It’s Saturday morning and I’m still in bed drinking the inevitable cup of coffee.
My new Amazon Echo dot has just reminded me its Veterans day here. In the US people treat the armed forces very differently than they do in the UK. Here, when people meet a current or ex member of the army, navy or airforce they ‘thank them for their service’. In the UK we don’t do that. We might ask what they do. But we wouldn’t routinely thank them for doing it. Maybe it’s because since World War Two we are more ambivalent in the UK about the wars we have been involved in: Northern Ireland, The Falklands, Iraq, Afghanistan. You can’t help thinking we might be better if they hadn’t served in any of those. Still it is undeniably brave to risk your life in battle for little personal gain.
Anyway, while listening to Echo I am also watching the crazy tight rope walking squirrel in the treee outside the bedroom window. It has fascinated me all week. It manoeuvres itself right to the tip of the branches balancing with its tail as the thin stems bob and sway. I can’t work out what it is so desperate to eat right on the ends. I’m transfixd and constantly expecting it to fall – but it doesn’t.
Grief has been like that this last week. I keep expecting it to ease up but it hasn’t. Last week it kept coming at me like a frieght train knocking me off my feet. Making concentration really hard. Making answering the door or the phone really hard when I might be, or become, in tears. Making sitting writing this blog really hard when thoughts of mum would de-rail me. I have part written 4 posts but finished none.
But my silence itself sends a message. I like to write what is true. This last week I have been swimming in a lake of grief as the realisation that mum is never coming back really sinks in. But how to write that – I feel people must be bored of grief. I don’t want to worry the, so many, readers who have sent me touching messages of support. So it has felt better to stay silent than share the loss.
However, in all the pain I did learn some random things over the last week.
One: It is possible to feel better. Set small achieveable goals. Even cleaning the kitchen or putting away the washing can be an achievement when all you want to do is hide in bed. Making a to do list that I could concretely tick off helped focus my mind and made me feel better about myself.
Two: I can now cry like a movie star. Well, in the respect that my noisy snivelling sobs are now silent flowing tears that flow to the end of my lashes forming perfect tear drops and then splash away.
Three: There are so many people out there who are experiencing or have experienced the loss of their mother. I am really dreading Christmas. Mum was such a part of it. Last year she and my dad came here to Austin. I worry that a second Austin Christmas with only my dad here will feel empty. This fear sent me trawling the internet looking for advice and whilst, the tips at present don’t seem that helpful, the fact that so many people had faced this challenge is comforting. I shared my worries about Christmas with my husband, who, I must warn you, can be stand up comedian accurately but cruelly funny. ‘ Its going to be so hard with mum not here, I want to make this Christmas different’ I moan. ‘So it doesn’t just feel empty’. ‘It will be different’ he retorts ‘your mum wont be here!’ which makes me laugh – because it’s true and as he knows not what I meant. But still the plain truth is sometimes funny.
Four: Grief is selfish, or self centred or self- focused. Anyway it takes your thoughts from those around you to dwell on your own inner suffering. My kids ask ‘when will you be better?’ Frustrated that they need me but they are finding it like pulling teeth to get me to do all the things they need: to help with homework, to drive them places (to rehearse or see friends) to give them hugs, to wash their clothes, to buy food for their Gecko (or us!), to buy books for school, to listen to their troubles, to listen to them playing the bass and electric guitar and the piano, to fix the toilet, to chase the pool men so they can swim. Whilst I actually do all those things, they can tell my hearts not in it. My continuing cough and sneezing irritates them. But I can’t seem to completely throw this flu off.
Five: if you are not up to cooking there is always takeaway! And in Austin lots of takeaway. On Monday night my husband messages me from California on his latest business trip to see how I am. We had a busy weekend of unpacking and building stuff so Friday night Pizza night transitioned into Saturday night Chinese takeaway. Now its Monday and the kids have their guitar lessons in town from 6.45-7.30. I haven’t the energy to cook and take them. I already know I will spend the three-quarters of an hour while they are at Rock School just sitting waiting in my car too tired to go anywhere else. So instead of cooking when my husband messages we are sitting outside Torchies Tacos eating Queso, Guacamole and Tacos. ‘That’s quite a takeaway habit you have got going there’ my husband messages. That’s right. But in this I am unrepentant. We have to eat. But I don’t have to cook! Even, the thought that my mum would have loved sitting here with us under the trees eating Mexican food as dusk becomes night, doesn’t make me sad about that!