toddler to take the weight off my aching back while she smiled and stood with flowers in her hair.

And I was worried about seeing them again, who they were and what they bought. But she couldn’t travel alone, so they would be welcomed as much as my friend. I knew them all intimately. Their games and faults and gifts and the intrinsic parts they played.

And then

She was here

She arrived like the sun coming out and all the years and miles were wiped away. And she didn’t do what others do, no ‘it’s ok, come on, you’re doing so well.’ She held me, said ‘let it out’ and I did. And she knew what I needed and she just let me talk. She told me she didn’t know what to say, but she did. The pain tumbled out on her lovely purple coat and we slotted back in with no spaces. And through the tears I almost caught up with her life and saw where time had taken her. And behind us all the girls and women that we were chattered and laughed in their potential. They had it all ahead of them and they couldn’t know. And we sat on the same settee where she bounced my new baby back then but now it was me she cocooned. And I missed all of us and the life in full throttle and there was never enough time and there still wasn’t now. I felt it all layered around me under the weight of the inescapable present. And she reminded me of who I was and I saw how I’d got here. And the love was so strong it countered the transience. Despite it’s fleeting moments the visit burrowed deep beyond the plans and dreams of youth to a permanence of connection. To what lies beneath, to the things that bind us. Through joy and pain, ecstasy and anguish to the very soul of being here: to connect and to love. The hug went on forever but the family had arrived so it was time to go. And as quickly as she came, she went, like a fading rainbow and I tried to hold onto to the moment, straining my eyes to search out her colours. It had been crystal clear, a beautiful refracted light but no matter how hard I stared I could only see the sky.

I called out her name in my hallway and cried for all of us, for the girl who didn’t know, for the woman who did and for me, now and all I’m becoming.

People come into your life for a reason. She underlines it.

This post is for you, you know who you are.

Thank you x