31 August 2016

I am in a hospital room. Almost everything is white except for the pale wooden doors and a non descript painting on the wall. A tranquil beach scene. Possibly a donation from one of the local charity artists auctions. 
Things did not proceed as expected but not I hope due to anything I did or that was found in the myriad tests and blood samples that were done all day.
I am all by myself with the aircondition humming for company. Tomorrow after breakfast, they promised me. Which means I could be home in the afternoon.

In between and all day I have been reading one of Colm Toibin's earlier novels, The Blackwater Lightship, with his exquisitely sharp description of a failed mother - daughter relationship and it has brought back so many memories of the days when all I could think of was how to get away. Far far away. From her and the house and all that was in it. I know I tried to mellow with age - something she wasn't able to either. Well meaning friends as well as total strangers have urged me to forgive and forget and all that stuff about closure  (what is closure?). I did try and I will probably go on trying. But there is no getting away from it. Our relationship was running on a strong current of mutual dislike, disgust and distrust (nice alliteration here but coincidental) and my sister and I are doing our utmost to keep it going. We have set our course, we keep at it.  We had an excellent teacher.
Oh there are moments of genuine kindness and even sisterhood, the positive kind, but these are mere sparks from a time we have almost forgotten.

The day before my mother's life was so unexpectedly reduced to those remaining six months of misery and agony, one day after her successful heart surgery, when she was totally sober except for whatever pain killers they may have given her on the ICU - totally sober for the first time in maybe 30 years - I had gathered the courage to phone the hospital (a safe 300+ km away) and before I could protest they put her on and for a brief five or maybe fifteen minutes my real mother, the one I had loved so fiercely as a child and who had truly loved me as she once did love all her children, spoke to me. She spoke to me the way a mother speaks to her daughter regardless of time and age. Like I can speak to my daughter so often and so easily. Her voice was calm and reassuring and she called me by the name she used when I was small. A name she had not used for 30 years (or if so, only sarcastically. She had a thing for sarcasm.)
Her lungs collapsed later that day and with it her power of speech and her will to live. My sister has not forgiven me for being the first (and last) of us to speak with our mother. We have tried to talk about it but she carries this inside her heart like a sharp weapon and I know I haven't a hope.


  1. First off- I am so sorry you are in the hospital. Please keep us posted about this.
    Secondly- as you might imagine, I can relate to so much of this except for the part about the good conversation when you heard your mother's voice, the one you had longed to hear, one last time.
    I don't know why my mother and I could not work our shit out. People told me, too, that I had to do it before she died. "You'll regret it if you don't," they said.
    I do believe I finally reached a place where I knew it just wasn't possible. No more possible than turning tin into gold, or porridge into steak.
    And I DO regret that impossibility but I do not regret my inability to magic the thing right. I mean- the impossible is the impossible. And unlike your mother, my mother was ALWAYS sober. So there was no way to rationalize her behavior away on drink.
    But. You and I can speak with our daughters easily and the love flows both ways as naturally as the breeze in a hallway with open doors on both ends. And so- we have that, and given the choice between one or the other, I would choose what I have and I think you probably would too.
    Now rest. And thanks for letting me rant.

  2. The old hurts get calcified, don't they?

    May you get the best of nurses.

  3. Just after reading what you wrote from your heart, I became aware that there was a rainbow in front of the clouds in the early evening sky after a day that has been dark and rainy. A double rainbow. Wish you could see it, too. It's always good to have a book to read. That sounds like a good one. Listening over and over again to Laurie Anderson's CD "Heart of a Dog." Thank you for that. I'm reminded of her relationship with her mother and her meditation on that. Was talking with friends today about difficult relationships with parents and siblings. Talking about it makes it easier to bear. We do what we can. What else can we do? Read books. Look at rainbows. Listen to music.

  4. With you in spirit. Colm Toibin is a beautiful writer, isn't he? And so painful. I'm close to the rawness of some parts of my relationships with my parents just now, and really appreciate you sharing this.

  5. We do what we can, we feel what we must. There are no guidebooks. Sometimes, when we are left with childhood feelings, there is only honesty and struggle to hang on to. Actually, I think honesty and struggle are the best case scenarios. As always, you take a difficult situation and make it both beautiful and thoughtful. I hope you are home soon.

  6. I am so sorry that you are in the hospital. Hope by the time you read this, you are home and in your own bed. Family memories and histories can be such sad and heartbreaking things. The only peace we can make sometimes is with our own psyches. I wish you the best in every way.

  7. I too hope you are home, unscathed and feeling better. There is no better tonic than a good book though, having just plodded my way through Toibin's "Mothers and Sons" he would not be the tonic I'd choose!
    I think the biggest mysteries in the universe are how relationships ebb and flow. I had Norman Rockwell always in mind as my children were growing up. Wouldn't it be wonderful, I thought, everyone gathered around the table for a family reunion - Hah!
    Only if they all check their personalities (which, individually are fine) at the door!

  8. I came here via Amanda, and I feel as if I'm intruding on a very intimate moment. But from your writing, and your life, I'll be back to learn more and see what's what. Hope you are home now. Hospitals suck.

  9. Catching up with you here. What poignant memory and beautiful clear writing to express it. Big sigh.