A new start to my blog!
Writing helps me understand myself and discover who I am. My emotional development as a child and in my adult life up until my mother passed away, was thwarted by the invisible power she had over me. I carried her shame.
In this piece of writing, I can see I resented caring for my mother, but I would have done anything for her, even to the detriment of my own health and wellbeing.
Lisa lay in bed listening out for her mother. Her arms ached from the chores of the day and the skin between her fingers felt dry and sore as she rubbed her hands with lotion to try to ease them. Not daring to roll over onto her side for fear of missing her mother’s call, she shifted her hips slightly to ease the pressure on her back, and tried to relax. But still she was not comfortable. Without knowing she was doing it, Lisa held herself stiff, the tension she always carried infiltrating every part of her body like a mild and sustaining electric current in her veins. Had anyone been laying in the space next to her, they may have felt her pulsating energy.
Lisa was unaware of the strain and stresses in her body and how close it was to breaking. She appeared strong and healthy but for how long was she able to withstand the hours, days, weeks and months of looking after her mother without a break, without proper rest and without any help? And was she able to cope with the ever increasing number of personal tasks she performed for her mother? Caring for Sylvia was taking its toll emotionally as well as physically. Others could see it and Sylvia knew it too, but Sylvia held onto her daughter with an invisible rein that could never be severed, not by either of them and certainly not by anyone else. It bound them so tightly, that neither could breath. Unbeknown to them, the rein had wound its way around both their necks and was suffocating them. One day it would kill them. Either that, or the cancer would.
The lamplight coming from her mother’s bedroom across the landing held the darkness at bay, allowing Lisa to look around the bedroom as she waited for Sylvia to finish reading her book and to turn off the light. Months ago Sylvia had decorated and dressed her guest bedroom with her sisters in mind. She was hoping that one of them would come to visit her before it was too late. Lisa had done all the painting and decorating and the hanging of curtains and the putting-up of light fittings according to Sylvia’s instruction. Everything in the guest bedroom was in various shades and patterns of pink, to contrast nicely, Sylvia had specified, with the white wood of the wardrobe, chest of drawers, bed side cabinets and headboard. Under Sylvia’s guidance not to spend anymore than was absolutely necessary, Lisa had gone shopping for colour coordinates: pink vases, pink cushions, a pink silk flower arrangement, even a pink container to hold a tissue box.
The room was ready, but Sylvia’s sisters had not come to stay. At least now Lisa thought, she had a comfortable room to sleep in, even though the colour scheme was not her choice. She lay with the duvet tucked under her chin, the busy pattern seeming to hug her in an unwelcome embrace, roses on their dark green thorny stems tangling her up and holding her prisoner under the covers. Freeing herself, Lisa pushed it down, tucking it under her arms and unblinking and unmoving, she stared at the same design of roses on the matching curtains. She couldn’t escape them. Their many faces looked back at her until it seemed to Lisa that they were laughing at her, taunting and mocking her for her stupidity, her naivety and her unwillingness and inability to stand up to and confront her mother. She was in a hopeless, desperate situation and as Lisa turned to look up at the ceiling, she felt the familiar prickling behind her eyes as the tears slipped silently from their outer edges and slid over her cheek bones to pool in her ears.
Wiping her eyes, Lisa offered up her nightly payer in a voice that she did not recognise, a voice that was small, already defeated but still ever pleading: Dear God, thank you for today, for looking after mum. Please keep the cancer from spreading, please shrink the tumour and keep mum free from pain. Please look after her dear God. Please let the chemo work and shrink the tumour, shrink the tumour. Thank you dear God. Amen.
Her prayer, as always, gave little comfort, nor did it dispel the fear that was her constant companion. It seemed that as Sylvia’s tumour grew, Lisa’s fear grew inside her and the aloneness she felt because of it, seeped into the very tissues of her body filling her up so there was no room for any joy or any pleasure in her life. During the day, she managed to fight the fear. It was all-consuming, but somehow when she was busy and her mind was active, she found the courage to control it. But it was when nighttime approached that the fear came to claim her, no matter how hard she tried to keep it at bay. The fear was there now, it enveloped her, and held her tight like a lover might.
Lisa settled as best she could and tried to rest. She remained still until finally, she sensed the slight adjustment to the light beneath her closed eyelids, signifying that Sylvia had switched off her bedside lamp. Thank goodness, she thought, preparing herself for sleep.
‘Are you all right Mum?’ Lisa called out in a voice loud enough so that her mother could hear. Sylvia was totally deaf without her hearing aid in place. It was their routine that she didn’t remove it until Lisa was certain all was well and they had said goodnight to each other.
‘I’ve knocked my glass over as I switched off the light, there’s water everywhere,’ Sylvia replied. ‘Can you come and sort it?’
Lisa moaned as she threw back her duvet and climbed out of bed. ‘I’m coming,’ she said in a weary voice.
More than half an hour later, after Lisa had wiped up the spillage, given Sylvia a fresh glass of water and helped her into a dry night dress, she finally got back into her bed and turned onto her side to give herself over to the sleep of the exhausted. It was only then that the fear silently slipped away.