Thursday, December 31, 2015

Starting Again After Being Alone With The Dead

Twenty seven years ago, it was raining on New Year's Eve. Pouring, in fact. My sister decided to head home to Auckland. Nine months before, my father had died after a protracted illness, 'living' eight months longer than the no-more-than six months the doctor had allotted him. So we weren't expecting my mother to give up just eleven days after diagnosis.

I was sitting with her when she died. I continued to sit with her for another twenty minutes before telling anyone, because I did not know if her doctor was on duty or not: he had told us that my mother's request not to be resuscitated went against his christian convictions, so if he was around, he would attempt resuscitation.

I sat alone for twenty minutes, angry at the need to do so.
I sat alone with her, relieved that she was out of her pain and misery.
I sat alone with her, relieved that she could no longer criticise every detail of my existence.
I sat alone with her, sad that I was never able to talk to her about all the resentments, the hurts, the pain she inflicted on me.
And because of that, I was unable to appreciate, let alone express gratitude for all she did that was good.

After twenty seven years, I recently realised that I am recalling more good things than bad about my mother. I have gotten rid of many of the criticisms that stayed embedded in my brain after she died. So many you're-not-good-enoughs. So many you're-toos. Some remain, but I can, albeit with a tinge of sadness, live without those things I can't do because of the internal dialogue. I'm 64 - time to move on, leave those voices behind.

I remember the clothes she made for me, along with dolls' clothes to match from the scraps.

I remember the birthday cakes, always my favourite orange cake, even though oranges were expensive at that time of the year.

I remember her saving me from relatives trying to force me to eat.

I remember how she instantly got in her car and drove from Hamilton to New Plymouth to get me, after I rang her saying I wanted to kill myself.

I remember her wonderful letters, every week, when I was at boarding school, and when I was in Europe for a year and a half.

I remember the patchwork bedspread she made for Mac and I while we were in Europe.

I remember when I rang her in a panic to tell her I was going to have a baby and I had nothing prepared and I was 30 weeks pregnant. (I had had three miscarriages, and had denied the possibility of giving birth to a live baby.) She told me to make a cup of tea, she'd be right over. She arrived with boxes full of lovingly stitched cloth nappies, beautiful home sewn and knitted clothes, and piles of baby soap, baby powder, muslin wraps and cloths, the bassinet we had slept in as babies, along with newly embroidered bedding.

I remember her teaching me to sew, and helping me with my garden.

I remember her joy in her grandchildren.

I remember the bad and try not to repeat it. I remember the good and am happy to have had that.

I only wish.... no, the past is gone, I'm done with sitting alone with the dead. I am who I am now. That has to be my starting point every day for the rest of my life.

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