Firsts

Today marks one year since my Mom passed. It’s raining in my bonnie Dundee – appropriate, as it rained – a proper thunderstorm – the day my Mom died.

The year has been a hard one; I can’t believe I’m still here. It’s been a year of neuralgia and nightmares (when I’m not in the grip of insomnia) where I awaken myself screaming and crying, where I awaken my poor partner because I’ve been shouting and hitting him in my sleep. A year of forgetfulness: forgetting to feed my fish, running to the bathroom three times in the morning to put on deodorant because I can’t remember if I put any on. Talking to people and stopping because my mind has suddenly gone blank. A year of puking after eating. A year of therapy and various antidepressants and anti-anxiety meds.

It’s the news of yet another death that sends you into a total meltdown and you don’t want to think and you can’t bear what you’re feeling and you just wanna sleep so you take one pill and then another and another and a few different ones and drink some gin and your friend’s been trying to reach you for hours so you’re awakened by the sound of the police shouting your name as they bang on your living room window. “I didn’t really want to die, Officer….I just wanted my head to be quiet for awhile.”

A year of “firsts” you never wanted: the first birthday I didn’t get a card from her; the first time I couldn’t send her a card for her birthday, Mother’s Day, Christmas. The constant assault on my memory: making spaghetti for tea and remembering how I made spaghetti for Mom. Walking down King Street in Broughty Ferry and remembering taking Mom there when she visited Scotland and her delight in everything. The daily agony of coming home from work at the end of each day and rifling through the mail and none of the envelopes bear that familiar handwriting.

It’s fear. Not for yourself, cause you’ve become indifferent to anything that may happen to you, but fear of losing someone else you love. So you make your partner crazy: why are you coughing like that? Why are you limping – what’s that mark on your arm? It’s praying to a God you’re no longer sure you believe in to keep your brother and your sisters and everyone in your Cleveland family and Dundee family safe.

It’s trying desperately to function “normally”. Work, clean the house, cut the grass, talk to people. It’s Skyping with your best friend’s daughter and having her tell you “It’s good to see you smile, Aunty Kathy.”

“I smile,” you protest, shocked. Surely you smile …don’t you smile at people at work every day?

“It’s not the same smile,” she says. “It’s not in your eyes anymore.”

And time continues to pass, and you wake up on a rainy Saturday in Dundee and it’s been one year since your Mother squeezed your hand for the last time.

I miss you, Ma.

 

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the 11-month mark

so what was dude thinkin’
safe up in His cloudy sky
when He decided the people you love
would one day hafta die?

did it not occur to Him
that some could not withstand their grief?
was He indifferent to the many
who’d now abandon all belief?

& while I’m at it, God,
what’s up with free will?
surely you must’ve known
your creations would mindlessly kill

tell me why you do it:
are you a sadist, or just odd?
I still wanna believe,
so I’m waitin’ for an answer, God

wives bereft of husbands
husbands missin’ wives
children longin’ for their mothers
endless tears for all the lost lives

nightmares & neuralgia
terminal grief & guilt
doubting all your choices
& the worth of the life you’ve built

I know I’m a sinner, Lord,
but show some mercy – take me off this rack
I swear I’ll believe again
if you’ll just give my mother back

copyright © 2018 KPM

rules for wraiths & other lost souls

no one knows you’re a ghost
your body they can’t see through
they wouldn’t believe it anyway
so there’s still stuff you hafta do

you gotta get up in the morning
get dressed, make the bed
put your smiley face on
quell the voices in your head

you gotta go to work
cause there’s always bills to pay
pretend to be a “normal” person
despite the grief that darkens each day

you must interact with people
though from society you’d rather retreat
& at certain times of day
you force yourself to eat

you’ve no need (or desire) for food
there’s no wish to dine or sup
cooking’s such a waste of time
when all you swallow comes back up

so you work & cook & clean
feed the fish & watch TV
& every show awakens guilt
from which you cannot flee

you’re a ghost of who you were
the old you has been erased
who is this crazy woman,
by memory constantly chased?

forward the time goes
marching through a winter gray
take it one step at a time
things just might turn out okay

copyright © 2018 KPM

on Christmas Eve

On Christmas Eve I woke up at ten past nine. And I felt pretty good, considering the fact that the first thought I had when I awakened was “it’s Christmas Eve and my Mom is not here.”

I’ve been struggling in the run up to Christmas this year. It seems unfair…it feels wrong, that Christmas should just go on when Ma is not here to enjoy it. My Mom loved Christmas. The tree, the lights, the decorations. The Nat King Cole Christmas album. She loved it when I was a kid – even now I can see the look of joy on her face as she watched me and my brother and sisters open our presents – and she loved it even more once she’d become a grandmother and then a great-grandmother.

So I decorated my wee flat the way I’ve always done, putting the tree up the day after Thanksgiving. Adorning the fireplace mantle with the red and green tinsel garland, the dancing Santa, the Christmas Eeyore, the black singing angels and the lighted Christmas village my boyfriend John surprised me with two years ago.

I hung stockings for me and John and strung fairy lights over the tops of the bookcases; I even hung fairy lights on the palm tree in my bedroom. I found a place to display every Christmas card I received…they’re in the living room, the kitchen and my wee PC closet. In the act of decorating, I hoped to bring Mom’s spirit closer to me….I hoped that from her perch in heaven – reunited with my Dad at last – she would see all the decorations and smile.

This year, my first Christmas without my mother, I have received more cards and presents than I ever have in my life. And I get it: my friends, my work colleagues, knowing that this is going to be hard for me, have showered me with the next best thing to my Mom’s unconditional love: their love.

Thank you everybody, and Merry Christmas.

Merry Christmas, Ma. Love you….say hi to Daddy for me.

dream of me

I don’t know who said it
I don’t know if it’s true
that when you dream of someone
they’re also dreaming of you

tell me: do you dream of me,
the way I dream of you?
is love what connects us,
or am I simply feelin’ blue?

last night I dreamed of you
in darkness cold & long
I felt you clasp my hand
I smelled your scent so strong

I swear I heard your voice
whispering in my ear
did you know I needed you?
is that why I felt you near?

my thoughts these days are warped
images of death & desire
I sleepwalk through the days,
sub-conscious brain on fire

I wish I knew the reason
for these constant dreams of you
I hope you dream of me
tell me that you do

copyright © 2017 KPM

lost

still grieving,
worried about her overdraft
she feels unsettled,
in need of a life raft

she’s drinkin’ too much
hours she spends, sleepin’
awakening to discover
in her dreams she’s been weepin’

tormented daily
by Satan’s inquisitor
all alone she longs
for someone to visit her

it’s been a week
since her mobile rang
& everyday she jumps
at the mail slot’s clang

copyright © 2017 KPM

96 days

When someone you love dies – especially when your mother dies – you lose yourself. And time stops. And if you’re an immigrant, when you’re the child – who for whatever reason left their family, their homeland, their siblings & friends – the moment of your mother’s death stops at the last moment you saw her, when you she hugged you until your arms went numb, the last time she covered you with her favourite blanket, the last sandwich she made for you, the last time she kissed your cheek after telling you how much she loved you.

When someone you love dies – especially when it’s your mom – you are faced with “firsts”. The first time she has a birthday: my mom passed away three weeks before her 82nd birthday, and the birthday card I bought for her remains on the desk in my home office…if I bin it, it will be admitting something I am still struggling to deal with. Somehow, I managed to get thorough the first birthday of my Mom following her death. I made it through Mother’s Day, too.

A summer baby, I was facing a particularly painful “first”: my first birthday without my mother. And as I live abroad, it means Mommy sent my card and present through the mail. Aware that this birthday would be hard for me, all my birthday cards and presents from my family and friends arrived early this year except for the card from my brother, which arrived on the day. And with each clang of the mail slot, my heart leapt, thinking, “That’ll be from Mommy” before my brain caught up. So in the run-up to my birthday, I was wired – which understandably had my BF and many of my friends worried.

But something amazing happened that day. The morning of my birthday I woke up and I felt light – like a happy balloon floating across the sky. That morning, I awakened to sunshine. All the rooms in my wee flat were awash in sunshine. And I thought, “Mommy.” I knew that was Mommy, giving me a sunny day for my birthday. So I hurriedly showered and dressed and went out into my garden.

And I could feel her. My sisters had told me they’d felt Mommy’s presence since her passing, but I had not; I only saw her in my dreams, so I had been fervently praying to God to let me feel her, too. On my birthday, standing in my garden, I felt her all around me – in the sun on my face, the wind on my bare arms and legs, the flowers gave off my mother’s scent. I felt her inside of me, in my chest and my stomach and my heart, and for the first time since her death, I felt calm. Peaceful. Even happy.

This year my birthday was on a Friday – Saturday and Sunday were hot and sunny days as well. My Mom – perhaps working through or with God – seeing that her child was unhappy, gave me the gift of a beautiful weekend for my birthday. Sunshine as warm as her arms around me.

And it was a good birthday. I sang and danced and pigged out on the special meal my BF had made for me. I remembered my mother without tears, reminded that as her firstborn, the day she had me was one of the proudest moments of her life. I realised that Mommy’s love will never leave me – it and she will always be with me.

That feeling has remained with me, even as I ache for my brother and sisters, who are facing a “first” without me: the first family 4th of July barbecue and attendant celebrations without Mommy present. The 4th is the biggest of the summer celebrations in the US. I can feel their pain, because – even though I live in Scotland – I still celebrate the 4th with my partner.

But not this year. This year, I will get no letter from Mommy with the usual photos of the barbecue – my sister will not share photos of Mommy enjoying the barbecue surrounded by her grandchildren and great-grandchildren on Facebook.

Still, Mommy is with me. So although I’m not celebrating the 4th, I am remembering and celebrating the love she dispensed to her children and everyone who was fortunate enough to know her.

 

a poem for Jourdy

“she’s mine” you smiled
with gritted teeth
“I got her” you said
all steel underneath

you saw my heart was breaking
you got that the rain was too loud
you musta known I couldn’t take it
that sympathetic, well-meaning crowd

“I got this”
pulling my arm as you insisted
that everyone leave me alone
to my surprise, no one resisted

so tight you held onto me
with one youthful, tattooed arm
in that moment I was grateful
I knew you’d keep me safe from harm

so long have you loved me
when did that begin?
why do you love me so?
when we’re not blood – we’ve different skin

yet on the day of the funeral,
a horrid, slow-motion blur
you stood at my side
a warrior you were

many have said they love me
but they ignored me when I cried
so many people claimed to love me
but it turned out they lied

many have said they love me
in my 59 years
on the worst day of my life you said it
as you wiped my tears

unconditional is your love
on that day, you showed your care
I’ll always love you, Jourdy
cause on that day, you were there

copyright © 2017 KPM

the last birthday

life goes on
it’s in the footsteps above my head
the metal clang of the mail slot
a sound which I now dread

the daily tasks I perform
around my tiny abode
the hum of the bus to Perth
as it rolls over the road

life goes on
with each new bloom on my plants
the washing that flaps on the line
my t-shirts, socks & pants

it’s the canned laughter
comin’ from my TV
it’s the food I sometimes cook
that evokes your memory

life goes on
though you have said good-bye
no longer can you comfort me
on those days & nights I cry

yes, life goes on:
you’re at peace with God on high
life goes on,
& somehow, so must I

copyright © 2017 KPM

no one like you (for my Mother 1935-2017)

there’s no one like you
that’s why ever since you left
all the people who loved you
are endlessly bereft

poster mother for contentment
smilin’ as each child made their bed
every day your children remember
the wise & funny things you said

they think of breakfasts you made
all those school lunches, too
discipline, food & love:
it was your special glue

there’s no one like you
that smile, that glorious hair
& the rare gift of acceptance
despite the burdens you had to bear

your life wasn’t always easy
yet your faith remained steadfast
you gave love to all you met
joyous memories that will last

such grief your children feel
as they remember all your care
though a higher plane you’ve entered
each child feels that you’re still there

there will never be another
as wonderful as you
thus your children watch the skies
hoping to glimpse your residue

copyright © 2017 KPM