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.


Excerpt from "The Mother, Lover, Wife" (working title)

When he fell silent, removing his company and contact, she would twist and turn in a noose made of the shards of remembered words, the barbs of snatched moments, sharp fragments of hopes never realised. She would hold her breath. Put living to one side and the world would contract, diminish, dim. She would be in that state of suspended watchfulness, waiting for his word.

And often then she would reproach herself. How had this thing happened? And then at times she felt the anger rise and she would resolve again to forget him and to shake off the madness of wanting him, wanting to hear his voice and feel his hands, to burnish with her eyes the velvet of his neck and his bitten nails and the creases at his bright eyes.

She would ignore the texts and emails and avoid meetings. She would plunge into a frenzy of outings. Refuse thoughts of him space in the clutter of her mind. She would fill up time with others. Until she would sit one night looking into a mirror, searching her own face for signs of meaning. For without him it was all just nothing. Just so much noise and fury. Without him – the hope of him – she was living and breathing a husk of life.

And then she would succumb and send him a sentence where are you? speak to me. And he would. He would. And it would begin again. 

He would speak of the way in which she called to him out of the silence he had enforced upon them or that she had enforced upon them. He would say it could not be. But would answer Nay to her offer again of total withdrawal. And she would be pained with the relief which his refusal to consider banishing her would ignite.

There was no sense to it. Whilst she hoped, she knew it was hopeless. And he insisted it was hopeless and yet did not want to let go. That their lives were at different stages. That others depended upon them. Either selfishness or, paradoxically, selflessness or even cowardice – the horror of hurting other loved ones, or of being judged and found wanting, or of committing to a different path this late in life – all of these things were the bricks of the wall that surrounded them and kept them from the light of day. And yet it went on.

(excerpt from a longer piece I am working on).

Small things

Love resides in the small things, the little details. In the bend of an elbow. The surprise vulnerability of a delicate wrist. In the curiously unique pigmentation of iris. In the musicality of word and voice. It resides in the quirks of square palms and bitten nails. It is a hidden in the folds of a shirt or velvety softness of a neck. And in an accidental upturned collar.

Love delights in the gradual revelation of the beloved. It seduces with sudden illumination: the previously familiar and known suddenly become a vehicle of piercing beauty; reminding of how much there is yet to uncover and of how much there is to be grateful for. The years of knowing and discovering become nothing; the future beckoning with promise of that which is yet to be revealed.

Just when I think ‘I know’, I realise that I don’t. That love is indefinable. No pinned butterfly in the collector’s case. Offering no explanations, giving no surety of return, promising nothing.

Rather it revels in unknowingness and demands unconditional surrender. It is the mystery in all of us. Rightfully evading our measure and yet having the full measure of us.