I’ve had a rough-ish start to 2012. All set to start afresh I found myself beset by the same problems. There’s a lot going on in my life right now, not much of it awfully positive. Right now the situation making the most noise is mum’s.
On Wednesday morning I picked her up and took her to her GP. I wanted to talk to him to get a clear idea of what mum was facing. He was good and the meeting constructive, but I was witness to things I’d rather have not known. It was uncomfortable. Afterwards I took mum grocery shopping. There was something depressing about this. I wheeled the trolley up and down the aisles for mum as she picked out the things she wanted. This degree of incapability is probably inevitable for all of us, but to be there providing mum the support she couldn’t manage without made it plain. I dashed home after that, took 30 minutes for myself, then clambered into a suit and headed over to mums again.
Irving, a family friend of many years, a gentle, funny, and sensitive man had died the day before. His death had been expected – I had cancelled a little trip away in expectation of it – as he was 87 and in hospital after a stroke in September. Beings Jewish his burial was the next day on from his death, and so we raced over to attend the ceremony.
I was there more for mum, as chauffeur and support, but I was glad also to be there on my own behalf. I liked Irving greatly. I always thought him a lovely man with a cheeky sense of humour. He was forever bright, despite the fact that he was the only member of his extended family to survive the holocaust, or shoah, as the Jews call it. During the ceremony the story was told by the rabbi of how Irving’s mother had given him some diamonds before they were separated, and how he had hidden them in the heel of his shoe. He never took those shoes off, not even to sleep, throughout the many camps he was incarcerated in. How many stories are there like that untold?
I was back at mum’s on Thursday morning. I felt weary of it all, and downcast. Mum had given me some news the day before which sent my spirits tumbling. I drove over to mums thinking I needed a break from this. I craved a normal life again. I wanted some support too. A cut-out to take some of the load from me with mum. And some moral support for me. I felt sorry for myself basically, something I try and avoid but which at times is perfectly understandable.
I had organised for some home-help for mum and so met them Thursday and confirmed all the details. She left and feeling emotional I let go a rant to mum, what about me? It horrifies me to think I did that, but once more I understand. Mum is dying, harsh but simple; my life is nowhere near as definite, and much more complex.
I had arranged to have lunch with Cheeseboy Friday. One of my new years commitments to myself is to be more open with others. Cheeseboy particularly is a man who is always trying to draw me out, to get me to admit to my feelings. I’m so old school though. I’m one of those proud and stubborn men incapable of publicly admitting to any fears or vulnerability. I don’t want to impose my issues on others, that’s my business after all, won’t it embarrass them. Consequently I take on much more than I give out.
My reticence seems ridiculous in light of some of what I write here, but this is a different medium, one voice amongst millions broadcast anonymously to a world that has only a passing and voyeuristic interest in my travails – which is how I like it. There’s safety in anonymity, and numbers.
Still and all I had made my mind up to give him what he wanted, not for him, but for me. I may be stubborn, but I know it’s silly to bottle it up.
In the evening Thursday Cheeseboy sent me a message to say he was coming over. He arrived bearing a bag of cheese and crackers, as befits his reputation. He selected a good bottle of Pinot Noir (Punt Road) from my rack, then we sat down and talked.
I’m new at this. It came slowly and in small pieces. While I admitted to things I talked them down. I was open though with all that was happening, with mum, with me, with everything else. I told him something of what I feel, the frustrations, the occasional sense of futility, the perverse events of my life. At one stage while telling him of the latest episodes with mum he asked, “but who supports you?” Well, that’s the crux of the matter right now. I lack that support that would make things so much easier, but the fault for that is mine.
He listened and gave advice, and offered his help – not to mention support. I was glad to have opened up. Somehow I did not feel a lesser man for owning up to the frailties I had previously kept from view. It was good for us to, as friends. I think in many ways I’m a good friend – reliable, sensitive, fun, interesting, pretty well always up for it. I’ve been a woeful friend going the other way. I give, but I don’t take, when the real treasure in true friendship is the opportunity to give. That’s something I’ve denied my friends.
We continued to drink and eat, talking now about other things, about sport, movies, about getting a new barbecue. Our conversation was sprinkled with the usual juvenile inanities we always find time to giggle at. Gradually we came to watch the movie that just happened to be on TV, Sleepless in Seattle. We commented on the different fashions, how Meg Ryan was cute and attractive but not particularly sexy, about our memories of when the movie came out. I watched, enjoying the simple fairy-tale the movie portrayed, why not, I thought, good things happen, dreams come true, happy endings can be so.
Thursday I turned the corner. The situation is no better now than it was when I was at my bleakest – in fact mum is in hospital as of this morning. Life goes on though. There will always be these episodes and sometimes there will be a struggle – that what happens when you’re human. I’ve always been positive though, and resilient – I’ll deal with things as they arise, and look forward to a better year.