There are no words sufficient to the task. My child is alive. Fear has eaten this week. Fear and rage and a dense, deep, bitterest despair that drums in your ears and throat; that burdens every breath.
He is alive. When we thought he had died. Thought he still would die.
This is how it happens. How quiet ordinary lives cross over on an early sleepy Sunday morning. How a thudding door opens to policemen with words of pain and darkness that sleep’s confusion cannot process to meaning. How a car journey to Accident and Emergency passes without memory of road or place – but only of how I cannot get wheels to turn fast enough. Of the ashen aged look of my husband’s face. Of the fear in us. Bleak and black. How the ticking clock thrums and how every passing minute where there is no news from the ambulance or paramedics or the nurses or doctors is filled with the fear of loss. Unspeakable hideous incomprehensible loss.
And then of my beautiful gentle son gradually returning to himself and us. Broken. But here. Blown pupils a black pool of intoxication and of relief and remorse and dark sorrow.
We have all suffered. His brothers and sisters. His grandparents. The traumatised friends who witnessed his descent into hell and who stopped his fall with brutal restraint and emergency calls.
But yesterday, into that space, bleak, numbing relief had squatted, there was, too, a deepening realisation of our inter-dependency; of love; of the reasons we have to give thanks and to be grateful. And – from all of us – this desire to be close together – to hug one another tight.
There are painful words to be spoken in the days ahead. Tears are only now beginning to flow.
For me – I remain filled with fear – of what the ringing phone will bring; of Lewis’ speeding car on dangerous roads; of Megan walking alone at night in the city; of Jamie late home from a friends; of Ana running and playing along the river. This reminder of what can happen – of what does happen – to ordinary families and ordinary mothers and fathers – it has punched a deep hole in the taken-for-granted everydayness that sanity and equilibrium rely upon.
But this too shall pass.
All it takes is a slight rise to her eyebrow or an intentional silence when all around are full of praise.
She is my hairshirt and my best support. My walking, talking conscience. My critical inner (and oh! so outer!) voice.
She does a fine line in what she euphemistically describes ‘constructive criticism’ – really a justification for unbridled ripping apart of your subject… and yet, when I need it most she comes up trumps. Loves me despite the haircut she doesn’t like (patently, silently, with only a ‘well, there’s only two weeks between a bad cut and a good cut‘ type of comment); despite the fact that I had ‘too many‘ children (only the second of which she truly would have sent back when he was a toddler); despite the fact that two undergraduate degrees and a post-grad have bought me nothing but clever public service penury; despite the fact that I never wear colour (but you look so much younger in green); that I shaved my head when I was a punk teenager (ohmigod get away from me – you’re not my daughter); that I defy and challenge.
I am told by my 18yr old that I do my own version of this to her. But I really don’t believe that at all.
Anyway, three weeks ago mother was called up for jury duty – and the trial began yesterday. She donned her finery and travelled into the High Court to become one of the randomly chosen fifteen.
She’s taking the duty not to discuss the case very seriously – well, more seriously than I thought she possibly could. So, rather than simply splurge the details all in one go – she drip feeds us tantalising little snippets… ‘two deaths’ ‘under the influence of drugs whilst driving a car’ ‘looked spaced out and fell asleep in court’… Wonderful.
The defence lawyer is a man I know of (friend of a friend – Scotland’s small). Pity the poor prosecutor whom my mother describes as ‘a bit drippy and useless’ or ‘not very good’ and as an aside ‘I hope you’re better than that’ (no pressure then Mum). Yet she is absolutely absorbed in it. Years of watching Rumpole and Crown Court have prepared her for this moment.
And though she has a complete intolerance of all things illegal-drug related (part of the indictment apparently), she is taking this necessity of objectivity and ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ very seriously indeed.
With a little bit of luck this accused will avoid the automatic and adverse judgement that us mothers are obviously so prone to…