Time is a funny thing. When we’re young, we think it is endless and we have all the time in the world. I don’t really know at what point that stops, maybe it is a gradual awareness, a slow awakening to the fact that we are ageing. I do know that after I had my son, I seemed to be more aware of time passing by. Whilst in my twenties, I had not been clock-watching at all. life just happened and I wasn’t really aware of the years slipping by. Then, when Archie came along I was suddenly marking the passing of time all the blooming time! Counting the months until he started weaning, crawling, walking, talking, kicking a ball, learning to read, subtraction, multiplication, swimming without armbands, getting his own breakfast, riding his bike without stabilizers, no longer wanting a bedtime story (not with a cuddle or kiss anyway). All these milestones are important ones and as well as reaching them, it has been a constant reminder that life is whizzing by and there is, seemingly, no going back.
I often wish I could go back, and I think on some level in my limited brain I believe I will be able to at some point. It is almost like I think that this is not really my life – like I will be able to return to the carefree, younger me of my twenties if I just flick a switch, or find the magic door at the back of a wardrobe. That, back there is my real life – that this chaotic, adult, responsible world, full of children and ageing parents is a mirage or a dream and I am able to return to my heady, happy days of flat shares with my girly friends and weekends of eating pizza and watching VHS movies anytime I want. I just need to find the magic door.
It’s almost like a small part of me believes that time is tangible. I remember a friend of mine died very tragically in a riding accident when I was 18. It seemed so sad and very unreal and in the days after her passing, it felt like we should be able to just go back a few hours and change it, as it was only a few hours ago – so close I felt I could touch it. But, then the days passed and the weeks turned into months and soon we were remembering her on the anniversary of her death and it no longer felt like I could touch it, or reverse the accident. It felt too far away.
I went out for the day yesterday with my wonderful friend Liz. It was her birthday treat to me – a girly shopping trip with lunch (including wine – lots of) with no husbands or children to worry about. It was absolutely fantastic. We giggled and chortled our way through a posh lunch, accompanied by some rose wine and Prosecco. We shopped, very merrily, then we settled in a gorgeous bar and ordered nibbles (cheese and meat platters, charcuterie don’t you know!) and drank more wine. When you’re with a good friend and you spend time chatting and laughing, it is almost as if with each belly laugh, a small weight is removed from your shoulders and you are able to stand taller, a bit lighter than you were before, a little less troubled and feeling a bit more supported in whatever your daily troubles or worries may be. Friendship like that is like magic.
I was reviewing my purchases this morning (some were a surprise, I must admit) when I realised that the gift I had bought another friend for her birthday was missing. I searched the house for the Joe Malone bag and surmised with some anger that I must have had it stolen.
After all, we were laughing so hard at times, it would have been easy for someone to walk off with one of my bags without me noticing. I called the taxi company, just in case, in the hope that I had left it on the back seat, but, no I hadn’t. I then emailed the bar (they are too posh to have a telephone number it would seem) and waited to see if they had found my bag, not holding out much hope. An hour or so later, I got an email to say that yes, they had my Joe Malone bag and I could go and claim it whenever is convenient. I now feel foolish. No one stole my bag, I had simply left it there, too swept away in the joviality and fun of the day to take care of my belongings sufficiently and now I would have to get the train back into Leeds, probably with at least one of my kids, costing me quite probably more than the gift inside the Joe Malone bag itself, to collect it. I could bloody kick myself! But, it was only last night, surely I can just jump back through those few hours and pick up the bag as I’m leaving the bar. Surely my arms are long enough to reach back through those meagre few hours?
It feels like that just now with Mum. Her deterioration has been so rapid that it feels like she was her competent, brilliant, supportive self just yesterday and that if I could just stretch my arm long enough I could reach back through the months and see her again, grab her from the clutches of this terrible, bastard disease and save her from it. The memories of her being ‘normal’ are so very fresh in my memory that this new reality can’t possibly be real. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I am not deluded, I know how real her illness is….I know how bad things are and of course I know there is no going back, but it is very easy to kid yourself that it is all a weird dream, that it’s so new, it can’t possibly be our new reality. Perhaps this is a coping mechanism and my way of coming to terms with my new mother gradually – the alternative; the stark, bleak, dark and terrifying reality of her decline hitting you full on in the face each day is too much to bear.
I remember last April or May, things were tough with Mum and Dad had had a difficult few days. I had been on the phone to her every day, several times each day trying to calm her and make sense of the things she was saying. This one day, it was the end of the football season and it was Archie and Martha’s presentations after their football training. They each got a medal for their efforts that season and then it was Archie’s team’s turn to announce the player of the season, as voted for by the parents. I had spent all week telling my son not to get his hopes up; he was a good player, but there were better players in his team. I didn’t want him to feel too disappointed when they announced his friend Thomas, or one of the other players, Ben as the player of the season. So, I wasn’t really listening as their coach stood up on stage and announced that it had been a very tight run thing, blah, blah, blah….and that Archie had been voted the player of the season and it was well deserved blah, blah, blah….
I fell to pieces at that moment. The pressure and emotional build up from the worry about my mum exploded out of me and I sobbed into my hands. I didn’t even take a picture of my son on that stage, receiving his award as I couldn’t get my phone out my pocket, my hands were shaking so much. Other parents thought I was just a bit emotional and happy for Archie, which of course I was, but I was also disappointed in myself for not believing in him more, for trying to dampen his hopes and ambitions, instead of supporting him in his self-belief. I wanted to tell all those other parents who laughed at my over-the-top emotional reaction, that there were other, horrendous, life-changing things going on in my life at that moment and it seemed that by letting a slither of emotion out, I had inadvertently opened up the proverbial flood gates and all the fear and terror I had suppressed in the weeks before had found a way out, along with the joy and pride I had felt for my son.
So, I know how my body reacts to this terrible grief when I let it out. I have experienced emotional public breakdowns, I have been engulfed by my grief at home, in front of my children and I have lost control a number of times whilst on the telephone to my aunt and Freda, my mum’s friend. It is not nice and believe me, it is never pretty!
So, I think the only way for me to crack on with life and keep positive is to keep convincing myself that I am some sort of time traveller. That I am capable of popping back through the years to visit my mum, that I can just turn around and see the real her, as it was only yesterday really, when she was still her. I just haven’t found the switch yet, or the magic door, but I know it exists. If it was too easy to find then everyone would be using it and then the magic simply wouldn’t be magic anymore, it would just be the norm. Magic is a bit like true friendship, I suppose, because it is aloof and rare and only the deserved, or lucky ever really experience it. I have been lucky enough to have amazing friends – they keep me afloat more often than they know – and I know I will find my magic door one day. There are not many things in life as magical as friendship. I believe in friendship and I believe in magic. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.