Relief and pain and family trauma

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.


Journey to Work

The iced land opened up before me at the road end. Whitened earth stretched out to dark hills in the distance. Hoary sandstone seams are a running stitch, hemming field boundaries and retaining muffled, shifting sheep.

As I advanced into the veiled land, still, silent cattle loomed from road edges, breathing smoke plumes into the frosted air.

There is the surprise of a sandstone farmhouse nested in the crook of a land fold. Shrouded, lightly.

And then a spectral wall of cloud, fallen to earth, has consumed house windows and doors, church hall walls, has eaten the penitentiary.

The spire rises above with a stark bleak clarity.

To my right and the south I sense the reassuring omniscience of Tinto – pre-history pointing still to the sky and tying us to this earth. On the Hill Fort, buffering mists reveal shadowy mesolithic ancestors working prized pitchstone into bewitching tools and carrying a horn of fire up the ritual path.

To my left and in front, lies Wolfclyde and the Coulter Motte. Its settler farmers carving their new life in royally gifted land and building. Recent. They speak to me in a Flemish tongue bringing new trade.

But there are the neolith field barrows, tumulus rising like slumbering giants before me. Unfolding and furling again as I pass at increasing speed.

The land is a cradle and a grave. It is food and shelter, sustenance and death. It is my womb and my home and I will turn my flesh into its folds, one day.

Until then, there is the journey. The daily grind of the city, and of work and of money, to be fought. There are the little joys to be won. The smell of Ana’s wind-blown hair and the earthy odours of the pleasure she took in that new football strip; a smile and kiss; the promise of living, replete.

another lesson learned

It’s been a very intense couple of weeks for me. Consuming energy and attention. Causing pain. And reflection.

From home to work; to children, parents, friends…there’s not a corner left untouched by some change. Turns out I’m no multi-tasker when it comes to multiple change on multiple fronts.
There seems to be a pause in the proceedings. A lull. Or maybe it’s just that I have reoriented myself and can now deal with all that’s happened.

Maybe now I am beginning the learning.
That is what’s meant to happen, isn’t it? Apres la deluge comes renewal?
Last week I was despairing.
Now? Well, I say ‘bring it on’. Nothing worse than simply drifting through life. In fact I think what I did most of the time was life lived as somnambulism. I’d curiously immunised myself against feeling or acting. Supreme arrogance to think I could inoculate me from life!
There’s nowt wrong with self-protection of course. We all need a healthy dose of common sense and caution. But self-protection which prevents us from experiencing and living and from even just the opportunity of emotion (happiness or sadness)- that’s destructive.
I know I am alive when I still feel. And when that galvanises me to act.
You can’t wipe out the past. Take back words said. Change the diagnosis of a friend. Fix what is beyond your ‘fixing’. I can’t help my daughter until she realises she needs help. I can’t heal my father or mother. Nor love where there is no love. I can’t do any of that. But I can make sure that I don’t squander time – that my vision is clear, uncluttered, as free as it can be of those things which shouldn’t matter to me.