The Waiting. For Ron.

I met traumatic death young. 15 to be exact.

On a rather lovely Friday 1 June 1990, I came home from babysitting the neighbours kids at around 00h15. I went into my parents room where they were watching some late night television, said my hellos and goodnight, closed their door and went to my room to prepare for bed / sleep / oblivion. It never came.

We had just moved to CT from JHB. Both of my older siblings had already moved out and moved on. My brother already married. My sister an independent woman.

The screaming started almost immediately. My mother. The worst noise I have ever heard, to this day.

It seemed to last an eternity. I will never forget that sound. Or what I saw when I opened my parents door again. My mother had managed to get my dad off the bed and onto the floor. And, in her own mad way, was desperately … oh so very desperately, trying to get my dad breathing again.

I didn’t even have half a clue what to do. So I did the only thing I could think of. I ran out to the neighbour’s house. I remember being hysterical. I remember being frantic. I don’t really remember words. Or banging on doors. Or making sense. I remember hysteria, and then the neighbour Shawn was there.

I remember screaming. And begging.

I remember Shawn trying and knowing. Deep down. I knew too. It was too catastrophic. Too fast. Too big. My dad’s heart – it just died.

So much screaming. I remember Shawn grabbing my mother and pulling. I remember my sister, Norine, suddenly being there, when she wasn’t before. I remember our house doctor, Dr. Perold arriving. The ambulance. I don’t know how all of that knew to happen. Or why it happened. Or who facilitated it all. It just was.

I remember Norine holding my hand and we got into the ambulance.

My dad was a big man. In stature and personality. I think. I don’t really remember anymore. I remember his laugh was big. It is one of the only things I do remember.

He looked like he was asleep. I hope that is how he looked. It is what I chose anyway.

One minute he was there. And then he was not.

Because his heart broke.

And the world shattered into shards that never really got put back together again.

My dad was just shy of 50.

Now. So very many years later. I have friends whose parents are starting to pass. Their experience not quite the same as mine. To be honest, I get a bit jealous of the time they had together. The relationships and shared memories that time affords people.

On the other hand – I didn’t have to watch my dad get old, or frail, or sick really. My memory of him, from the point of view of a child, is of a strong man struck down in his prime.

Death sucks. The actual act of it. Whether it is drawn out and wasting and traumatic, or quick and nasty and unexpected and traumatic. It is mean and cruel and oh so very human.

The passing on though. The moving through the veil to the God you believe in.

That is Grace. I believe that with every fiber of my utmost being.

It is a moment when your soul, that fundamental part of you that is you, is free again. Young again. Whole again. Loving and beloved.

And that is where you stay. Where you wait. In Light and Peace.

Just out of sight. Just around the corner.

Just for a moment.

Till the time is right.

My dearest Ronnage. Just, just out of sight.

Whole.

Waiting.

Life and loss

They say it gets easier with time. It really doesn’t. You just learn to live with it. You make a little space in your soul for the loss. The missing. The profound ache.

You make a little space in your head for the memories. The sound of them. The smell of them. And you visit it, sometimes.

You fill up the void they leave behind with life and noise and tears and people. But it never moulds completely to the void.

Blommie. Life is too short. I am so very sorry your mommy had to suffer. But she is with her God now. In His hands, healed and whole.

Blommie. Life is too short. Hold onto what is left behind with everything you have.

Make your space. In your head and in your soul. Your mommy will always live there.

I carry you up to my God every day. You and yours.

Your mommy lives on in the spaces left behind.

For Blommie.

Like a ton of bricks.

Like the world ending.

Like the whisper of death in a war.

Like the sound of nails running across chalkboard, never ending.

Like the whisper of desolation across your soul.

I’m sorry, your mother is terminal.

No one can truly know when their time is up. When that moment comes, either fast or slow, and your maker holds His hand out.

No one can truly know what the leaving, leaves behind. What the leaving will mean. What the leaving will take with it.

No one can truly know, how tired the leaving can make you.

To be left behind. Or to watch the moment of leaving coming ever closer.

Your mother is terminal.

Those 4 words. Like death to every hope you had. Every moment of future you thought you dreamed, with another.

Your mother is terminal.

I am so sorry, my blommie. My dear, precious, glorious friend. I wish I could make it hurt less. Make it more bearable. Make it go away.

I wish I could heal. Or say that right words. I wish I could stand by you, and love you just a little bit more. So that my love can balance the leaving. So that it doesn’t hurt so very much.

I am so sorry that your mommy is leaving.

I cannot fathom it. I cannot really even describe it.

I will not show this to you. Not now. Perhaps not ever.

But I wanted to write it. Because I remember the leaving of my father. And how much it bothered me that no one really knew what to say.

I know now, that it didn’t matter what they said. It would never ever be the right thing. It never can be.

Because the leaving is all there is.

It is consuming.

Be strong, my blommie. Be brave. Be consoled, just a little bit.

I love you. You are in my thoughts. You are in my prayers.

You, your family and your mommy.

Her life will not be forgotten.

Her soul will shine bright.

Her memory will stay with you.

Her life will be celebrated.

Her God will welcome her Home.

And she will wait for you. Just out of earshot. Just out of sight. Just around the corner. Just there.

She waits for you.

With Grace.

 

The Lesson

This year has been a time of lessons. Hard lessons. Lessons in leaving. Lessons in what it means to be a family. Lessons in loss. Lessons in strength.

And a lesson in anger and mourning and heartbreak, again.

One more down,  one more to go.

As the clock ticks ever onward to another loss, another leaving – my heart breaks all over again. I don’t know how to bear this.

I don’t know how to forgive this. This being the one left behind. This loss of an entirety. This complete responsibility for another.

I don’t know how to be this.

And I don’t think I can ever forgive this.

Not that it matters. Life goes on. Life moves on. Stuck here in this pain, or there, in that joy.

I do not wish this on my worst enemy.

This loss. This profound emptiness. This raw hurt.

This abandonment.

I don’t know how to heal from this.

And I really hope I can forgive this. Not for them. They are gone. Whether I can bear that or not. They are all gone, or going.

For me. Because this hurts more than I can ever tell anyone. Because of who I am. And what they are to me.

Another one down, one more to go.

And then we will see.

Goodbye

Today is hard.

Today is another step closer to gone.

Today is tears.

Today is my mind messing with the bits of me that are strong.

Today is another brick in a wall of finality, between here and there.

Today is a mother and grandmother in a mess and children and grandchildren who can’t yet see value in time spent.

Today is an old and weary soul that misses what she never had.

Tomorrow is telling her that the time has come for leaving.

We will stay behind. Her and I. And then eventually just I.

But it will pass. I have found a few souls that love me. A few that tolerate me. A few that left me. They fill up the space left behind.

And maybe some of them will become family.

Today is about choices. A door always swings both ways.

Today is, for my very own sanity, good luck and goodbye.

Today is so unbelievably  hard.

I hope you never know just how hard.

I hope you never see this kind of loss in the face of someone you love.

I hope you never cry these tears.

Today is hard.

I love you.

All of you.

Good luck.

I hope your new world treats you well.

Goodbye.

The Leaving

For the longest time, part of my psychosis has been never being able to accept that I have value. My belief structure has always revolved around the fact that family have to love. They have to help. The have to accept you. So it doesn’t matter how broken you are. They are there and it is a given.

But what happens when they are not?

What do you do when you are the one left behind?

When you are faced with a place that has no family and the ties of blood?

What do you do when you are the one left holding the buck?

When a parent gets old and frail and ill and you alone must carry that emotional weight? A weight you are ill equipped to carry. Most of the time I cannot even carry my own emotions. Most of the time the fake it fools everyone into thinking I have made it. Sometimes it even fools me.

Last night the very carefully constructed walls that keep me functioning came down for a moment and my nephew and I engaged in a shouting, door slamming, swearing, remote throwing argument. I have never argued with my nephew before. Not to this degree.

He is as lost as I am, in a different way, and last night 7 months of trying too hard, being more than I am, stress and responsibility collided with his pain and anger and Mount Vesuvius was revisited.

For a moment the loss of stability, the loss of love, the loss of someone to talk to, the responsibly that is my nature to take on, the difficulty in living with people, the just plain emptiness of no blood ties shattered me. Shattered my nephew. Luckily we managed to calm the seas, and hopefully there is an understanding now.

What saves my nephew is that he is moving towards a family I no longer have. Towards a life I really do not begrudge him. I want him to be as happy as he can be, in whatever he chooses for himself. As long as it is his choice.

What saves me? Fledgling relationships and Hope. Hope for something better. Hope that it will get better. Hope that when the day comes and I need someone – I won’t stand alone. Hope that when my mom goes – someone will hold my hand.

She is almost permanently ill now, with one bug or another, one flu or the other. She forgets things. She loses things. She cries allot. She lost her family too. And her loss is harder to bear.

Or – in her loss and in her psychosis, am I allowing her to manipulate my feelings once again? Is she truly as ill as she thinks she is? Or is depression and a lifetime of chosen sorrow reality now? A mantle she can no longer take off? One which blurs my vision? My objectivity? My emotions?

I hope … I hope for something better. Whatever it may be. For me, for her, for my family.

But what do you do when all you can do is watch?

Watch the leaving.

All the while, standing still.

The joy of the dance

I got to thinking the other day about the music of our lives. How some songs stick with us through the years and remind us of better, or worse, times.

How the music of our parents reminds us of a war maybe, or a hardship, we did not personally live through.

How the music of our peers reminds us of a person, or a place long forgotten.

How the music that reaches down into our very substance and speaks to us can truly defines us. It is not necessarily good music, or well written. Or even popular. It is a chance meeting sometimes, lyrical beauty and depth hiding in the places you least expect to find them.

It is the songs of our innocence Pink Toothbrush by Max Bygraves. Of the times when dance and imagination and bravery and joy and solitude were the things that made us whole. When drama and performing were an option Yellow Submarine by the Beatles. Where Jeremiah was a Bullfrog by Three Dog Night was the best thing you ever heard, innocent and silly.

It is the songs of loss Amazing Grace by Celtic Woman sung at the funeral of a father you never really knew. And the song your mother used to heal herself We will meet again by Vera Lynn.

It is the songs of growing up where The Locomotion by Kyle Minogue was on everyone’s lips and we weren’t ashamed of it. Where the difference between a singing and speaking voice was endlessly debated Never gonna give you up by Rick Astley.

It is trying to find a place that accepts you, and liking what you think will find peace, and learning to love it for what it is –

Satan bites the dust by Carmen

The Champion by Carmen

It is the beginning of the formulation of your own musical identity –

Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen

Bed Of Roses by Bon Jovi

Losing My Religion by REM

Maria by Blondie

Bitter Sweet Symphony by The Verve

Take On Me by a-ha

Johnny Come Home by Fine Young Cannibals

“Welcome to the Black Parade” by My Chemical Romance

The list is too long to put here…

It is to this day the memory of some of the most beautiful music you remember hearing. The kind that they rarely make anymore –

The Rose by Bette Midler

Power Of Love by Jennifer Rush

It is falling in love with the songs that tell a story –

The River by Garth Brooks

The Thunder Rolls by Garth Brooks

The songs you love because you have to –

Jessie by Joshua Kadison

It is my God song –

Nothing Is Written by Mumford and Sons

And it is the song you identify most with –

I Lived by OneRepublic

There will be more. Songs that remind me of people, places, times and events. Some will be joyous, some traumatic and some sad.

Songs of love, loss, joy, triumph.

The songs that resonate with my soul.

The Fat Chick

I have always been the fat chick. Always. That is how I have defined myself forever. Fat and damaged.

This is part of my story.

When I was 13 years old I remember my family (mom, dad, me) traipsing down to weigh less and joining up. I was 13 kilograms overweight at that stage. Needless to say, weigh less did not work for me. Or my mom. Or my dad actually. And I’m not saying weigh less doesn’t work. I’m just saying that it didn’t work for me.

Somewhere along the line, it became cemented into hard and fast concrete that I was the fat chick in the most damaging and important place – my head. Sadly, weigh less was and is never going to fix that kind of being fat.

The kind of fat that makes you think you are bigger than you are / horrible / nasty / no one will ever love you / weak willed / destined to be fat / it’s in my gene’s fat (because that is easier to believe than to believe you have become conditioned – by yourself and others – to think the absolute worst of yourself).

For many years that cemented belief, that low self esteem, that thinking the worst of myself, ruled my life absolutely. It took control of every single part of it. I became a recluse. An introvert by choice. A loner. I made very bad choices in men (boys). I let myself be manipulated / used / hurt because my head told me that was all I was worth. If someone could love this damaged / fat / terrible person that I am – then I must at all costs make myself worthy. Be worthy. Well to try anyway. I walked with my head down – convincing myself that I was OCD – just so that I wouldn’t have to see people’s reactions to me (and I don’t mean their true honest reactions – I mean the reactions I thought I was getting). I worried and stressed and emotionally – quite simply, I destroyed myself. It became an extremely damaging cycle of neglect, self hatred, low self esteem, bad choices, allowing myself to be hurt or treated badly, making bad friendships etc. All the while adding layers and layers to the cemented block in my head that said you are huge / massive / the biggest person ever / totally unworthy / ugly / deformed / unloved / disgusting. Being fat did not do that to me. Being fat is a symptom. Yes I spent years not caring what I ate / comfort eating / not exercising. Ultimately though, I made me fat because I am damaged.

A lot of people don’t understand severely obese people. Personally, I think there are three kinds of fat;

  1. Society in general is breeding a culture of laziness and overeating. America and the UK are good examples – and we are not far behind. I have no sympathy with those genuinely lazy greedy souls who just eat because they can.
  2. People like my brother who has a genuine hormonal imbalance and whose body cannot metabolize fat. People with genuine medical reasons for being overweight. My heart goes out to them. To my brother who has the soul of a saint, but a body the entire world judges him for.
  3. And people like me. People for whom being fat is a symptom of a larger, underlying problem. People like anorexics and bulimics and yes, even some of us fatties.

Sometime in the last 2 years or so, the best 2 things in the world happened to me. My ex boyfriend dumped me. I ran out of worth / things he needed / money. And I got sick. Very sick. For the first time in my life I was truly faced with mortality, the idea of dying. And for the umpteenth time in my life I was faced with being rejected. However, this time was different. Perhaps it was the circumstances. Maybe it was age or just plain exhaustion or a tiny bit of wisdom. Maybe it was God. I don’t know. I like to think it was a combination of all of that along with a bit of me, and a very large part of my nephew Mookie Man (obviously not his real name), my family and having reached rock bottom with nowhere else to go but up.

For the first time ever in my life – I chose not to be floored. I chose not to fall apart. I chose to live. And most importantly – I chose to be happy. I started going for therapy. I started to put myself first. I joined a gym and I actually went (and found myself enjoying it after a while). I did things I was afraid of – I walked with my head up even when I felt small, I smiled at strangers and greeted everyone I saw, I talked to random people instead of huddling in a corner, I smiled when I felt like crying, I danced instead of lying on my bed crying hysterically, I went for belly dancing lessons, I did Pilates. I forced myself to live, go out, be me, laugh and enjoy things. I forcefully distracted myself from being miserable, crying, obsessing. And eventually I didn’t have to force anything anymore and I didn’t have to stop myself from being miserable. I woke up one morning and realized that being happy wasn’t a choice anymore, it was a reality.

Through all of that, I started losing weight. Not because I was on a diet, but because I wanted to live a long and happy life. And quite simply, being fat and all that comes along with that is not conducive to a healthy long life. I started reading the labels on food packaging. I cut out what I can honestly say I can live without – butter, most oil, and takeaways, full cream anything. I ate chocolate in moderation. I had a handful of chips instead of a packet. I found a dietician. At that time, I don’t actually know what I weighed. Scales don’t go up that far. So I took a random number and worked from there. I lost 16.77% of my body weight. About 28 kilograms. Yes I was still too big and yes I was still fat and obese (or as my ‘friend’ puts it – you are still obese but at least you look more normal now’…).

But – what started out as a choice to live, a choice to be, a choice to find myself and fix what was so very obviously broken had snowballed beyond my wildest dreams. In the best way possible. The right way. The way it should be. I didn’t need anyone to tell me I am worthy. I didn’t need anyone to love me. Because I knew I was worthy and I loved me. I am amazing. Quite simply – because I am.

And then I sick. Again. I spent an entire month in a hospital so that the pulmonologist could try and figure out what the hell.  It took a long time, filled with large doses of cortisone and medicine and being careful. And my weight started to climb. It was a perfect storm of circumstances. Illness, inactivity, cortisone and just plain bad luck. I stopped weighing myself because I just knew. At my largest – I weighed 170kg. The most I had ever weighed in my life. Everything hurt. Everything was swollen. Just walking was a bitch.

BUT – I never lost the joy that I had found. Yes my circumstances sucked – but so the hell what – I am still amazing. I am breathing. I am funny. I am smart. I am me.

For years I struggled to be thin, conform, be loved and liked, be worthy. No one ever told me that being fat wasn’t my problem. My head was my problem. My head never thought I was good enough. My head was wrong. Don’t get me wrong. It was hard. It is hard.

I am healthier now and after much soul searching, much discussion with people who know about these things, after much advice – I chose to have a Gastric Bypass. On 7 June 2012, I took a very large step off a very well worn path and started my new journey to another facet of awesome.

Through all of this – I have on occasion failed. Sometimes I have let what others think of me interfere. Sometimes I put the ideas and opinions of others ahead of me. Sometimes I feel that concrete block like an actual weight on my shoulders trying to press me into oblivion.

But always, I smile. My family or the people who truly matter say wow you are doing awesome. I take my lead from Khan in the Parlortones – and I dance like nobody is watching me.

And the concrete gets weaker every time.

And my soul sings every time.