Walking to Manuka today to hopefully have a coffee and some lunch I heard a voice call my name. I looked over in surprise to see my mother seated in the sunshine with a half eaten plate of raisin toast and a cup of tea finished beside her, beautifully dressed as she always is with her dark glasses. I need to mention my Mum is 92 years old, Manuka is the small tree lined shopping centre composed of a walk through lawns areas with three large old plane trees an arcade walkway and a series of shops where she played alone as a child while her mother went out to work to clean offices to support herself and her young daughter, there were no family members around, my grandmother lived 1 thousand miles away in Melbourne, Nana was alone as my grandfather died when my Mum was 7.
Mum looked so small and lonely sitting there but its not lost on me that I was also alone and when I sat down she was saying how she had come to Manuka today looking for clothes but everything didn’t fit as she has shrunk so much she seemed so bereft and was close to tears. I had been thinking of her just a moment before as we had spoken about going out this week but when I phoned her a day ago she said she was very tired.
We sat for just a little while but then she told me she ‘had to go’, a friend was picking her up at 2 pm to take her to the fruit and vegetable markets. There was such an empty and sad feeling as she said goodbye, I felt the emptiness for both of us, it has an entire history of grief and other experiences within it and I am aware of my sister’s death anniversary so close. I was also aware of the stress I have put Mum under due to the townhouse auction we went to which at which I was coerced by the agent to make a bid that really went against my value system, black clouds came over to block out the sun as I wandered off to get some lunch after Mum left and I thought of how empty a life just focused around the material is, how much we can nearly drown inside of it, silently and all alone with no one to really even see or care much.
I was aware of a voice that reminded me of how painfully lonely life has been so often, I was also aware of a life outside the sadness which is really about past things that can never be changed and that sadness must be borne. However life feels so much freer when the sadness is not a huge cloud of energy settling over my body, heart and soul as it did just after Mum said goodbye to me today.
I went off to get some lunch and then went home. Back at my house there are responsibilities to be attended too. The deck needs to be oiled. I have neglected to do it for 5 years and so it has deteriorated and it was not a very well put together deck anyway according to the guy who has helped me with it before. After he left giving me a quote that came in over 300 dollars over the original one the old tapes played in my head “here you are holding on to an old house which has so much work to be done when you could have just moved into a cosy townhouse (admittedly without much character) which would make your life so much easier. You always do things the hard way!” This kind of voice is never far away, I talk about it with Katina, my therapist all the time, often it carries on with a litany of how I have failed or how something that I had little power over was really my fault. Today I just let it say its piece and then settled into a quiet afternoon where I can relax in the little cottage I have decided to commit to. There isn’t a sound at all and I can almost hear the beating of my own heart.
I am reminding myself just to breathe and be present today. There were little gifts in my day before seeing my Mum cast a grey cloud over my soul : a lovely long conversation with two young boys at the dog park and another with a lady I have met recently who is really easy company. I hold onto these things, they are touchstones of goodness amidst the emptiness. I think of the stunning autumn colours of the trees and of how things will soon be winding down. Easter in the southern hemisphere is actually more like a time of death and endings than it is in the northern where spring is kicking into gear. As we move towards winter, I need to just feel my heart and body and the resonance of other difficult winters past that hover in the shadows but I need to stay present in now, too. This afternoon I don’t want to get too caught up in the voices in my mind. Thoughts of my sister are close and as I type this my heart burns with a fire of lost love reminded as I always am at this time of year of her.
Katina and I were talking yesterday of how painful her leaving me at the age of 3 was back in 1965 when she embarked on a new life in New Zealand, the land of our ancestors (though she did not know that then). Jude was a the closest thing to a mother I have ever known, so much more present for me than my own mother was who worked all the time even when I was just a baby. I had a dream the other night about a woman I got close to in AA who really emotionally abandoned me at a very critical time in my recovery, she walked straight past me in the dream and went to sit with others, the chair I was sitting in began to swallow me up, Katina was saying what a powerful expression that was on a psychic level for what happens to us when we are not seen.
I feel I have spent so much of my life wanting to be seen. Even when I would visit Jude in the care home later in her life when she was nearly totally immobilised, she always saw me. She would look upon me with the most loving gaze, at times it was a bit overpowering. One evening on the anniversary of my Dad’s death about 5 years ago I got a call from the care home where she lived to tell me my sister had not responded all day to anyone, she was just lying there in a totally dissociated state, at this stage they were medicating her a lot, something that used to enrage me. I said I would go over immediately and when I sat by her and held her hand she came back to the world and into relationship with me. But death was laying its claim on her abandoned soul.
Three years ago when this happened again they didn’t call me, they called an ambulance I didn’t even know she was in hospital until my brother called on Good Friday to tell me that was where she was and they were considering taking her off life support. My brother rarely visited my sister. Sitting by her bedside at the hospital over the next two nights she didn’t come back to us, just as Dad didn’t come back after they gave him drugs in 1985 to calm him down and I never got to say goodbye. But with Jude I had some hours with her alone on Easter Saturday, time to say what I needed to say, time to wait while her four sons flew in from far and wide, time to cry with my much loved nephews who were taken so far from us for over 30 years following their Mum’s psychosis in 1981. Time to say goodbye, time to let my sister go.
I let my sister go at about 1 am on Easter Sunday morning. I decided to go home and end the vigil by her side, I had been there 10 hours. A call came at 6 am which I slept through to say she had passed over at 3 am. I would never be looked upon with that amount of love again. But in my mind’s eye I am.
I sit with a little photo of my sister as she was on her wedding day in 1965 (before tragedy ravaged her in the most tragic and horrible way as she struggled like me to be seen by family) on the walnut table from which I write my blog and eat my dinner and watch the autumn leaves as they fall outside I remember her. I let her go. But I cannot really grieve her loss with my Mum. I know what those tears were about to day but they are wordless tears and her gaze falls on the table or is obscured by dark glasses and I fade away into the rest of my day as I let my Mum go with a deeper recognition of all the ways I struggle to connect with her and with the outside world. All the ways I struggle to be known truly and seen. I get all of that in therapy now along with the deeper recognition of how much being left alone I blamed myself for something that was so far out of my control and how hard I have struggled to try to heal a deep wound that I can never really heal with my Mum alone. Illusions tell me otherwise, illusions tell me one day we will really connect, I will always feel my Mum, I will always long for her loving gaze but I guess I have to accept there are very real limits to the satiation of this deep longing. As Katina reminded me the longing for the close knit family wrapped up together in a cosy jumper that I referred to in a poem yesterday is a dream and an illusion. I still hope to find it one day, but what if I don’t? What if this aloneness is really all there is? What if writing my blog is the only way I can find to even get it recognised in some small way?
Ah life, you are not easy. I just pray one day I can end all the twisting and turning of desperately seeking to be seen. And I remind myself too that the truly loving gaze I long for is the one I must bestow on my inner self and inner child and that at times I get it from my dog Jasper who is always ever present waiting for me to slow down and just be present. Deep empty, empty deep I hope in time the tide that returns washes you through with healing and fills you up, tears you fill the void and help me know the reality of my precious soul. Hold your sacred memories close and remember always, Deborah to feel the love and never allow despair and emptiness to be the final word, instead keep working to find your deep.