Island Blog – Funambulist v Fatalist

I like a challenge which is just as well considering recent events. Although I, like everyone else, can plummet the depths of fear and confoundment, I can also rise quick quick once I spot myself down there in the dumps, all sog and sniffle. Get back up here you daft woman and check out the light. Look how much there is! Down there is dark and cantankerous and, besides, you are beginning to dissolve. I can see that from here.

I yank myself back up because there is something rather embarrassing about being the centre of such attention. She, the upper me, could sit there all day. She could drop rocks or eggs or derisive comments and I could not stop her, nor defend myself against her as she works hand in hand with gravity. I am, after all, stuck in the middle with clowns to the left of me and jokers to the right, a portrait of me I would rather not see on Facebook. Once back inside the light, I look down. Why did I ever think being soggily there would help? I know not but I did not consciously lower myself down. It took weeks, months in truth and I hardly knew I was becoming slippage. Inch by slimy inch I got used to the darkling, found it pleasantly concealing even, so that, by the time I was rock bottom, it felt like protection. I could hide, did hide and then She found me as I knew she would eventually. I guess she missed me.

It is over 5 months since my lord and master went underground; 3 or so weeks since the rather dimwitted abusive caller was pounced upon by the Malevolence Police and a few days since the Breast Clinic journey. It feels like I am free now, no longer a fatalist, and back in the light, not one I have seen before. It has changed, shifted beyond the old way of being and I look around me in awe. Having followed Himself’s light for centuries, I am now presented with own. What will I do with it? How will I use it, cherish it, work with it? Well, I don’t know just yet but what I do know is that, for now, for a while perhaps, I will employ my inner Alice and walk in curiosity, wide-eyed and open-hearted. How strange life is. We lose someone and feel horribly alone with our fears and doubts, with the who-the-hec-am-I-now thingy. Hesitation, the inability to stop monkey-mind chatter, frustration, anger and the quieting of natural laughter and joy. The dumps, in other words. It must be, I tell myself, because such a massive shift in my tectonic plates is bound to destroy before it heals in fresh alignment.

I balance on a new wire and I must keep that balance for I do not want to fall. Watching a tightrope walker is almost impossible for me unless I am behind about 10 cushions and with my hands covering my face. Falling seems inevitable. Hundreds of feet above the ground and not a wing in sight. How can anyone think of this as fun and, yet, fun is the beginning of the word. Fun. Ambulist. A fun walker? Ok, I will accept that. Although I am not and never will be a funambulist in the full meaning of the word, I like it, like speaking it out, like the fact that it is the opposite of fatalist. I believe that every single move of my life, however domestic and ordinary, is under my control; not what happens but how I respond to what happens. Everyone will meet tragedy and disaster, will slump with despair and loss of hope, will fight against the inevitability of a mind-blowing change. It is natural, understandable, acceptable and many other ables for we are soft warm loving human beings who resist mind-blowing changes in the main, who long for what we once had, not because it was comfortable but because we knew it so well.

Now we are required to walk in a new light, one we don’t yet understand; one we have never handled before, nor worked with, unsure, unsteady and hundreds of feet above the ground so well travelled by our beforefeet. Now we are funambulists and once we have found our own balance we will climb back down to the goodly earth with a confident step, our caps tilted, our backs straight and our wide eyes open to whatever this new life has in store.

Island Blog – Ups and Downs

Changing the furniture. That’s what I am doing. I am free now to make this little house more homely. For years it has looked like a nursing home with most of the tables and chairs stacked in what used to be the office, out of the way of your wheelchair manoeuvres. The carpet cleaners came to lift the tracks across the sitting room with a big noisy machine. The painter came to re-decorate your room and it smells quite different now. Your hand prints are painted over, so only I will remember all those times you held on to the wall for support. Your favourite mug is at the back of the cupboard and our little dog no longer sleeps in what was your room. She doesn’t sleep in mine, either, choosing instead to curl up on a chair downstairs. When you were dying, she wanted to be close and spent many nights tip-tapping between us, bothered, pacing, if a border terrier could ever manage anything as big as a ‘pace’.

Music plays all day now, all sorts, classical, country, ballads, blue grass and as loud as I want for there is no-one here to yell at me to pipe down. I even play women singers, screechers to you, even repeating a song three or four times. That would have driven you to eruption, as you did erupt, Vesuvius, suddenly, and at full volume, causing Poppy to bark and me to drop something that probably broke.

I light the fire, no longer concerned that you will be too hot within minutes, demanding open windows and water to put it out again. There are no wires across the cleaned carpet, no phone chargers, of which, by the way, you seem to have been the proud owner of about ten, all plugged into an plug bank, all ready for active duty. You had one phone. No, that’s not true. You had 6 phones but 5 of them lie, rejected, in the cupboard under the stairs, along with enough wiring and enough headphones for a large choir in an even larger recording studio. What will I do with all this stuff? Nothing, for now.

The washing machine is bored. She has enjoyed a lot of spinning and sloshing for months and she stares at me, open mouthed each time I pass her by. It takes a few days for me to fill her maw, but when I do, when I pour in the wash liquid, add the conditioner, select the cycle and press Go, I swear she squeaks with delight. The fridge is almost empty, the draining board very quiet and I only have to sweep the floors every four days instead of four times a day. It all feels both great and sad, for who am I now? What do I do with my lack of purpose, the one that has driven me (to distraction at times) for years? I suspect it will come to me, over time.

The children are beginning to gather, the first arriving later today and the others tomorrow, for your laying to ground on Friday. The weather forecast promises rain and wind so we are searching for wellies and umbrellas. You always loved the wild weather, we all remember that, especially at sea when the waves rose to the clouds and the clouds answered back, soaking everything including everyone’s sandwiches. You just laughed. In your element, you were. The wilder the better. However, it might have been kinder on us to have organised something sunny and soft for Friday, for we will all be on that hill for as long as it takes to lower your body back down into the arms of Mother Earth. We are even discussing how to waterproof our readings because, as you know, rain on the island never falls straight. It curves and whips and flips and shoots up noses and skirts and kilts. I can hear you say ‘So?’. And it makes me smile.

When the children leave, I will stay. The Autumn will come, and then the Winter bringing darkness and cold and long spaces in between everything. And I will miss your wisdom. ‘We must close the garage door tonight. The wind is in this direction.’ Or ‘That drain needs scraping out’. Or ‘The gutters will need a clean now.’ Even when you couldn’t do these tasks yourself, you knew when they needed doing. Now I will have to work them out for myself and that feels scary. I tell myself I am no fool, that I will learn new ropes, that I am strong and independent and practical. And it’s true, I am, but there is always that little voice of doubt in my head.

So, my old gone husband, I will keep missing you, even though I know life will be easier from now, even though I can do what I want to do whenever I want to do it. After we lay you down whilst we stay up, keep an eye on us from your new home in Neverland. I’ll wave at you on a starry night. We all will.

Island Blog – Elephants, Clouds and Paper Smoke

This morning starts at 4am whilst the night sleeps on. In the time between dark and light, the darkling, I sip tea and watch the sea-loch. The air is flat, the sky the colour of paper smoke. Nothing moves, not yet. Then, a sudden arc of silver burst into the sky above the flat water and I know there’s an otter on the hunt somewhere in the filmy depths. The ripples ripple on. Then I see it, the hunter, its black head piercing the surface, only to disappear again into the deep down dark.

I feel dark, even though I know that once the light blossoms into morning, it will fill me up, the light, infusing my skin as hot water does a teabag. They say women are like teabags. You don’t know their strength until you drop them in hot water. It laughs me, even as I know it’s the truth. Today, like every other day, will be a round of mopping and cleaning, washing and caring. And yet, now there is a difference, now that I have admitted to myself and to my family that I am no longer able to care all by myself. I feel a teensy bit of relief, heavily clouded, heavy as a whole sky coming down on me. I used to believe clouds were light as air. Planes fly right through them, after all. But now I know they can weight as much as 800 elephants. That’s a lot of elephants and a very heavy cloud. How does it stay up for goodness sake? I have no answer for that, not being an expert on the matters of cloud.

Walking through the day with my inner judge on repeat. You are pathetic, weak, giving up, what makes you think it is okay to say I’m done? I always knew you would never see anything through. You have always run when the going got tough. You disgust me. And so on and on, ya-di-ya, the whole day long, and it is long, the day, second by slow second, minute by slow minute, hours and hours of it. I fill in gaps, sweep a floor, try to avoid eye contact with anyone, tell myself I have served well, thou good and faithful servant, but the judge’s voice is way louder and she barely pauses to draw breath. I change my frock combo to see if that helps. The outer me might just have some influence over the inner one. I change the position of the kitchen bin, wipe a table, turn up Radio 2, watch the sparrow hawk dive and miss.

I know that at such a crossroads, Lady Providence stands with her hand held towards me. I know I have done all I could. I know the decision is the right one. Dementia is cruel in all ways. It separates and divides. It eats the brain until any chance of a communication flow is cut. It takes a big strong, loving, able, powerful human being and second by slow second, shuts him or her down. The family can only stand and watch, help where possible, encourage all attempts at retaining independence, autonomy, humour. Then the time comes when it’s clear there is no way this beloved will return to his former glory. Ever.

The light is light now, the tea drunk, the morning shoving night over the horizon, blazing white and cloudy, like paper smoke. Roses pink the view, one sweet pea flower, the first, waggles in the breeze; daisies and those blue things I can’t name turn to face the sky, searching for sunlight. I don’t think they will see it this day but, loyal as they are, they will persist in their looking until they fold up for rest once more. Goldfinch spangle the fence, taking turns on the nijer feeder, bickering, flitting. Across the sea-loch a heron stands immobile, staring into the deep dark waters, patient, waiting, watching, beneath a cloud-heavy elephant sky, the colour of paper smoke.