Thursday, October 25, 2007

It Happens Like This

It happens like this. One moment you're going along, and you know it's been a difficult year - your mother's had cancer; your child turned three and temporarily lost the ability to sleep; you're been told you're post-menopausal way, way before your time; your husband's been off work all summer with a wretched back injury and an employer with less compassion than a gnat -but you're coping.

You're not only coping, you think you're making it work, and in fact you've finally cracked the writer's block and the confidence stuff and you've discovered you can write words that make other people cry, and in many ways, yes it's been one hell of a summer, but you're personally happier than you have ever been. You don't notice that you've taken your eye off the most important ball. You notice the anger, and the mood swings and the apathy, of course you do, but you don't say hang on, are you still happy, like me?

So then the trees shed one leaf too many and you're bare, bare like the branches, thinking How did this happen? How did I get here? and your husband is sending your brother a text message meant for the woman down the road and it would be funny if it weren't so very close to the bone, shall we say the bone marrow of your family, my family, my life.

Then, there's rage. There's that hour on the bench overlooking the view on the most beautiful day of the year, and those two trees against the skyline with the perfect, little tree in between, smouldering autumn trees which shouldn't be so beautiful on a day like this, when life has taken such a daft, unexpected turn. Weather does its own thing, though. Weather can be ironic.

Four nights apart help. Us, of course, not the child. The child who asks and asks and says and says, even though she took him to the airport because I thought it would make his sudden departure more real. Better than him walking out the front door and not coming back for four days.

So now it's a week later and the world's still turning. It does that, always, it's a good thing to know. The ground I stand on is not firm anymore, but at least I still have a Bim in my life and at least there is talking and love. I couldn't have been more delusional, he said from the country he has longed for all these months, than the strongest narcotic could have made me. And indeed it is clear that his breaking of the faith with us, with me, was the worst sin committed. The woman steered him, even in these early days of friendship, clearly back to me. Which is what you'd hope someone would do.

I look at my year. I look at his. Our lives did not meet very often. We are taking care, now, to make sure that they do.

It happens like this.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

All Shall be Well

I wasn't able to sleep the night before. Probably none of us were.

Faithful Hope, my sister, accompanied her. The appointment was at eleven. They made them wait a long time, though not as long as the interminable six months Esme spent having chemo and the rest of us spent watching.

I took Anna-mouse to music class. A bright, chirpy autumnal morning. The end of a week. And a chapter, as it turns out.

I was preparing lunch when Hope rang, as promised. Pizza fingers under the grill, half the fridge scattered over the counter, a bit of rough chopping going on and several half-touched drinks in the sink. Signs of a distracted morning.

"Hi Liv, you can stop stressing now," said my sister, a smile in her voice.

And with that, and the short, happy conversation which ensued, I learnt that my mother is cancer-free. That the scan result was fine. That she does not have to visit a hospital for three months. That the PICC line was being removed as we spoke (no more showers with the arm in a plastic bag!) and that the many and wretched signs of depletion she has recently been showing are due to the extreme toxicity of the drugs, not a return of the illness they were fighting.

I put down the 'phone. Forget Anna-m's lunch. Leap around. Feel the weight of ten heavy months begin to lift.

I pick up the 'phone. Call the Bim. Go into the garden to feel the briskness of the air, and let the October sunshine warm me as I talk. I note the neglected grass, the overgrown borders, the pots I planted with so much care earlier in the year parched and deadened before their time: something had to give this year, and rather than it be any one of the dear persons in my care, it was the garden I chose to let go.

Just had to tell you, I say. It's my mum. She's fine. The scan's clear. Isn't that fantastic?

And then I burst into tears.