Last evening we chatted about the ordinary things sparkled with extraordinary things as is always the way when little interruptions, with long hair, laughing eyes and demands for attention bring us all quick quick back into the moment. I always hope, when having time with my children, that there will be more than enough time to explore how we feel about this, about that, about dementia, but it is a hope that cannot be fully brought into the light. Not when real life is the way they live, as it was for me, when my children were around my feet like scatter balls, all speaking or shouting at once and all of them saying, and shouting, different things, things that needed my attention right then, right now.
Of course, there are times when little ones are at school, or at nursery, but those times become space for the busy parent to work, or to think about work, or to shop, or to think about shopping and the plan for later when the scatter balls return with a blast of doors, bringing inside all their news of the day, all their needs for right here, right now, and the ordinary puts his crown back on to rule once more. These times in between need grabbing with fast talk and fast listening. And we do it, all of us, but we only ever get a glimpse of how life is for one another. How can it ever be otherwise? I hear what troubles and what joys they are living alongside, and they hear how I manage, cope with, caring for their dad, my kindness, my compassion, my horrors, my weariness. But we cannot fix each other for our worlds are worlds apart. All we can do is take what we have learned and, if we so choose, develop it inside our own minds once the collision of a short visit becomes a memory.
I suspect I hope for an epiphany. It might, I tell myself, lie in exercise or oat milk or gluten free bread. It might lie in yoga practice, a meditation programme, cleaner windows, a warmer duvet. But, I say, I have tried all these, spent money on all these, felt an absolute certainty that this ‘thing’ is IT, that all is now sorted. But there is the underlying truth that hides like a snake in the grass and that snake is home, is caring, is the same difficult man to live with, only worse and getting worser. They get that, my children, but they cannot know what it is really like. How could they? Nobody can unless they turn into me and take on my life with all its history, experiential learning, timelines and the story in my heart. In other words, an impossibility, and not only that, for there is a natural disinterest in all human heads, one that can take so much and no more of another’s tale, because their own tale is the one they have to write every single day and that is their focus. As mine is mine, although, as a mother, I can take on all five stories with ease. That is motherhood for you. A mother can spread like Flora across all her children’s lives, guiding, listening, supporting and caring, even when she is many miles away and many weeks or months or even years apart from them. She can hold each story, each precious life in her heart, bringing each one into the light for another look whenever she chooses, held as she would hold her most treasured thing. She can feel the pain, lift with the joys, cry with the sorrows, and all this without being able to change a thing.
Today I hear the cows bawling from the other side of a green hill. Geese and ducks chatter and squalk around the pond and the wind sings around the solid walls of this sandstone home. It is autumn already, colder too and I have brought summer clothes. I’m wearing most of them right now, a curious combination of jeans, vest, long sleeved top and dress. An eccentric look they might say. Anyone seeing me out in the town could define me because of my clothing, having no idea why I wear what I wear. And that is how it is in the world. You see me, you decide. I see you, I decide. And there is a very strong likelihood that we are both wrong.
Eggs on toast for breakfast. Only 2 glasses of wine last night. Board games before bed. Bed by 8. Warm, cosy, comfortable, sleeping till 5.30, then sleeping again till 7. I never manage any of this where I live, where the demons await me, as they have always done. Notwithstanding, I will go out, as I always do, among people, friends, children and strangers, and I will sparkle and laugh, chat, show interest, learn new things. I will keep bringing light to everyone I meet. This is my way. This comes from my heart, my poor broken and scarred heart, one that has kept me alight and alive no matter that cruel winds burned and froze me, or harsh words, neglect and rejection tried to disappear me, this faithful heart is a beacon, a light in a wild and angry ocean, guiding me back to me. And this is home. Me is home.
Father James said something to me as we shared a table on the ferry. ‘Each person has to make the ultimate choice in this life’. Taking the cruelty, the hardship, the hunger and the pain of a life and deciding between two paths. One is to spend that life in anger, bitterness, self-protection and revenge. The other is complete selflessness. One is holding on. The other, letting go. Of everything and everyone’. I saw a little girl in black and white, like a drawing, holding a red balloon. As I watched her, she laughed and let it go, turning her face to the sky as it climbed into the clouds. When it had become a tiddlywink she looked down at her feet. I thought she might be sad, but no, she hopscotched.