Saturday, 10 August 2013

I had an amazing day last Thursday.
I went on a woodland 'day out' with some amazing people who are recovering from all sorts of things - homelessness, addiction of various kinds, and one of them was recovering from an abusive relationship.  I went in the capacity as a researcher for a project I'm working on, but I got some therapeutic benefit out of it, I'm sure.
There was a campfire, and we pottered around doing woodwork, or just enjoying the woods. There was a stew bubbling over and roast potatoes. Coffee, tea or hot chocolate, and a radio playing music in the background.

It was beautiful, and for some reason, it didn't hurt. I didn't have the sharp cut of feeling, or the dull ache of numbness, that have accompanied more or less constantly over the past few months.  I could just be.
Maybe it's because I was surrounded by people who were also just being after surfacing from a low point (lasting years, not months as in my case).
Maybe it was the woods. Oak trees on all sides, ivy, ferns.
Maybe it was the little tea-light holder I made. First time I held a drill, first time I sanded down a piece of wood.

I felt calm. I stopped thinking so much about what I was feeling. I wasn't spinning, or stagnant. I was fine.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

My Father claimed that one day, he simply decided that he would never cry again. And he never did.

I wonder why he told me this.
I remember him saying it. I was sitting on his lap, my head against his chest, sobbing about something I can't remember now. It was night-time. Only one lamp was on in the living room.
When he said that, I looked up at him, tears temporarily stalled. I remember him smiling at me, but it was not a smile of joy.

My heart convulses with pain when I remember his smiles, his face in pain, his face in repose, his face after he said he loved me, his face angry. His face at rest.
And however much I decide I will not cry, I find myself unable to hold my tears as they run over. 

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

no one is ever ready

Do you watch the White Queen?
I came across it only yesterday (I know - where have I been?)
In the space of an evening, I'd devoured all the episodes online.

There's a scene in there that grabbed my heart and clenched it hard.
As her mother lies dying, the 'White Queen', though she is Queen of England, and a mother herself,suddenly becomes childlike again. Small, vulnerable, afraid. She wants help, she wants to know what her future will be. She begs her mother to stay with her. "I'm not ready" she says, her voice breaking. Her mother smiles at her and says, "No one is ever ready."

No. One. Is. Ever. Ready.

My God. It was so good.

And it is so true. You can't be ready.  You can be readier than completely unprepared. But when it comes to losing those we love, especially a parent, no one is ever ready.
This is healing to hear. It is healing to that little forlorn child who comes upon you, out of nowhere, no matter your age, or how 'together' you are, the one who is panicked and desperate. She tries to bargain for more time saying that she isn't ready. But of course, she never will be. And actually, that's okay.

Monday, 5 August 2013

Ships in the night

A woman said:
She watched her 92 year old father die, slowly, over a week.
And it was "hell."
Seeing him die "crucified me."

(Seen in: A letter to the editor in today's Independent newspaper).


Note to self: Others have seen what I have seen. Some others have seen worse - or much worse.
If you're out there, give me a shout. I need to see you wave your hand, even if you're just passing by. 
What do I love? And how do I know?

Are you parenting a child while going through an illness?
More power to you.  And all my prayers.  I can't imagine how difficult this must be.

Or are you an adult child who has grown up with an ill, older parent?
More power to you.  And all my prayers. I know how difficult this can be.

A tip, if you're the parent:
Don't celebrate every birthday as though it might be your last. Don't load every event with megatonnes of significance because there is a gun to your head (and by extension, your child's head).
It's exhausting.
It dilutes the happiness.
It's not actually all that exclusive, that gun: everyone has it. We forget that sometimes, in families with illness. Everyone is living with the gun. It's always loaded. So chill the fuck out. Relax, cut the cake, smile a lot, hug each other, forget the shadow.

I remember 24 birthdays (mine) when I clung to my Father - either literally or over the phone. My memory does that thing it does when I am sad or scared - it becomes super sharp, and I remember every tone of Happy Birthday darling I ever heard from him. The thing about sharp memories is that even the good ones wound you deeply. There's a reason people don't remember things so sharply. I remember smiles as I cut the cake, but also tears behind my mother's eyes. My mind remembers the smiles. My heart remembers the tears.

And while I completely agree that we need to live life 110%, I also know - really know - that there's a good reason why people seem designed to forget about that loaded gun, that sand slipping through the hourglass.
It's because we need to just be sometimes. We need to think we can live forever. We need to feel invincible a little. We need to make mistakes, waste a little time, take detours, wander. We need to remember a birthday for it's joy, not for being joyful-and-potentially-the-last. 

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Despite being able to come on here every day, several times a day, and spill my guts, I'm surprisingly quiet.
Perhaps being quiet is one of the things that drives people to blog.
My writing here is stream of consciousness. I don't think of topics for posts, and I don't edit. I come on, type and leave. Which, I'm sure, is seriously abusive to you if you're reading this on a regular basis. But seriously healing for me I'd like to hope.
Because we all need to spill our guts sometimes, right?

In my 'real' life, I have fewer and fewer words, and none at all to talk about my Father, or family, or what happened.

I wish it wasn't like this, because I feel like I want to be heard.
I want to hear Yes I know. Or me too. Most of all I want to hear: You're fine. It's fine. I get it. 

Here is what I do not want to hear.
Childishly, I blame the following sentences for shutting me up over the past few months.
Things like:

He's here with you.
Be strong for you Mother.
You're the Elder one. You're in charge now. You must be strong and responsible.
He's in a better place.
If you do this, what will your Mother do? She needs you.
He sent me a sign! Yay!
Everyone goes through this.
You're very strong.
You're doing amazingly well.
You dealt with it (past tense) really well. We're all very proud of you.
I'm so proud of you.
You never complain. That's amazing.

I'm sure each of these platitudes has comforted other people in the past, because that's why they're still used. Right?
I must be an exception, because all they do to me is make me feel gagged.

What if I am not actually strong enough, wise enough, good enough, to live a human life (without the guidance of my Father) 

What if it's all too good to be true and, like my worst fears whispered to me, my Mother's grief makes a spectacular and overwhelming resurgence and she dies?  

What if my Father thought I was a negligent daughter?What if he meant it when he called me selfish? 

What if I am, in fact, selfish in the worst possible way, or just plain evil, for having thought the thoughts I thought, and felt the feelings I felt when he was sick? 

What if I am not capable of feeling just one pure emotion at a time - sadness unclouded by anger, relief, remorse and guilt; happiness unclouded by guilt; anger unclouded by guilt. What if I'm just damaged or broken? 

What if I get cancer - because I smoked, or because I didn't say certain things, or because I felt things I didn't let out (does blogging count? I don't think so). 

And here comes the self-involved neurosis.  8:30pm sharp, every evening.  Ugh. 
My sister and I had a long talk about who should be in the hospital room when my Father died.
I could not bear the idea that he'd be alone.  For a week, he slipped in and out of the 'edge', and we couldn't stay by his bedside 24/7. So we started taking it in turns, and I stayed as long as I could at night. 
Given his status (senior, highly respected surgeon), we were allowed special dispensation to stay in the ICU with him at night as long as we were super quiet. I sat with my cheek against his hand, drifting in and out of sleep, for as long as I could every night. People came in and out, to change his position, to administer a drug, to check his vitals. 

One night, he seemed to be coming 'to', and fighting the ventilator. 
If you haven't seen a loved one coming to and fighting his ventilator, I pray you never have to. 
If you have, I pray you can forget the sight. I pray that it is possible to forget it.  

A nurse came in and on the instruction of the presiding doctor, gave my Father a syringefull of morphine.  I sort of intuited that when you give a syringefull of morphine to someone in that condition, it is possible that their heartrate will drop, and maybe not recover.  I maintained eye contact with the nurse the whole time, and he maintained eye contact with me.  I would have given away everything that is mine to give, in that moment when my Father was struggling. Anything to make him either come to completely, or sink back quickly, anything to stop his distress.
In the event, all I had to give, I gave back with my eyes. Before the syringe was half empty, the struggling stopped and everything was calm again. Pulse 60, BP normal, oxgen saturation almost normal. 

As the nurse left the room, he squeezed my shoulder.  The room was darkened, and his face was dark, but if I see him again, in a crowd of thousands, a thousand years later, I will remember him.