28 January 2023

. . . this is real, this is here, and here is where I am

There is loss and there is only loss, which means that life is what we make of loss, which is an impossible task, to make something of loss, so life must simply be how we live, and continue to live, amidst the unthinkably unmakeable. It is, every day, so deeply humbling to take each and every breath. If I don’t hold onto that, I know I will let it go. 
Devin  Kelly

Sometimes, usually in the early hours before sunrise, when I am awake but not quite yet fully there, I wonder whether the almost daily painful abdominal cramps that have been bothering me for some time now are somehow related to my father slowly dying four hundred kilometers away. But then I think, no, he's not that important in my life. I am not going to be at a loss, grief will be minimal. And in any case, if he starts having an impact on my health now, in his final stretch, what about all the years earlier? Obviously, I could connect it all to him at a stretch. Or to my mother, just to be fair, spreading the blame evenly. But I know it won't stick. I will not deny that illness is connected to how we feel, what stress we face and that we know little about the myriad causes of what affects our physical and mental well being. But anxiety has never been a strong case with me, I think I don't have the imagination for it. I am too plain, too absorbed in worry. 

Earlier today, a stink bug that overwintered in one of the flower pots on the window sill beside my desk walked onto the monitor and I picked it up with a tissue, crushed it in the course of it and then flushed it down the toilet. Bad bad karma, my inner voice tells me, look what you've done, you killed the bug unnecessarily. You could have released it into the garden. But it's below zero outside, it would have died anyway. So? At least you would've given it a chance. A chance? I should have keep it inside, somewhere safe, the basement maybe. but what about the stink? Isn't it released when you crush the shell and what if it's toxic, is there some trace of it on your fingers. Etc.

Today, I got up really early because I cannot handle cycling to work at sub-zero temperatures. My hands go numb, no matter how efficient the windproof, arctic tested felt lined gloves and it takes ages to get some feeling back. The car parking spaces for staff are limited at the moment because of road works at the campus and it's first come first serve. On the way, driving as one of the thousands in our dark cars I got myself into a fit imagining that everybody must have had the same idea and that I would have to spend ages cruising around the area trying to find semi legal parking to the point that I even contemplated turning around and calling in sick. In the end of course there was lots of space and I was one of the first to arrive. 

Also, two days ago, I fainted when I got in from the cold. I have fainted before and in comparison, this was a teeny tiny mini faint but one nevertheless because I found myself on the bottom of the hall stairs and had no idea how I got there and why my keys and mittens were on the hall floor. My previous faints were more dramatic swooshing affairs, once I knocked down a small chest of drawers while going down, another time I vomited in full flight so to speak (I was pregnant), once I was actually driving or rather waiting at a traffic light but luckily, it was a quiet side street and when I came to, no cars were honking behind me.

It's not half as hilarious as I try to pretend. I am due for a check-up next week.

When I sat with my father on Sunday, he said these sentences in between sleeping:

    A selection of refreshments has been ordered from the kitchen.

    Please accept my sincere apology for this late reply.

    Get me my hunting jacket and the new shoes. 

None of it made sense, obviously. He never had a hunting jacket, he never apologised to me for anything. But I repeat them in my head, like a silent mantra with a hidden message.




  1. Hmmm...I think your father has been very important in your life, even from a remove. His presence has been a companion of yours your entire life. And probably not in a good way at all.
    Try to give yourself grace now. Try to allow yourself to feel/not feel whatever it is that comes.
    You must have been frightened to find yourself at the bottom of the stairs. I would have been. Probably the quick change in temperature did indeed have something to do with that. Take care of yourself, dear woman.

  2. Grief comes, regardless of how we feel for the person it seems.

    I'm glad you're going for a check up, two new sypmtoms that may or may not be related to your vasulitis.

    That quote from Devin Kelly is so perfect. Life is so filled with loss and suffering, it's a wonder the human species has persevered at all, although the alternative is not that attractive.

    Take care of yourself Sabine. Sending hugs.

  3. I am worried about your falling, Sabine. It's good that you are having a check up next week. I hope all goes well.. and no more falling.
    I'm trying to think of the right words to write here about your father and the loss that is coming. I think of words from Ram Dass "be here now." In the moment, at your father's side.

  4. "It is, every day, so deeply humbling to take each and every breath." Thinking often of you and your father these days.

  5. You write so beautifully with this stunning tone -- it is relentless and beautiful at once. I am glad that you were not hurt when you "tiny fainted." I wish you some warmth (literal) and some ease (literal) and for anything figurative to work itself out.

  6. You should not be cycling in temperatures that cold, sez I. I feel you, I hear you in your musings about grief as it relates to your father and his dying and the lack of emotion. Even when we have put guards up, learned not to let our fathers (or mothers) impact our lives and opinions of ourselves, they are still a presence. It was my mother who lingered and the small bit of grief I felt was not at losing her so much as losing any chance of having the kind of mother I wanted. So I think perhaps that may be where you are.

    I had a hard time writing this comment. What to say and how to say it.

  7. Yes, this is beautifully written, the mystery of it all. we know so little. My heart goes out to you, do take care. Yet it is all so recognizable, my mind constructs like that.
    I do not think we have to blame our parents:) but for me i do go to an earliest recognizable event (often in childhood) and work through that ..as in; I know now i do not have to get ...whatever it is, in order to cope, i can now decide... whatever.

  8. I was trained as a hospice volunteer a million years ago. I was terrible at it, but I did have the training. I remember them saying to listen carefully to what people say when they are dying, because they are actually trying to convey something about their approaching demise. Your father was apologizing to you, at this late date... Also, he knows he is going on a journey or a trip, and is likening it to a hunting trip where he must be brave and prepared, but he wants his best shoes so that he is also prepared to make a good impression. There was a book we were asked to read called Final Gifts, by two hospice nurses (Maggie Callanan and Patricia Kelly), that was quite remarkable. I could be wrong, but this is how I would take it. How about you?

  9. Aren't there even the faint glimmers of optimism, pleasure and/or intellectual satisfaction anywhere? Might you reflect, for instance, on the gift of articulacy that allows you to describe your situation so clearly and vividly? Or the further gift of selectivity - very much a rare commodity, these days - that enabled you to isolate the stink bug anecdote and set it so tellingly in this post.

    Since August 2021 I have endured three ops for two types of cancer. You might well say there's only the tiniest scratchings of positivism to be gained from these experiences but - amazingly! - that is not quite the case. I've always reckoned myself to be a coward re. la morte (interesting that the French identify this noun as feminine) and whereas I'm not put out by the prospect of oblivion I can't pretend I'm looking forward to the uncertainties of the final hours. Even so, I find myself able push this eventuality to one side for long periods and to get on with what matters. I never knew I owned that much detachment

    So what does matter? Here I imagine you chuckling sardonically (one of your other admirable talents) when I mention this morning's Skyped singing lesson. Hugo Wolf thus a German/Austrian lyric. And the need to wrestle with:

    ... die Sehnsucht du, und was sie stillt...

    or, specifically, to manage the musical transition between those two consecutive us in the middle. How misguided of me to be chewing on such a trivial detail when I could be agonising over something major. But from time to time I need a drawable curtain.