Sunday, 27 May 2012

Right Where I Am: 3 years, 8 months, 27 days

Last year, I hesitated. Between her birthday and the day that she died. This year, I don't. Today, it seems to be the death that is the more significant date, the 29th of August 2008.


One of my colleagues left work yesterday. Off to pastures new. He had the traditional British leaving do, a night at the pub followed by a curry.

I would have gone. I have enjoyed working with this competent, cheerful young man. I wish him well.

I explain to my husband. That I would have gone.  If circumstances had been otherwise.

'Why didn't you?' he asks.

Because I would have had a couple of beers. And then, inevitably, I would have got maudlin and melancholy. To be honest, I often get that way even without the assistance of beer. So I'm better in my inverse. A relief in my absence. As I often am these days.

And he doesn't contradict or reassure me. That it's ok. That I'm still good fun.
Because we would both know that would be a lie.

Right where I am, I'm not good fun. I suspect I won't be again. Too sensitive, exposed nerve endings trailing from my finger tips. 


It has been a beautiful, sunny day here. The green, lush trees and grass of the UK contrasted against the unexpected blue of a cloudless sky. The children splashed in the paddling pool (filled via bucket because of the hose pipe ban. Before you all dob me in to the authorities and get me a £1,000 fine for using a hose pipe. Bucket. I promise. M'kay?) The air smells of the boys next door's cigarette smoke and long ago teenage music festivals and someone in our neighbourhood sings Happy Birthday over a megaphone. I wonder if that is ironic given my reading matter but decide that I'm not clever enough to make that call. One of those words that the ill-educated probably shouldn't use.

I've been dipping in and out of the other posts here over the course of the day. Amidst the heat and the pool and the sharp sunlight. Reapplications of sun screen. Requests for juice. The removal of stones from Reuben's gummy jaws. I disappear from the garden, becoming only an echo in the wires. Visiting with my first child. I emerge with reddened eyes.

Although, even as I read, I'm aware that I am doing all of you an injustice.
Reading your words but unable to give them the full appreciation they deserve, that your children deserve.
Because surely I should stop, over every post. I should pray.
Or make something. With golden wires and intricate turning parts. Or carved from plain stone and smooth driftwood.
Or perhaps I should destroy something. Burnt offerings, smashed crockery.
A ceremony, a ritual, a mark, to make a mark upon the earth. That vain human wish.

I try to absorb all the details, the stories, the photographs, the love. I raise a fist to the sky (not literally as I am overlooked in my back garden and I'm too English for fist waving under the possibly observing eyes of my neighbours) and I cry. But what I leave with, is the love. It is the love that reddens my eyes. It is the love that makes me feel that surely all of this cannot be contained, cannot be entirely in vain, that our love reaches them, that it finds them. Because it seems to stream out of my computer screen, into this garden in the English suburbs. Where the sun is shining and a woman is crying quietly, so as not to draw attention to herself. Some peculiar and sad magic, bringing all that love into this small patch of ground, to this nondescript woman sitting on her square of lawn.

I'm relatively old here, in this corner of blog world. It is the love that keeps me here. For those achingly brief children of ours. The love that at once rips at the skin over my heart and wraps me up in the embrace that should have been theirs.

The love I have for my own daughter. A love that has no doubts, no reservations, no fears. So unlike the rest of my life. I doubt everything now, from my choice of sandwich filling to these words on the screen. I doubt myself, the bundle of failings and guilt that I so often seem to be.

But not her. Never her. There is no room for doubt when love and death follow so hard upon the heels of one another. It's now or never. And today I am reminded. Of that fearless, strong love. It runs through my readings of this project like a strong, steel wire at the core.

I still seem to need to witness, to listen, to echo. To, as Sally wrote so perfectly in a recent comment, to pay my respects. So here I am. Right here. Reading blog posts in this corner of the internet. Today. 3 years, 8 months and 27 days later.

Join in here

I've posted this song before but it is where I am, again, today.
Watching the flares travelling down the wires.

Some moments last forever but some flare out with love, love, love

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Wise old owl

He seems like a nice chap. Wiry with gold rimmed glasses.

This is a relief as I do not much like asking for help.

He leans forward.

"So this was . . . when? When did you say? 2008?"

He taps his pen against his teeth and I look out of the window. It's raining.

"Well," he says, "when something awful happens, we have two choices. When soldiers come back from a war, some of them need to talk about it, some of them need to not talk about it. They only need to forget. What you need to do is to figure out which one of those two types of people you are. Talking or forgetting."

He looks over in a kindly fashion, as though I am a child. And maybe I am.
Perplexed over a book with no pictures or conversations in it.
Being the writing type is not mentioned.

"When your son died, something awful happened. And then, of course, your daughter was gravely ill for a very long time. It must have been very difficult."

The room spins slightly as my son dies.
But I only manage a small, squeezed, "yes."

It wasn't only awful, I want to tell him. It isn't the awfulness alone that keeps me pinned there. Awfulness doesn't keep me awake at night. Everything does. Love and curiosity and bafflement and worry and wonder and the need to take a long hard stare at the blackness.

If it had been only awful, I'd be the first in line for forgetfulness, for muteness.

But I don't. Because it would take too long to explain.

I just don't know. I no longer have any idea how to help myself. I thought that I was helping myself. I write about joy and happiness and I'm not lying. They are back, where I never, ever thought that they would be. But the thing with writing is that I have a tendency to reach right around with my long wordy arm and stab myself in the back.

There's a reason I work with numbers. Less potential for knifing. Particularly for impaling yourself. Nobody ever took their own eye out with a number 8, no sharp edges you see. You'd think you could stab yourself in the heart with a 4, but you can't. I've tried, he's too blunt despite his pointy appearance. But words, words are a different and a far more slippery matter.

Is that all I've done? Is that all I've achieved? All these hours crying in front of this computer? Although it's been so long that 'this' computer is, in fact, two different pieces of hardware.
Trying to trap her here with words. Trying to reach her with words. Because, as far as I know, nobody has ever yet managed to reach the dead with words. Shakespeare? Nope. Dickens? Nope. Murdoch? Nope. Atwood? Nope. Updike? Nope. H.D.? Nope. Even my dear MacNeice? Nope. Every Booker Prize-Nobel-Pulitzer winning author ever? Nope. Although you feel certain that they could, that they should. If this world happened to make any sense whatsoever.

She does not answer for them, my dear Georgina. Not matter what I read with tears streaming down my face. So, let's face it, she is not going to answer to my stumbling fumblings.
But the stubbornness in me won't give up. I'm more stubborn about this writing than I ever was back in 2008, when they floated the idea of withdrawing intensive care. Because I crumbled then. Before he did. Is it any wonder I'm a little stuck back there? The weak point.

Am I holding her up for witnesses when she was meant to be private and quiet? Dignified. Small and dry. Not this gushing on and on and on and on of emotion. Not for my sea rose daughter. Sparse. Bony. Too early to be the pudgy, chubby baby that I dreamt of.
Words that came to mean too much to me, that made me believe that they were her.
When they aren't. They are less than nothing. Just dust. From dust, to pixels, to dust.

As a teenager I longed for Dick Diver-like repose, for grace, for self containment, self restraint.
To be someone less messy, less garrulous, less of an embarrassment.
So I try. I try to keep the corners neatly folded, to keep everything tidy and small.
Gracious. Kindly.

But give me a keyboard and I can't seem to shut up.
Splurging, binging on all that I can't say during working hours.
Or to my husband.
Or to a three year old and a one year old.
And the fact that I'm still, actually, very sad.

I'm very, very sad that Georgina died. But not only sad.
Really, I could delete all of this rambling and just replace this blog with the previous two sentences.
If it wasn't for her, I wouldn't be here.
I wouldn't be trying to do something that I am ill, ill-equipped to do.

Perhaps I am the forgetting kind.
It wouldn't surprise me to find that I've misunderstood myself all along.
Perhaps I am the kind that is supposed to just shut the hell up.
To make like an owl.
A wise old owl.

A wise old owl sat in an oak,
The more he heard, the less he spoke.
The less he spoke, the more he heard,
Why aren't we all like that wise old bird?

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Good morning

Good morning son.

Today you are one.

Sometimes I am full of regrets when I look at your sweet face.
With your smile that seems to extend to the very tips of your hair.
With your four teeth boldly poking out.

I wish that I could remember being pregnant with you, that I could look back fondly on that time. Reading to you, singing to you, rubbing my belly with anticipation and hope. But I didn't. I look back to that time and try to remember how I felt when you were kicking around inside. But all I can come up with is a deep, black blank and a feeling of disbelief. I fear you were ignored. Surrounded by sugar and anxiety.

I wish that your birth had been different. That I hadn't been so frightened.
But it was only the start. A bit of screaming at the start never hurt anyone.

I think that the first word I ever said to you was, "hello."
I don't know. I can't remember. It has slipped away like your uncompleted baby book.
Because I couldn't start yours until I had finished your sister's.
And hers still sits there. With only one page filled out.
And yours is a blank.

At times I wish I had written more about you here. Your other sister's bizarre baby book disguised as a blog. If you ever find this place when you are older, will you count the words that are yours and feel slighted? But I don't have to love you in halting prose, full of insecurities and potential hurts.

I will never forget how happy I was to see you.
Your sweet face. Which is just as sweet now.
Although I did not yet know about the smile that would extend to the very tips of your hair.
Or how boldly your teeth would poke out.

And if wishes were horses, beggars would ride.
I could wish that I had enjoyed this first year more. I could wish for so many, many things.
Two big sisters instead of only one.
A better mother.
A crown.
A pony.
Chocolate buttons that wouldn't give you rotten teeth.
Anything and everything.
I could wish that the world noted my wishes.

Now is not the time for wishes and regrets.
Some things are better left alone.
Now is the time for smiles and teeth and boldness and hair.
Hair that seems to smile.
Four bold teeth.

Good morning son.

Today you are one.

I love you.

Twenty years from now, maybe we'll both sit down and have a few beers.

I do hope so. Because I can't quite give up wishing altogether. Where would I be?