Winter 2011 #9
I didn’t write last week. Lots of interesting thoughts were jotted down, ready to go, but nothing was close to honest beside the singular truth that my mother was dying, and I wasn’t ready to write about that.
Am I ready now? “It wasn’t time for her to go”, a friend once said to me with moist eyes; adding words I have not forgotten, “There is never a right time to lose your mum”. Right for Mum, perhaps, and in time it might be right for all of us; but today it is wrong. Today I need to open memories, fondle the texture of sights and sounds from all the years, and fold them away for another day. I am still wondering where part of me has suddenly gone, a dislocation, an amputation.
I am wondering, also, how to utter this grief. I’m a talker; not garrulous or even florid (as far as I know!), but I have always talked a thing through in order to find its core. A mathematics equation at school often fell into its obvious solution while I explained my attempt to a fellow student. A crossword blank will sometimes jump out in the very moment that you read aloud the clue. And on any day when my world seems dark, a conversation with a friend – a conversation about anything at all – has always seemed enough to brighten the sky. I need some banter, a chat, just a moment to tell someone how I feel; how well my family is dealing with the news, how proud I am of my own father. I’d like to reminisce out loud, to recall the incomparable aromas of my mother’s kitchen, revisit the safety of childhood adventure, embrace – in words at least – my Mum who kept us safe, and talk about the one I dearly miss. Instead I have this sterile, Helvetica vocabulary of keyboard phrases and the odd whispered thought. If grief is a passage, I am wedged between its walls; trapped, unable to gain traction and establish my gait. Wordless emotions are lying at bay, itching to emerge, hungering for their cathartic declaration; but their moment will not come. How do you process grief without giving voice?
My father, however, amazes me. He has set the standard in saying farewell in love. He has stayed completely at his post, a helmsman of the family ship, steering unerringly to safe harbour with warmth and humour and stamina and great courage. Our much-loved cousin found words to capture his spirit…