Grief is insidious. Insidious … Yes, that is the word – I have finally found the right word for it.
It is the worst emotion of them all – by far. It is the most heart wrenching, and the most debilitating … the most … inescapable. It is present everywhere. It transcends time. It suspends you in a hideous realm of misery that seems endless.
And it can strike out at any time, for any reason, or for no reason at all. It is ruthlessly unpredictable. Even when you think you are having a ‘good’ day, grief can manifest itself from the dark and punch through your heart, out of nowhere, stripping you of your capacity to function. And this capacity to function is one that you have spent minutes, hours, days, even months accumulating. The problem is that your sole aim is just to function. You don’t want to live a life without the person you have lost, so the best you can do – the highest aspiration of your soul – can only be to survive – to function in the living world. There is no higher aim. Having that as your only purpose is hollow and cold. It makes it harder to achieve, because you know just how hollow a goal it is. And even if you achieve it, you’re still empty. Yet it’s so bloody hard to acquire! All this effort – back-breaking, soul agonising effort – is made just to survive in an empty existence. It makes you wonder what the point is in making such an effort, or at least that’s what you think when the rawness and cruelty of the grief makes its unplanned ambush.
I put on my mother’s wedding dress last Saturday. It is a stunning dress – pale pink Chantilly lace, with the longest train imaginable. The donning of it was a spontaneous decision brought about by a bottle of wine; in a feeble attempt to feel close to her again. I somehow managed to squeeze my pregnant belly into it, and to do the zip all the way up (getting out of it was an entirely different predicament). I put on the dress she was married in, and I sat on the pavement near the pool, in the rain … sobbing, and longing for her.
I don’t understand why I can’t feel her around. I have always been quite a spiritual person, whose perception was deep and acute. I would have thought that if anyone could sense a ghostly presence, then it would be me. But I can’t. She is just … gone. There is no sense of her here at all. I hear stories of people smelling fragrances, in particular, that remind them of the person who has died. So why do I never get the slightest hint of her talcum powder, or her perfume, or her tea? Why is she so irrefutably absent, in every sense of the word? Even when I put on her wedding dress, she is still no closer to me. She is still just as dead and gone as she was the day before. There is nothing I can do to feel remotely close to her again. And all I can do is sob in the pouring rain.
After that day I decided not to drink anymore. And I haven’t until now – and that’s almost a week, so it’s not a bad effort. But it’s still a hollow and meaningless victory. No matter what I do, or how I choose to handle the situation, there are still forms to fill out, banks to deal with, lawyers to converse with, and more documents to sign. The word ‘deceased’ on every item delivered to my mailbox. And yet you are supposed to function, to carry on, to move on with life, and you are certainly not supposed to drink.
The thing that is really getting to me now is that I have been away from her for months at a time – for longer than this in fact. But I always frequently spoke to her during those times. I have never in my whole life not spoken to her for this long. It is not an existence that I am familiar with, and I don’t want to be. It is horrible. Maybe I would have accepted it when I was fifty; when I could genuinely say, ‘Well, she lived a damn good life for seventy-eight years!’ But saying that she lived a damn good life for fifty-five years is something that I never thought I would have to say. She loved life, and she wanted to live it. She didn’t want to be taken this soon … it was never on the cards. And yet it has happened. I still find myself having those moments, where my mind unexpectedly says, ‘She can’t be dead’. And I have to correct myself, and tell myself, over and over, that she is dead – that I saw her lifeless body and I put her to rest in a pink coffin. But the little child in me is still wildly and hauntingly in a state of disbelief, longing for it to just not be true. And there’s not a single thing I can do to comfort that child.
If I were to pick a song to aptly describe how I feel at the moment, it would be Linkin Park’s, ‘Crawling’. Listen to it. You’ll know what I mean. Well, if you’ve ever dealt with severe grief and felt isolated and hopeless then you will. If you never have then I pray that you never will – I truly do.
I am so fucking angry at the moment. My dad has just left again, after we argued. Granted I did ask him to leave, but only because he upset me to the point where my brain couldn’t process any more crap. He’s a good man. He truly has the best intentions, and he thinks he is doing the best thing for me, but BY FUCK HE’S NOT! AND I AM FUCKING ANGRY – MAD, RAMPAGEOUS, MURDEROUS STYLE ANGRY. SO MUCH SO THAT MY WRATH IS ACTUALLY SERIOUSLY FRIGTENING ME, AND THAT CAN’T BE GOOD. THERE’S NOTHING ELSE FOR IT BUT CAPITALS, AND WINE, AND PLANS OF MASS DESTRUCTION! NOT THE EVIL KIND – JUST THE ‘I’LL STEAL ONE OF YOUR GARDEN GNOMES AND SMASH ITS CHEERFUL HEAD IN’ KIND OF EVIL. MMMM … THE THOUGHT FILLS ME WITH MURDEROUS JOY. HOW SAD. I AM ACTUALLY GOING MAD. AND I’M SOMEWHAT RELIEVED. AND ROSS IS ALSO ANGRY ENOUGH TO HAVE GONE SLIGHTLY MAD. SO WE HAVE FORMULATED A PLAN …
WE PLAN TO PROCURE AN ARMY TANK AND EMBARK UPON A RAID OF TERROR THROUGHOUT SUBURBAN PERTH – NOT HURTING ANYONE, JUST DESTROYING PROPERTY. SOMETHING LIKE, ‘I HAVE A TANK. YES, THAT’S RIGHT MADAM, I HAVE A TANK. PLEASE LAY OUT YOUR PROPERTY AND ALL YOUR VALUABLES ON THE ROAD AND STEP ASIDE. THAT’S IT MADAM. JUST LEAVE THEM AND STEP ASIDE. NOONE NEEDS TO GET HURT HERE’. ONCE THEY HAVE SURRENDERED SAID ITEMS, WE WILL THEN SLOWLY, DELIBERATELY AND SADISTICALLY DESTROY ALL OBJECTS IN OUR PATH.
IT HAS OCCURRED TO US THAT WE MAY NOT BE ABLE TO PROCURE A TANK. THIS PRESENTS A PROBLEM; IN THIS INSTANCE, WE WILL ABANDON PLAN A, AND INSTEAD EMBRACE INFERIOR PLAN B – WHICH IS TO TAKE MUM’S ARROGANTLY JOVIAL PINK TRASHY PYSAR (THAT WE’RE TRYING TO GET RID OF ANYWAY BUT NO BASTARD WILL BUY IT). WE WILL THEN WAIT UNTIL THE NEIGHBOURHOOD IS SAFELY ASLEEP, THEN WE WILL DRIVE THE UNWANTED PINK BASTARD DOWN GIBSON AVENUE, ALONG THE PEDISTRIAN PATH, DESTROYING ALL OBJECTS IN FRONT YARDS AND LEAVING A TRAIL OF HARMLESS YET DELIBERATE DESTRUCTION. WE WILL THEN MAKE OUR LUMBERING WAY UP EDDYSTONE AVE IN THE SAME MANNER. WE WILL DESTROY ALL MANNER OF OBJECT IN FRONT YARD VICINITY EXCEPT FOR GARDEN GNOMES, WHICH WE PLAN TO COLLECT AND MAKE A LETHAL ARMY OUT OF TO FIGHT A CAUSE THAT IS YET UNDETERMINED.
TO CONSIDER AN APPROPRIATE CAUSE …
MY PREFERENCE IS TO USE THE GNOMES TO MAKE A STAND FOR GAY MARRIAGE. WE COULD FLY THEM TO CALIFORNIA, ASSEMBLE THEM OMINOUSLY OUTSIDE PARLIAMENT HOUSE, DURING A SOIREE OF ARNIES, THEN WE COULD STEP ONTO A PODIUM AND MAKE A FUCKING STAND! SOMETHING ALONG THE LINES OF …
‘PEOPLE OF AMERICA, I BID A MOMENT OF YOUR ATTENTION. YOU SEE THESE INNOCENT GNOMES, ALL LOVING AND HARMONIOUSLY STANDING TOGETHER AS A COMMON UNIT? WELL, IF YOU DO YOU’LL ALSO NOTE THAT THEY ARE, IN FACT, ALL MALE. ALL THEY WANT IS TO CARRY ON THEIR BEAUTIFULLY HARMLESS FLAMBOYANT EXISTENCES, AND FOR THEIR COMMUNAL MANLY LOVE TO BE ACKOWLEDGED BY THE GOVERNMENT. ARE YOU GOING TO DENY THEM THAT PEOPLE OF CALIFORNIA? I PLEAD WITH YOU! IN A WORLD OF HEARTACHE, WAR AND DEVASTATION, GIVE THE GAYS THEIR RIGHT TO JOIN TOGETHER AS LEGALLY ACKNOWLEDGED COUPLES, BOUND IN THEIR LOVE. WE ALL HAVE THAT RIGHT – US HETERORSEXUAL INDIVIDUALS THAT CAN MARRY ANYTHING THAT PRODUCES PHYSICAL PROOF OF GENITALIA THAT DIFFERS FROM OURS. AND THIS IS THE CASE NO MATTER HOW FUCKED UP THEY ARE, OR HOW THEY TREAT US, OR HOW DESTRUCTIVE THE RELATIONSHIP IS. WE CAN MARRY THEM, AND CONTINUE TO HAVE OUR WICKED SORDID WAY WITH THEM AND THEIR DIFFERING PARTS IN THE COSY CONFINES OF THE LAW.
SO, FOR THE SAKE OF THIS COUNTRY’S SALVATION, AND THE BETTER GOOD OF THE WORLD, LET THE GAYS HAVE THEIR WEDDED BLISS AND THEIR NIGHTS OF ABANDONED PLEASURE WITHOUT JUDGEMENT OR IMPEDIMENT. IT IS THE ONLY WAY FORWARD! THESE GAY GNOMES ARE A TESTAMENT TO THAT DREAM. WILL YOU DENY THEM THAT DREAM PEOPLE OF CALIFORNIA? LOOK AT THEIR FACES! GAZE UPON THEIR INNOCENT, HARMLESS, AMOROUS FACES AND TELL THEM THAT THEY CAN’T HAVE THEIR RIGHT TO UNION. YOU LOOK INTO THEIR HORNY EYES – THEIR LOVE FILLED TOEY SOULS AND TELL THEM THEY CAN’T HAVE THEIR RIGHT, LIKE ALL OF US WITH ‘CONTRASTING’ PARTS, TO PUT THEIR FUCKING BITS IN WHATEVER DAMN BITS THEY CHOOSE, WITHOUT DOUBT, FEAR, RESERVATION AND WITH EQUAL … FUCKING … RIGHTS!’
HEY I MAY BE FUCKED, BUT IM FUCKING FUNNY.
IT IS CURRENTLY 17:57PM. WE WILL ENACT THIS PLAN AT A SUITABLE HOUR. PLEASE RESERVE YOUR JUDGEMENT.
I feel mad with joy after concocting such a brilliant plan! It has placated some of the anger. But, both unfortunately and obviously, I continue to get even drunker after this written rampage. And with the booze I get angry again – even more so than before. The emotions in me explode to the fore.
I call mum’s ex-boyfriend and give him a serve. But he catches me unawares by telling me that my Uncle Chris is back from his holiday. Uncle Chris and Aunty Judi left for a six week holiday the night of mum’s funeral. All the negotiations on the Bunbury house have been done through Uncle John, who was supposed to be conversing with Chris over the arrangements. I had caught wind that Uncle Chris was angry that we had started cleaning out the house in Bunbury, getting it ready for me to move in when the sale went through. But Uncle John had said that he’d talk about it with Uncle Chris, and that I should just go ahead and do it. I didn’t want to do it – to have to clean out and sort through two houses, with all their beautiful and haunting memories! But John had made the sale seem so urgent, and my baby was coming, so I made myself do it.
Little did I know that this plan had apparently not been discussed with Uncle Chris at all. I had been waiting for him to call me as soon as he got back. I thought he’d care about how I was and how the baby was doing. So when I found out that he was back, and that he hadn’t called, I was shocked and angry. I made the mistake of calling him in my drunken state. It was the most hideously torturous conversation. He was so angry and devastated that I had cleaned out the house in Bunbury without letting him know. I tried, very much in vain, to explain that Uncle John had told me to do it, and that he had said he would talk to Chris. I also explained that I didn’t throw anything out, I just moved stuff around to clear out the rooms.
Uncle Chris was livid, and the hurt in his voice was heartbreaking. Crying, but trying to remain calm, I told him that I would never intentionally do anything to hurt him, or to make matters worse for him. He said, ‘Well, I would have thought that’. He also said that he hadn’t discussed selling the house to me with John at all. My heart sank. No it didn’t sink – it splattered on the cream tiles.
I hung up, completely speechless and unbelieving.
It has … all been … for nothing.
I was numb with the gravity of it all, which was made much worse by the effects of the alcohol. Now the price John has agreed to sell the house to me at is up in the air, and, more to the point, I may not be able to buy it at all. There might not be any salvation for me after all. I was relying on that house; it was the only thing keeping me going.
And I’m so perplexed and heartbroken that I’ve unknowingly upset my mum’s beautiful brother that I don’t even think I can bring myself to buy the house now. Not like this. This is not the way it was supposed to happen. They were supposed to be happy that I wanted the place. They were supposed to be glad that it was staying in the family, and that I would be raising my own family there, with love and joy and laughter. Not with anger and resentment. Now all hope is lost. Whatever am I supposed to do now? The one thing that was keeping me going has now, with one phone call, been taken from me. I can’t cope. It’s too much. Now I have nothing; nothing to aim for, nothing to hope for.
I am left hysterical – utterly beyond hysterical. I cry, with such torturous force that all my muscles ache. I ache for my mother. I get some framed photos of her and place them manically on the floor. I grab some pink candles and light them, creating a make-shift shrine to her. I sit, cross-legged, sobbing on the floor, looking at her face.
I say aloud, ‘Help me. Mum, help me. I need your help. Help me. Help me. Why won’t you help me?! What are you doing up there?! This wasn’t supposed to happen! Any of it! This is all wrong! So very, very wrong! What am I supposed to do now?!
I stare at her photo, sitting on the ground, rocking with hysteria and pleading with her for help. And I drink. I drink myself into oblivion.
I wake up covered in blood. There are wounds angrily scratched into every surface of my arms and legs. I don’t remember anything after rocking on the floor. I am completely confused as I take in my battered body.
From the bedroom I hear Ross in the kitchen, cleaning up the debris – smashed glass and blood spatters. Befuddled, I pad out and ask him what happened last night.
He stands upright, sighs, and gently says, ‘I’m not going to tell you. Don’t worry about it love. You are okay, that is the main thing’.
I know from his response that I have gone way too far, and that it has to stop. I make a vow to stop drinking and to focus solely on the baby and on shifting house. I will find another house. I will do whatever I need to do.
I honour this vow with everything I have in me.