With lights out last night I lay in the dark and thought about how things are. It’s a tumultuous time. I move home in about 3 weeks, and am surrounded by boxes that need to be filled. So far I’ve filled five of them – 55 more to go. I’m also meant to be doing a Six Sigma course, which I’ve started, but struggle to do with any continuity with all the other things happening around me. And then there’s the big one, mum. Every day is full of mum, if not in deed, then in thought.
Mum is dying. Soon she will be dead. As it stands it’s unlikely she’ll make it out of hospital. For all the emotional burden that carries there are practical considerations. I’m the go-to man in all of this. I’m the one person in the world mum shares everything with right now. I speak to her maybe 4, 5 times a day. Sometimes she calls me, other times I call her just to see how she is going. I’m the person the doctor speaks to as well. Each day I get a call from her advising me on the latest. I get calls from others, friends and family wanting to know what’s going on and what they can do. I’ve lost count of how many sad conversations I’ve had, occasionally with people crying at the other end. There are things to do and organise. I rang the funeral director the other day to check on that. I speak to palliative care people, had to deal with the prosaic details of a courier delivery, have coordinated some cleaning, whilst asking for this person or that to attend to small tasks along the way. I don’t mind any of this. It has to be done and I’m good at it. There is a lot happening though.
Laying in bed I contemplated the logjam of things with little feeling. I’ll get through it. It’s not such a big deal. Turning on my side my thoughts went more directly to mum. Suddenly I remembered what her death would mean: that I would never see her again. After all these years she would be gone. That for all the long life ahead of me she would be missing from it. It’s shocking to think that someone so present could vanish like that. And very sad. For once I felt some self pity. It was awful, and it is now.
I slept uncomfortably. Sleep was light and restless. My sleeping mind was wracked by persistent and irrational thoughts that seemed real. Slowly I roused from my fugue. My thoughts gathered again, aware of what was happening. In the dark with my eyes closed my thoughts returned to the things that must be done for mum. I wanted a rest from it, but couldn’t seem to let it go. It was useless. I sat up and turned on the lamp beside the bed. It was about 2.40 am.
For 5 minutes perhaps I lay there wondering what I was to do. I was not tired, and did not want to struggle for sleep that wouldn’t come. I thought about getting up – but for what? Rigby watched me curiously from his bed on the floor, surprised at this change in nightly routine. Eventually I picked up a book to read as Rigby circled the bed and then jumped up on it. “You think you’re entitled to lay on the bed if the light is on or if I’m reading don’t you Rigby?” I said aloud. He watched me solemnly as if this time he might actually understand what I said. Then he curled into a ball beside me.
The book I had picked up was stories by Alice Munro. Reading her words settled things down in me. Fifteen minutes later I shewed Rigby from the bed, switched the lamp off and lay down to sleep.
As on previous nights my sleep was full of dreams. The dreams were ridiculous and incongruous and vaguely disturbing, as if written by Dali. Two themes seem to repeat throughout the dreams. In the first instance water seemed to be an ever present element, and not just as something in the background. It meant something, or signified something. The other theme was my clumsiness. In real life I’m clumsy neither in word or action, but in my dreams I became a klutz. It seemed the cause for much inappropriate hilarity from me.
I slipped in and out of dreams, in and out of heavy sleep. In a moment of clarity I realised I would be unsurprised to receive a phone call soon telling me mum had passed away overnight. It was that close I thought, and that’s how it would happen. Outside the garbage truck ground through first gear and whined as it emptied bin after bin. Then I slept again.
I woke later than usual. My body clock is precise. I wake pretty much the same time every day, and can set it to wake me at a particular time. I wake during the night and mostly I know what time it is without needing to look at the clock. Today it slipped though. I woke no more than 30 minutes later than usual, but felt foggy, as if coming off the back of a heavy dose of sleeping pills.
It is day now and I have spoken to mum – she has survived another night. She is unwell, but as I tell people who ask after her, that’s how it is. There are no reassuring words except that it will be over soon, as she desires. For now I go back to my stuff, packing boxes, doing my course, perhaps even doing some work in between, heaven forbid. Much of that has come to a stop. Vaguely ahead I recognise an uncertain future, mum gone, me displaced from this home, and a new environment to come to terms with. Nothing I can do about it.