funny

Home from work, safely behind a locked and chained door in my favourite fleecy Eeyore pajamas that were a Christmas gift from my best friend of 57 years and her daughter, whom I jokingly refer to as my surrogate child. It’s mid-April but this is also Dundee, so the heating is on and I’m wrapped up in the duckie blanket, a parting gift from a little boy I once taught when I worked for a nursery school in the US named Blake who was taken by social services. They came right in the classroom, flashed their ID badges and took him, right in front of me and Blake’s classmates. When I protested that they needed to wait so I could give them his naptime blanket – blue and patterned with gay white and yellow ducks – Blake said to me, “Keep it, Miz Mack….you’ll need it more than I do.”

He was four. How did he know that…how could he know that? How could he know that I would love that blanket the way I loved him, that almost 40 years later, I’d sit on a sofa wrapped in that blanket for comfort?

Funny, ain’t it.

The past two weeks, I’ve thought a lot about things that strike me as funny. They may not be funny to so-called “normal” people, but I have a quirky, offbeat sense of humour, and I well remember, during one of those arguments my Mom and I had during my teenage years Mom shaking her head at me, muttering under her breath as she left the room “why can’t you be normal?”

Funny, right?

Know what I find funny? The way people insist on labeling things, on labeling people. The way the new order – otherwise known as the PC Brigade – are now offended by everything to the point where one can no longer joke about anything. Though I suppose that could be considered more pathetic than funny.

Wanna know what else is funny to me? The way people – the way I – continue to do things long after the reason for doing them ceases to have any real purpose or meaning.

Take house cleaning. Why do I clean the way I do…mopping, vacuuming, dusting. I live alone, it’s not like I make a massive mess. Surely I can get away with house cleaning once a month instead of once a week.

Why make the bed every morning? All I’m going to do is get back in it, so why bother? The time I spend making the bed every morning could be better spent having an extra cup of coffee.

Why bother painting my nails? It’s gardening season, I’m going to get dirt under my nails, but mostly, they’re going to break, either from gardening or from opening boxes at work. In the same vein, why do I bother painting my toenails? Sandal weather isn’t that long or that steady where I live, and at my age, bending over to paint my toenails sometimes hurts. And don’t suggest asking the BF to do this: feet gross him out.

I realise there are some things that remain necessary, like laundry. Clean clothes remain a necessity, and I like – weather permitting – hanging my washing on the line outdoors.

Feeding my fish and cleaning their tank remain a necessity: I love them, and I don’t want them to die. Same with the houseplants: I bought them (though some my BF bought) and I love them, so I must care for them, even the ones that I foolishly hung from the ceiling in front of windows that require a ladder to reach.

I’d add cooking and eating to the list of necessary things, but even though I like to cook, since my Mom died there are many days when I just don’t bother: I’ve no appetite, and I’ve developed the mystifying and annoying habit of puking (involuntarily) after eating. Roy (my grief counsellor) says this is one of many side effects of grief.

What remains necessary to me is sleep. If they had an Olympics for sleeping I’d take the gold. Roy says this is also grief related, and on this I suspect he may be right: I sleep a lot, hoping to see my Mom in my dreams. Which sometimes I do, and these dreams are good, they’re comforting, they make me happy. I run home from work and jump into bed…I fall asleep on my poor BF at the weekends. Asleep, I am happy – I am safe.

As a kid, as a teenager, I was the child who slept a lot. Mom used to always tease me that I was sleeping my life away.

Funny, ain’t it.

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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.

 

bramble boy

it’s early autumn
when he first comes
as seagulls fight
o’er cracker crumbs
her heart beats
like African drums
when she spies the bramble boy

autumn’s not
her favourite time of year
the days grow short
the skies are drear
yet she feels peace
seeing he is near
her steadfast bramble boy

leaves leap from trees
those we love die
the summer sun
deserts the sky
when the geese fly south
she wants to cry
‘til she sees the bramble boy

each September
in her garden appears
accompanied by the sound
of insectile cheers
he’ll spend the winter
quieting all her fears
her beloved bramble boy

copyright © 2017 KPM

every Thursday night

relieved to be home
where it’s warm & dry
she chains the door behind her
with a contented sigh

another workday’s passed
& she’s made it through
to another Thursday evening
with something special to do

once her cozy clothes
have been donned
she races to the kitchen
eager to crack on

hands all washed
knives assembled with care
cookbook propped open
new soup she must prepare

leeks she chops
boiling water for the stock
blender at the ready
ever mindful of the clock

the tasks she performs
are a private treasure
& she smiles as she stirs
imagining his face lit up with pleasure

copyright © 2017 KPM

autumn in the kingdom of Alba

another Friday morning
once again I open my eyes
to another spectacular
Scottish sunrise

my heart still beats
with its heavy load
yet I smile when I think
of strollin’ down Perth Road

my walk to work is soothing
daily exercise
checkin’ out the people
& the changin’ Dundee skies

a time for me to think
in the chilly mornin’ peace
a time for silent prayer
hopin’ sorrow will decrease

copyright © 2017 KPM

 

happy

she watches the sunrise
through curtains of lace
eager for the new day
reassured of God’s grace

her jeans & t-shirts
hang on the washin’ line
doin’ their dance
in hot August sunshine

though she’s scared
of the beasties that crawl in the dirt
gardenin’ helps her heal
it soothes every hurt

unlocking the red door
each day when she returns home
lovin’ the sound of silence
that comes from bein’ alone

fresh sheets on a new mattress
a waiter smilin’ & snappy
she realizes life is short:
she’s gonna spend hers bein’ happy

copyright © 2017 KPM

a girl can dream

I have this fantasy
of you & me
in a little home
on the edge of the North Sea

in the winter months
we’re bound to get some chills
but we’re happy in our house
nestled by the Scottish hills

it’ll have spacious rooms
& ceilings high
& a skylight above the bed
so we can see the night sky

& when it’s time to cook
we both pitch in
in our proper
country kitchen

we’ll be lucky enough
that we can both work from home
& at night we’re lulled to sleep
by the sound of sea foam

it’s saved me
this fantasy
& one day we’ll get it,
our home by the North Sea

copyright © 2017 KPM

at the Wheatsheaf

in a slow-setting sun
we amble slowly along
as the skies of West Beckham
ring with bird song
I’m holdin’ the hand
of my best friend
ready for tea
at the Wheatsheaf Inn

an old stone building
covered in ivy that’s run amok
in a gorgeous setting
that leaves me dumbstruck
I’m so happy to be
with my best friend
walkin’ through the doors
of the Wheatsheaf Inn

the owner greets us
with a dazzling smile
she shows us to our table
chatterin’ all the while
I look over the top of the menu
at my best friend
we’re both delighted
by the choices
at the Wheatsheaf Inn

the food arrives
& it’s delicious
we share our couples’ jokes
laughin’ though they’re repetitious
sated by food & sun
I give my hand to my best friend
as we walk back to the cottage
& away from the Wheatsheaf Inn

copyright © 2017 KPM

on the A92

the sun came out
once we hit the A92
light that kicked aside the clouds
suspended in a sky of blue

in rolling fields
sat scattered hay bales
tenement blocks
housing spiders & snails

cottages hug the road
adorned with wild flowers
emerald hills glisten
from an early morning shower

a lone motorcyclist
rides into the wind
along the horizon
turbines lazily spin

so many times
we’ve cruised the A92
so many memories
of me & you

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.