Inside this waiting game lie many stumblers and many graces. In my art lessons I learned there were only 3 Graces – rather glorious looking women in long frocks and with bare feet, all looking like nothing ever broke them or interrupted their gentle dance. I know different now. Even back then I reckoned 3 Graces was nowhere near enough. Not only are there a million Graces available to all, but I realise now that in order to access said Graces, it is necessary to be broken. Grace is all about living with the cracks and sharps and yet still able to frock up and to gently dance. I expect there will be a song or two involved, lovely words that string and sing and teach and confess; inspiration, the glue that binds together the edges of what once was whole, but was whole in a way that only children can claim as their truth.
My eldest grand-daughter visited me this morning on her schmancy bike. She knows I wake early (4 am today, a lie in!) and has permission to visit whenever she likes. They all have that permission, but it is a rare treat to have this one to myself. Bambi legs and a beautiful face and so fresh in love with life, she told me tales of her recent activities, all of which involve a lot of leaping and bounding, climbing hills and playing ball with school mates. An hour of adventures filled my ears as, behind my smile, I tried to remember such times in my own life. She thinks me of something so lovely and light, any problems so easy to fix, and, if she cannot fix them, then mummy or daddy most certainly can. This is the time in a young life just before the breaks begin to hit, when a heart is pumping strong and everything can be taken for granted, each morning a new burst of opportunity, flower bright, sunshine warm and safe from danger.
This enforced period of being home alone is an oddball in my hands. One minute I am dancing and singing with the light open freedom of life without having to consider anyone but myself. I can fling wide the windows, dance to loud tunes, re-pot a plant without being told I am doing it wrong. I can eat any old time, any old thing without having to plan something palatable for himself, nor where he will sit, whether he is too warm, or, more likely, too cold. I don’t have to consider what he needs at all. The nurses will be doing that for me. No carers come through the door, bright, breezy and efficient. Time moves slow. Then a stumbler trips me. How will I relearn how to live when he comes home? Will he be suddenly stronger with a pacemaker or a stent or whatever the consultant decides he needs, or will he be knocked right back, weaker, more needy, more scared? Does something like this kick the dementia down a notch? And, what if he doesn’t make it?
Perfectly normal inner questions. There are many of us who ricochet from guilty thoughts, exhausted from long term caring and denial of ourselves. There are over 60 of us on this island alone, all fixing on the slap and buttoning up our hearts to make smiles in another day, and another, and another as we watch the cared-for one slip away bit by tiny bit. We pretend everything is fabby doo. We have to, for them, for ourselves. Broken yes, but grabbing Grace by her floaty frock as she dances by, singing her soft song of hope and acceptance. For a hug. We even pretend to our nearest and dearest, because to admit any sense of defeat is not acceptable. I have armour plating around me, big high walls, hiding myself on the inside, my thoughts chained in the dungeons. I know others live this way because we talk. We have something in common, something others do not have, and we can let down the walls.
For now, there is lamb to cook and a bramble and apple crumble, all crunchy topped and cooling, deep crimson berries from last Autumn – last Autumn when none of what is happening now was even a part of our song and dance. Easter eggs will roll, crazy painted and followed down the hill by shouts and whoops and little running legs. Chocolate will be the dream in young happy heads and probably all over the cushion covers too.
Grace dances on.
‘Every girl, if you leave her alone long enough, will eventually sing and dance.’ Atticus