My birthday is coming up. For me it’s an important one.
I’ll have reached 53. (For those of you who didn’t know – I share my date of birth with Madonna, who, on the face of it looks better than I do. BUT, I do not have millions to hire a chef and trainer so…).
Why is 53 so important?
My mother never made it that far.
I have lots of relatives that lived, and are living, long lives. They look pretty good too.
But my mother’s death at 52 has always haunted me.
Technically I have already lived longer than my mother.
Yet that number – 53 – has always been there. A goal I had to reach.
As it gets closer so does my desire to actually celebrate it.
I am not morbidly concerned with dying – truth is I rarely worry it.
And yet…all through my life I have wondered. Will I make it past 52?
Even dead, she has had her influence, because that thought was always bubbling around my brain.
I don’t know – but I don’t think any of her other children have been overly concerned about it. All but two of us have long since passed that number.
My oldest sister Cathy died quite young. I barely knew her.
Of my mother’s children I am the baby. The youngest of nine. She died when I was twelve.
That morning never leaves me.
I woke with a feeling of disturbance. We had slept together in a double bed back at the family home (this one we’d lived in for longer than three months – so I thought of it as our home).
She’d been sick – so we’d come back to it after living in a boarding house she’d been running. I was happy to be back. My favourite brother in the world was back there at the time, and I couldn’t spend enough hours with him.
Six days before I’d celebrated turning twelve in this home.
I had the first birthday party I actually remember having. It was a surprise. Friends from my high school started turning up, and eventually I clicked. I even got the present of a lifetime. A camera. It was a good time in my life.
Six days of runaway happiness.
Day seven it all fell apart.
The feeling – the disturbance.
It was August. Winter. Chilly. Too chilly, for being cocooned under the blankets.
Why was it damp?
I rolled over.
The bed under me, my pyjamas, were wet. Wet and cold, clingy against my skin.
I thought for a time I had done something unthinkable for a twelve-year-old.
Did I wet the bed?
The cold clingy damp lay only on the side of my pyjamas.
Death is not always serene.
Mum lay still, undisturbed by the cold, the damp, the rustling I caused as I twisted about trying to understand what it all meant.
I shook her, and shook her, and shook her.
I thought the coldness I felt under my hand came from the damp I had been feeling.
Not from Mum. Mum was warmth. Always warmth. A personal sun I revolved around. It could not come from Mum.
I called to her, over and over and over.
She was not moved by my gestures or cries.
How long is time?
I have no measure for how long I stayed there – shaking – calling – pleading – praying – realising – denying.
I realised it came from her.
It connected us – like an umbilical cord. Joined as we had been at my birth by blood, her expelled urine connected us at her death.
Like a film reel that has slipped free of the cogs.
It juddered back and forth.
Stuck on a moment. Refusing to go forward to the next scene. Stubborn. Hanging on. Dragged into a new moment of time.
Unwillingly I left the bed, the room, called to my brothers.
Shattered the last illusion that this was a not a step into another lifetime.
A lifetime without my own personal sun.
By routine. Showers, meals, people coming and going.
Trying to stay invisible in a corner.
Please don’t hug me, don’t touch me, don’t speak.
The ringing in my ears – I can’t hear you anyway.
An ice-cold wall is forming under my skin. Solid. Fragile at the same time. Don’t touch it or it may crumble.
I may crumble.
She left on a trolley. Grey metal and a squeaky wheel.
Squeak, squeak, squeak up the hallway, though the lounge, out the door. Squeak. Squeak.
They squeaked her away from me.
One hundred and fifteen days short of her 53rd birthday.
Showcased at the Jingle Poetry Potluck Week 42