calendars are bastards.

i don’t like Sundays.
but still they come…
reminding me of those times when i shook hands with Death.


first, my father.

one fine sunny Sunday morning in May…

i can still hear my screams:
Kathryn, darling… Daddy’s died” my mum said,
softly,
cradling me in her arms.
was this real? i was 13.
a child. why me? why my Dad?
why, Death, why?
can you tell me that?
why did you take him from me so soon…?
there was still so much i had to share with him:
he should have taught me how to drive;
he should have been driving me to and from the airport;
he should have been there to tease and taunt my boyfriends;
he should have been there to hold Mum in her last days on Earth.
he should have been there, then.
and he should be here
now.
Oh what i wouldn’t give
for one more day with him… because

i didn’t get the chance to say “Goodbye.”

i am sorry, Dad. i am so sorry…

and then, another Sunday morning… my little friend, my dog…

i am sorry, Bonnie. i didn’t know you were as sick as you were.
neither did the Vet.
Saturday, you grew sick. convulsing. struggling, gasping for breath.
“keep her comfortable, make sure she has fresh water” he said.
i slept by your side,
on the kitchen floor,

stroking you, whispering comforting words to you.
you died in my arms, through the night.

i woke up and you were gone.

your lifeless body, cold and stiff.
blood from your nose and ears
on my hands and sweater.
i am sorry i failed you, old girl.
if only i had known you were as sick as you were,

i would have, mercifully, done the right thing by you.
but the Vet sounded hopeful…
he was so apologetic when we took her little body to him,
for cremation.

i am sorry, little one. i am so sorry…

Sunday 16th July 2017. 5am.

i receive a phonecall… “Kathryn, it’s West Park Care Home… it’s time, darling

in a haze of ‘this cannot be happening’
i call my brothers.
i am first to arrive, a lonely vigil, at her bedside.

my Mum had Alzheimer’s and dementia.
i had ‘lost’ her weeks before her physical death.
but we cling on,
with dear life, to prolong things. to anything

i didn’t want her to go.

but i wanted her to go… does that make sense?
i couldn’t bear to see her struggle,

and writhe, her face contort in pain and confusion.
did she know i was there?

was she conscious? did she know she was dying?

could she hear me?
could she smell me?
could she sense my presence?


i hope so…
because that is all i have to cling onto now.
a hope that she felt my love
in her last few hours.

all i could do was sit by her,

stroke her hair,
sing to her, softly….

willing her to go to sleep…

willing her to let go…

was i ready for this? she was ready…
i was not.

Death entered her room at 8pm.
i felt his chill in the air, and

in her gasping and clawing,
in her sweating and writhing,
her fever,
her delirium…

i willed him to take her.
to take her back.
back to those she had missed
so sorely…

all i could do was lie down beside her,
cradle her, as she did me, when Dad died.

whispered goodbyes – could she could hear me?
my words, my heart breaking…

i hope she knew how much she was loved.
and how much she would be missed.

but i was about to shake hands with Death,
he was so close now…
the minute we met,
i felt her heart stop beneath my hand.

a wave of golden light filled the room,
filled my body, like a surge of power.
did she pass through me?

i still hear the sound of my heart breaking,
when my Mother’s heart stopped beating.

every Sunday, at around 8.03pm…

i am sorry, Mum. i am sorry that you had to suffer so much.
i wish i could have done more.
but please…. know that you were loved. and that you are missed,
so sorely…
as i now feel properly orphaned.

the next time i was to shake hands with Death,
i refused to give in.

he was my love, my best friend. but where did he go?

another Sunday. he had been gone for hours. no explanation.

my stomach in ropes, i hailed a taxi to find an open door.

i find him,
in a darkened room,
surrounded by feelings of hopelessness and despair.
he didn’t want to live.

i screamed. again. why?? why???

a letter. empty bottles and empty pill packets.
the longest 22 minutes of my life, waiting…

waiting for that ambulance to arrive…

listening for his breath. watching his pupils dilate.
trying to keep him with me.
trying to keep him alive.

No Death! you cannot take him.

you can’t take him. you cannot take him.
not this one…. no…. no…!

he has a boy. he has a mother. he has a sister.
they need him. i need him.

please let him stay.

you can’t take him!
you CANNOT take him!

i can still hear my voice… my screams, as i find him…
lying, curled up, on the bedroom floor.

pale. like Death.
cold. like Death.

but still breathing. barely.

time slowed down.
it was the longest 22 minutes of my life.
and his life….

his life, worth saving. because he is beautiful.
too beautiful for this ugly world, for sure.

i am sorry. i am sorry that i didn’t see the signs…
those warning signs.

i feel like i have failed you.
your life should have been saved long before you had to resort to this…
this…

but your life was saved.

and for that, i am grateful that i acted upon my ‘gut’ feeling.
grateful that we can have more time together, here.

in this life.
in this moment.

i hope… i love… i remember… i cherish.
yes, we all die, and

ultimately, we all die alone.
it doesn’t matter if our deathbed is surrounded by all that need to be there…
we all must make that final journey alone.
no matter what.
sometimes, we have time to prepare – but in reality, nothing can prepare us.

sometimes, we don’t have time
then spend all our time wishing we had made time.

time is all we have. make the most of your time. this time.
because… they will miss you when you’re gone.

believe me…..

time heals, yes.
but calendars are bastards.

(c) Kat McDonald 2020

image source: Pinterest
Artist: Unknown… but if you DO happen to know who they are, please leave details in comment box…. thank you.
.

a fucked up lovesong

https://miaowmcdonald.bandcamp.com/track/a-fucked-up-lovesong

Sunday 19th January 2019 was a horrible day. one of the worst days of my life. it was the day i almost lost someone i love completely. i have never felt so scared, so helpless in all my life. those twenty two minutes, waiting for the ambulance to arrive, seemed like twenty two hours.

i caught a glimpse of a Death, his shadow, his black dog… i fought hard, and won. Death would not take his soul. not this one. not today.

having to come to terms with this trauma and process its reality, and the many subsequent questions, is something i never want to relive.

but from the intense discourse, in the days and weeks that followed, came an overwhelming realisation that my love for this soul was strong. stronger than i ever thought possible.

from this event, this ‘ground zero’, i learned a lot about myself. there was a lot to process. even now, after a year and more, i am still haunted by that vision of Death and his black dog.

although lessening in frequency now, i still have nightmares and panic attacks in the small hours of the morning. i wake up in a cold sweat, cradling myself and reassuring myself it was just a bad dream and that he is safe. but that coup d’œil of what life would be like had i not arrived when i did, still chills my bones, turning them to powder.

living through this has made me appreciate the little things. it’s those little things, that seem insignificant at the time, that really matter when someone is gone. and by gone i mean not just in a different room. i mean gone somewhere where you cannot follow. ever. one day, you will never see one of their two hundred forty one different smiles again, or hear them sing in the shower. and it’s then you’ll punish yourself for not appreciating the little things, like the little kiss on the top of your head as they walk past, or the smell of their hair. even their moods and grumpiness will be something you will miss with a crushing weight upon your chest.

so tell them that you love them now. don’t wait.

listen to them.

be mindful, watch out for them. ask them how they are feeling. let them know you are there.

listen.

listen with your ears, your eyes, and your gut instinct…. it could save a life.

people deal with trauma, shock and grief in different ways. for me, writing is a cathartic process. a compulsion. a necessity. it always has been.

and so, i picked up Julio, my 30 year old Spanish guitar, and wrote a song.

this song… a fucked up lovesong.

SAMARITANS 24 hr HELPLINE > 116 123

(c) Miaow McDonald (music/lyrics)

(c) Miaow McDonald Photography (image)

pink lemonade for a blue girl

Pink Lemonade for a Blue Girl 2

this is a pink song about feeling blue…

it’s a gentle track, with a hint of ASMR about it and, perhaps, an unexpected time signature change.

it’s a song about summer feels… a song about the sea, its melancholy and escape.

“Pink Lemonade for a Blue Girl” is the 3rd of 13 or so songs from my debut solo album, Year Zero.

this song is available to LISTEN TO / BUY on bandcamp miaowmcdonald.bandcamp.com/track/Pink-Lemonade-For-A-Blue-Girl

“Pink Lemonade for a Blue Girl” will also be available on all other digital platforms to download and/or stream… iTunes, Spotify, Napster, Deezer, GooglePlay, AppleMusic, TikTok, Soundcloud, YouTube etc etc etc…

(c)(p) written & performed by Miaow McDonald

engineered/co-produced by Robert Davidson, the ‘Aged Choir Boy’.

Miaow McDonald: Vocals, Guitars, Piano & Synth
Additional Musicians:
Robert Davidson: Drums, Tuned Percussion and odd field recordings
Joshua Jamieson aka CyberneticZ: Accordion

 

 

528Hz: an emotional healing

 

IMG-8320

a light breeze floats in through the open window, toying with the light voile drapes in my bedroom. i feel it, but i am somewhere else.  i am a million miles away.  a million miles high.

i can feel the warmth of healing hands upon my solar plexus.  these are not my hands. i am alone in my room, save for my cat, Alf, asleep at my feet.

then, out of the blue, the tears come.

and they flow from somewhere deep inside me.  somewhere dark.  an emotional dam, breached. a release.  a flood.

“take my shadows” i repeat. a mantra.

i see my mother for the first time in three years and i can feel her hands in mine, cool and soft as i remember them being.  i tell her that i love her.  i tell her that i’m sorry, and that i miss her every day.

i see my father, for the first time in thirty years.  he holds me close. i can smell him.  i inhale deep and upon exhalation, i know everything is going to be okay.

i see my lover.  we are swimming in a deep blue ocean and we embrace, in the water.  like the waves we break through,  i feel a surge of overwhelming love for him.  immeasurable love.  and a longing to hold him.

my hands tingling, my heart feels heavy and i cry.  i cry for loss. i cry in gratitude. i cry with love.

i am filled with an enormous swell of desire.  desire to live.  to really live and savour each moment, because it’s the little things that matter:  every smile.  a scent.  a touch.  a glance.  every feeling.  every word ever said.

i feel like i am bathed in light and supreme love.  and still the tears flow.

tears of complete joy.  joy for having been blessed with the fortune of family and loved ones.  joy for having this complex and yet, paradoxically, simple fortress-like shield of love around me.  love from my family and my lover, my friends that are family, and the natural world around me.

i see trees.  tall trees, stoic and wise.  these giants are beautiful and i cry for them.  i cannot bear to think of a time when i will not see trees again.

stretching out my legs, i feel Alf’s soft fur against the soles of my feet.  i hear him purr in his sleep. i cry for him.  tears of joy for having the privilege of his friendship, and the knowledge that one day, he will be ash in my hands… just like my mother, whose remains (or what’s left of them) are in a small box, in a drawer, by my bed.

i see my grandparents. humble folk, hardworking folk and cry for the feelings of loss.  of being cheated because i never knew them.  but they are smiling.

i see my dear friend, Jess.  my lover’s gran.  i see her smile.  we look into each other’s eyes for the perfect time.

i feel blessed to know these beautiful souls, and to have been bestowed and entrusted with their love, their knowledge and wisdom, their guidance and other gifts.  gifts of smiles, embraces, shared laughter and raised glasses.

but the pain of loss and the knowledge that everything is infinitely temporary shakes my heart.

everyone is smiling, except me.  the tears roll down my face and soak the pillow beneath me.  i squeeze my mother’s hands.  she tells me to let it all go.

and i do.

and i am back in the ocean with my love, and we are kissing.  tears of joy rushing back to the ocean.  it’s like we have found each other again.   i don’t ever want to lose that.

i focus on my breathing and soon become filled with an inner sense of calm and purpose.

i want to live.  live better.  to create.  to live and love.

because love is everything.

 

IMG-8583

Words & Images (c) Kat McDonald 2020

dear mum

mum

dear mum

i mean this in the nicest possible way but i am glad that you’re dead.

i am glad that you’re not around any more. and here’s why…

i am glad you are not here, struggling and alone, in this new and worrying ‘reality’ or ‘regime’ we now find ourselves locked firmly down under.

i am glad you’re not here as this new way of living would terrify you.  it would defy you, deny you of your independence and the canny, simple and loving life you once enjoyed.  and you could never do the whole social distancing thing.   you loved us all too much.

i am glad you are not here, in the beautiful rural family-run care home that you, sadly, had to spend your last weeks in.   i am glad because at your age you would have, most likely, fallen prey to this COVID-19 virus that is sweeping the Earth.  this, with the added confusion and isolating delirium of Alzheimer’s and advanced vascular dementia, i am glad you’re already dead as this would have been even more terrifying for you. in isolation.  and i would not have been able to have held you close, as you slipped away.

you would have been a real nightmare, mum.  a real worry.

either we would not have been able to ‘contain’ you, in your little house.  you were stubborn; or you would have been worried to the point of hysteria, reading daily newspapers and watching the BBC.   choking on the fear.  calling us countless times a day to ensure we are all safe… and still breathing.

… and can you believe that bumbling blond buffoon that you once used to laugh at is now running the UK, and making a real cunt of things like you once, jokingly, predicted?

you would hate this new regime, mum.  not being able to visit family, neighbours and friends.  and not having visitors round for a cuppa tea and a carry on!  i know, it would kill me not being ‘allowed’ to visit you.  you would be considered one of the vulnerable ones.  a high risk.

in a sense, you have been protected from all of this.  but who knew your death would bring relief at this time for me, and my brothers and sister.

i miss you, mum.  don’t get me wrong.  i miss you so bad some days, the pain as raw as it was that Sunday evening in July 2017 when your heart stopped beating beneath my hand…

… but today, like yesterday and the day before and the day before that, i am glad you are not here.

not now.

not now.

 

(c) Kat McDonald 2020

 

year zero

so this happened…

ambulance_miaow_mcdonald_2020

18 months ago, Kat McDonald, the former chanteuse of Little Buddha and Bedhed, finally gave in to the burgeoning suggestions, from her fellow Pilgrim and lover, that she record the songs she had been writing.  engineered/co-produced by the Aged Choir Boy, she began to record the handful of songs she had been writing.  crafting songs from chaos using only her voice , Julio – her 35 year old Spanish guitar and a tenner’s worth of virtual instrument apps on her cracked up old iPhone.

the past 3 years, for Kat, had largely been teeming with love and moments of joy but they were not without stabbings of grief  as she watched my mother grow sick and die, as she watched her ‘adopted’ gran grow sick and die, as she saw her boyfriend struggle under the duress of a complete mental breakdown, as she held too many hand of friends as too many of her friends’ mothers died, as she struggled financially and now there is this… THIS!

what is this?

Kat finds herself locked down in a weird existential delirium: in the throes of the new and merciless pandemic virus that has its jaws firmly clamped around the world.  a terrifying and yet curiously calming time to reprioritise.  and time to create.

and so, in the wake of the vicious pummelling to her heart and brain, she sought solace in writing songs.  for her, it’s a chaotic, visceral process.  yet cathartic.  “a primal scream at the top of my lungs”, she says.

a release…

after 5 months of deliberating, pacing like a caged leopard, as Kat made mad scribblings of possible album names on napkins or any other bit of paper available, she has finally decided to name it “year zero”.   because that is what it is.

13 songs about this life.  because this is her ‘year zero’

and it is our ‘year zero’ – from hereon in, life will never be the same.

under her creative name, Miaow McDonald, her debut album ‘year zero‘ will be out some time under lockdown……  available on all digital platforms, incl. bandcamp

‘ambulance’ – the debut single from ‘year zero’ and will be released Monday 13th April 2020. available everywhere.

https://miaowmcdonald.bandcamp.com/releases

“a very special thank you to the Aged Choir Boy/fellow Pilgrim (Robert Davidson) for his patience and believing in me, even when i felt like an imposter, i know i can difficult to work with…  “you are my dragonfly” x”                                                                                                                         – Miaow McDonald

 

Miaow McDonald: vocals, guitar, bass, piano, Theremin, synths and responsible for some other sonic perversions and samples.

album cover _ YEAR ZERO

(c) Kat McDonald 2020 – locked down, performing/recording as Miaow McDonald.

ephemerality

IMG_0161

they say a storm is coming.  this may very well be true.  and although the sky is the perfect shade of blue, clouds are gathering fast.  rain is in the air.  i can smell it.

the concrete step feels warm beneath my bare feet.  the sun is coy and toys with me, playing hide and seek amid the cloud formations.  but there’s a restlessness in the air.  i can feel it in my hair.

it is friday.  3.15 in the afternoon.  it is supposed to be summer. that’s what the calendar states.  summer solstice.  the longest day.

and it has been the longest day.  nothing seems to have gone to plan today.  what is today, anyway?   what is time if nothing but a human construct to organise our lives by?   i feel like i am waiting.  waiting for something to happen.

i sit on my doorstep with a cup of coffee in one hand and an abundance of time in the other.  i watch the trains go by.  there’s something beautiful in their ephemerality.

i marvel at the tiny flowers, violet and yellow, growing up through the cracked and spawling concrete steps up to my home.   such unexpected beauty.  such unexpected strength for something so small and seemingly delicate.

my thoughts turn back to a time when i had a medieval castle on my doorstep; to another time when i had a beach.  and now, it would appear, i have a garden.  a wild garden with wild birds and butterflies.  a wild garden fringed with an abundance of cherry-red lanterns of the fuschia bushes growing down by the railway tracks, tall spikes of  purple and white digitalis salute the pathway, and a lone Himalayan palm tree sways in the breeze.  there is also a mysterious outbuilding hidden amid the trees that overhang my overgrown lawn.  i think i may have a key for that…  a big old rusty key.

maybe i should seek the services of a gardener.   the lawn grass is almost waist high.

the sun, when she shines, warms my face and shoulders.  i close my eyes and listen to the sounds of this supposed summer:   trains, chattering birds, distant music from someone’s transistor radio and people in conversation.

i open my eyes.  squinting, i follow the voices, momentarily sunblind.  it is my neighbours, John and Jess.  they are an elderly couple and they are talking to their gardener.  their garden is perfectly plotted geometry.   the precision of its symmetry whispers a sense of order and calm.

“shall we plant delphiniums?  i just love delphiniums”

another train rolls past.  taking that moment with it.

i look at the wilderness of my garden.  it screams chaos.

i shiver as the sun shies away behind a big black cloud, clearly overshadowed – or so it would seem.   the air is cold.  too cold for a storm, i think.

petrol blue and white magpies chatter with one another, swooping from telegraph wire to tree top, and back again.  even they seem restless.

the gardener fires up his lawn mower.   it splutters and starts, then growls loudly as it cuts up the grass.  the tiny green blades are no match for those big steel ones.   i watch him walk back and forth, steering the grass-cutter, turning their garden lawn into a chess board.  the smell of cut grass is pungent.

the sun, having burned through the cloud, is hotter than before.  it is almost 4.

i tiptoe down the hot concrete steps to the dry stone dyke that divides order from chaos and start up a conversation with the gardener.

for £30 he will cut the lawn and square up the edges, he says.

okay.

next week, i say.

 

words (c) Kat McDonald 2019

 

 

 

jellyfish jargon

i have writer’s block.

IMG_E6995

i read, somewhere, that there are many ways to overcome this curse.

i thought “oh… what the hell – things can’t get any worse, can they?“.

so i played a little game – some “word disassociation” – with my lover.

here is the result of our experiment – our “mind meld”.

 

                                      wishbone,                   elbow
                                      and plastic cannon
limp leg
                                      and jellyfish jargon

blade system, warm broth
                                      damp disaster and
soft sponge

                                      swamp surf
and temper ripped
                                                                            telephone tampon
a signal pip

                                     yellow dog and decaying sun
                                     rattling flowers and
                                                                                                                flavoured gun.
                                    keys collected
on a pretend horse;
                                    a cannon ball
                                    with turtle force

                                                                    pristine hands
                                                                    and permanent grin
                                                                                                              apricot eyes and
                                                                                                              lavendar gin

howl, pull,
                 push harder
                 a crossbow found
in Cupid’s larder

                                                                        wishful thinking
                                                                        with lemon aid
                                                                                                                         splice,                     splinter
                                fizzle, fade

tiny mind
                  little bitch
lonely existence
thou shalt not suffer a witch
                                                                       broken glass
                                                                       and pineapple powder
sleep asylum and
                               tulip chowder

                               mask trap and
fuck face
                                                                       vile greed
                                                                       and petal safe

dog, cat and watermelon
                                               thunder boom – put that dress on
                                                                                                            a clever kiss
                                                                                                            in blind rage
a fist full of piss and desert sage

                                              stinking dust
                                              good luck chain
fortune cookie and
                           lust                     for rain

                                                      ritual blood
                                                                             earth quake
                                                                                                   teeth chatter
                            vanilla shake
in forest dark
we travel light
                          turn
jump
                                                                                                   petrol high

                                              denim serpent
purple cloak
                                              opium stab
                                              at ticking clock
                                                                                                   listen to jazz
                                                                                                   hand on cock

                       cowboys
                                      and lions
lipstick smear
                                      red, dead
and drawing near

clip
cut
                                    pussy pie
                  dull twist
shudder
sigh…
                                                    my lone piano
                                                    in temple building
                 mud paste
                                                   for sandwich filling

                                    dragon light
                                    and ocean fire
                                                                                        forest song
                                                                unholy choir

                                   drowning thoughts
                                                               and downing bourbon
                                                                                                              blue balloons
                                                                                                              for a nervous breakdown

lick
         lips
         waterfall
                         of space perfume in empty hall

my empty pen
my broken sword
                                sacrifice the umbilical cord
                                                                                 of my wild imagination

 

Image & Words (c) Kat McDonald

June 2019

a green cardboard box

all that remains of you rests in a green cardboard box:
6″ x 9″ x 6″.
your name, printed on a generic white sticker,
with a number and a date:
the date we set you free
by fire –
and all that remains of you now rests, with me, in a box by my bed.

a green cardboard box.

you weigh less now, but you are, surprisingly, heavier
than i anticipated.
i didn’t know what to expect, to be honest, when i got the call
to come and collect you.
but you were given to me, gift-wrapped, like a present.
gift-wrapped in a silver bag, with silver rope handles:
like a belated birthday gift.

having you, for my mother, truly was a gift.

with my brothers, i will scatter
what’s left upon the graves of those you lost long ago:
your lover and your son,
just like you wanted, Mum.

but, truth is, i am finding it hard to part with you.
so long as i have you, in this little green box,
you remain a part of me.

but, part we must.
i cannot hold onto these fragments
of bone and cinder
– that were once strong arms that held me
– that was once a beating heart that loved, unconditionally.
i must let you be
and scatter you to the breeze
and set you free.

i must learn to breathe for myself.

some days, i feel like i am drowning,
suffocating,
in my own loss and self-pity.
Sundays are the hardest days to bear

because i was there that Sunday,
when you gave your last breath back up to the sky
– do you remember?
i saw the light in your eye
turn off, like a light,
leaving my world a whole lot darker,
despite the sunlight.
i was there, with you, with my hand on your heart.

i felt it stop.

part of me died with you.
oh the pain of physical severance.
our umbilical cord, cut.
finally.

i know Death is not the end.
i know you walk with me.

i know you have stopped by… i know.
i could smell your perfume.
and i heard you, rattle my cup!

but i cannot keep you here, comforting as it is, having you close.
i must set you free.
i must let you be: be with Dad and William.
it’s the one last thing i promised you and
it is time.

time. we always think we have time.
truth is, there is never enough time.

time. my past, my present and my future:
all in one little green box.
time. it is all we had.

they say, in time, it becomes easier…
… this… breathing for myself.
i hope so
because sometimes i feel
like i am weighed down at the bottom of the ocean.

 

(c) Kat McDonald – September 2017

Rest in peace, Mum.

My late mother – on her 91st Birthday!  7th June 2017… she passed on 16th July 2017.

letting go: the right time to die

kat-mcdonald-aged-2

i remember, as a child, everything being so tall… perhaps it’s my earliest memory.  i remember everything being above me… the dining room table… what was there?  the kitchen work surfaces… the bathroom sink, where i would struggle on tip-toes to wash my hands… the book case… the ceiling…  the shelves in my bedroom, stacked with toys, all just beyond my reach… and the sky… the Heavens… seemed so far away in both distance and time.

i remember walking through a forest of legs.  i remember my mother’s legs.  i remember holding onto them in places familiar and places new.  i would cling to them when i was scared, unsure or feeling lost amid the voices and conversations i was not yet old enough to comprehend…  lost, amid the cigarette smoke and the laughter and the music;  lost, in another world, an adult world,  a world i couldn’t fully feel at home in, but home it was.  i remember that with one stroke of my mother’s hand upon my head everything would feel better.  and i loved it when she sang to me.

i remember looking up at my mother, admiring her… how pretty i thought she looked with her hair curled and shining; her face smiling down at me with so much love in her eyes. love, tinged with sadness.

oh, i knew that she loved me. i knew that she cherished me because she told me that i was precious.  precious because 10 weeks before i was born, my mother lost a son.  a son called William, he was 18 years old.  he was just a boy. a beautiful young boy.  a boy that my mother said i looked like.

i remember looking up at a particular photograph.  i remember wondering why the boy in the photo made my mother cry and wondered if the reason she often cried when she held me was because of him, or me.  i remember, one day, taking that photograph and stuffing it face-down in a drawer.  i didn’t want my mother to be unhappy any more, and the boy in the photograph seemed to make her unhappy.  all of the time.

she went crazy, tearing open cupboards and drawers… then she found it.  she asked me why i put it ‘there‘…  i told her.  and, again, she cried.  it was then she told me the story of William: the brother i never knew.  the brother who she would, understandably, pine for for all her days.

time, forever the paradox, hushes that memory and that day seems so far away – in both time and distance.

today i went to visit her in hospital.  she is 90.  she is frail.  she is small.

today her eyes are still tinged with sadness, but they still teem with love when i walk in the room.

she is a shadow of her former self.  she is not eating and is barely drinking.  she is not well, neither physically nor mentally.  i wonder if she is just biding her time here with us. i wonder if she is simply tired of the struggle… tired of the pain… the loss and the hopelessness.  has she given in?  has she lost the will to continue on, in this cracked and useless mortal coil?

she tells me she’s done, yet she asks me if i’m happy.

“yes!!” i say… with resounding cheer in my voice.  “i am very happy.  the happiest i have ever been”

… and yet upon hearing the resignation in her voice, i am the saddest girl on Earth.

as i fold my arms around her bony frame, i am reminded of my own mortality and the cruelty of death and loss.  i feel like i am losing her and if i hold her too tightly, she may just disappear from me altogether and leave me in a blind panic.

a panic.  just like a time when i was a little girl, shopping with my mother and father, and losing her amid a strange, deep and dark forest of strangers’ legs and loud voices, and hideously patterned floor.  i remember looking… searching… frantic for my her, for her legs to cling to… for her hands to stroke my head… for her voice… that song in her voice.

i was lost.

at a loss, and lost – as i feel right now.

but today, i am taller.  my mind, still curious, is now awakened to the weird fairtytales that were once adult conversations.  the smoke has cleared and i’ve learned to dance to the music. i have found my voice and i have travelled to the other side of the world.  i no longer search for her legs to cling to and hide behind… oh… but what i wouldn’t give to be able to be a child again… for one day… to be, once again, with my able mother and have her hold me and tell me everything is going to be alright.

because it’s not…

… she isn’t going to get better.  her body is failing and her mind is permanently on vacation; it has a one-way ticket out of here.

i wish I could keep her here, now… or in that memory… but maybe i am not enough… maybe my brothers… her grandchildren… maybe a visit from her other daughter…?  or  maybe… maybe our family is not enough to keep her here.  i mean… how could it be? it’s incomplete.  someone is missing… someone vital… someone who could have sealed the cracks.

tonight, i stood tall and gazed up at the ceiling… there are cracks in the ceiling… some big, some small… many irreparable.  just like those memories of childhood, when i would gaze up in wonder.  the mystery is no longer a mystery.  the cracks no longer hold mystery;  she is no longer a mystery, but yet i marvel at how she managed to go on after such loss.  i know what she wants.  the cracks are beginning to show. they are deepening stress fractures from bearing such a load.  life. loss. death.  death of a son.  death of her parents.  death of her sisters and brother.  death of her husband and my father.  death of friends.  death of her able body.  death of hope.

but her mind is, strangely, liberated.  i take comfort in that.

sitting side by side on her hospital bed, haplessly covered with a stained blue blanket, we talk.  she tells me she’s done.  she tells me she is tired.  she tells me things that only her eyes can convey.

as a grown-up, i now understand. i get it. but oh it is hard to bear.  hard to hear.  hard to accept. but not hard to comprehend.

she is trapped inside ‘this useless body’ – she is imprisoned. imprisoned in ward 3.  imprisoned in her dementia and silent world.  it is no wonder she prefers to escape with sleep.  sleep ‘to pass the time until…’

‘until what, Mum?  elevenses? visiting hours?’ i ask, choking on my own throat.

[the big sle..?]

but her mind is on holiday, she changes direction, and once again i am that little girl lost.

so… should i patch up the ceiling… could i patch it up?  could i patch her up?  if only i could, yet i wonder…  if i should?  i feel as though i am losing her, little by little, crack by crack and splinter.

maybe i should let her go…  or have i lost her already?

 

(c) Kat McDonald 2017