The lost art of the outraged rant

A very, very dear friend said she wanted me to get back to writing on the Woolamaloo, that she missed my rants and sarcastic jibes. I probably will get back to those sometime, certainly there’s been enough recently thoroughly deserving of being lampooned, but every time I try I just kind of fizzle out.

Rusted pipe

Now the time has come to speak
I was not able
And water through a rusted pipe
Could make the sense that I do

Gurgle, mutter
Hiss, stutter
Moan the words like water
Rush and foam and choke

Having waited
This long of a winter
I fear I only
Croak and sigh

Somewhere deep within
Hear the creak
That lets the tale begin

Now the time has come to move
I was not able
Water through a rusted pipe
Could make the moves that I do

Stagger, stumble
Trip, fumble
I fear I only
Slip and slide

Somewhere deep within
Hear the creak
That lets the tale begin

Somewhere deep within
Hear the creak
That lets the tale begin

Suzanne Vega, “Rusted Pipe” from Days of Open Hand.

I’ve always loved that song by Suzanne Vega, right from the warm tones of the marimba which plays under it, counterpointing its warmth against the melancholy of the lyrics. Now it seems very apt. I’ve struggled very hard to write something on here for months, since we lost mum. I’m still struggling, to be brutally honest, I can hardly keep my eyes clear at times. I’ve tried again and again to re-start the Woolamaloo in the last few weeks and months. Months already, how can that be? Already more of this year has passed by without my mum in it than the months of it she was here with us and its so damned wrong. I’ve never left the blog alone so long; the fifth anniversary came and went and I didn’t give a damn. I’m finding it hard to care about much right now and yes, I know that’s selfish but again I really don’t care. Everything for me has become separated into Before and After now.

Each time I tried to restart I simply couldn’t. I’d look at the last post in March, still deliriously happy from my time in Paris and then at the following one, the brief one, all I could hold myself together long enough to write. And I’d think how did I get from there to here. Back home in Glasgow among the dozens of family pictures on the walls there’s one of me, a school picture, primary school years, little freckled face, bright red hair and blue eyes, next to it me in my mid twenties, long hair, cape, standing at my graduation. And I’d look at them and think how did I get from there to there to here? How did it happen? Why did it bloody happen? When dad was in hospital last Christmas, scaring the hell out of me, I remember returning to the family home. There was no-one in, mum had been in visiting him while I was on the train on the way through after my boss kindly told me to just leave and go home. And, worried though I was, I saw among the photos one of my uncle, the Comrade, who we lost a couple of years ago after a long fight. He’s smiling in that pic and in the instant I looked at it I knew it was going to be alright, that dad would be fine and be home with us for Christmas. I didn’t know it would be our last Christmas all together. And I found myself in April looking at that same picture and begging the Comrade to please, please, please make it alright now.

But he can’t and no-one can. And that hurts more than anything in the world.

No-one can fix it, no-one can make it better, its a wound that I know never heals. To hell with all that ‘time heals all’ nonsense; I never believed that for an instant before and I certainly don’t now. It doesn’t heal; like Lancelot’s wound it never truly heals. It might, as a good writer friend of mine who lost his mother a couple of years ago said, scar over the wound but the scar and the pain are there below it, they don’t go away. Dad lost his mother when he was just a boy; that was half a century ago now and the pain is still there. I feel tired all the time. I’ve slowly gotten back to sleeping more regularly, unlike my poor old dad who hasn’t slept right since it happened. But its not restful. I’ve never been great at getting up in the morning but this isn’t my usual reluctance to get out of bed and wake up properly. Its more that I don’t want to get up. I don’t want to go out and face the world that’s taken her away from us. Its a bloody struggle every single bloody day. Its a struggle to go to social events and weddings and gatherings, its a struggle just to go to work some days. I’m tired deep down and no amount of rest is helping that. My soul is weary, weary, weary and wondering is this it, is this all there is now but the slow, inevitable descent, losing the rest of the people you love until you find yourself one day alone and old and wishing it was your turn? I’m a cynic but also an optimist usually, but at the moment its hard to see past that sort of feeling.

And I don’t think a lot of people get that. They see you, you seem normal. I walk, I talk, I make my usual bad jokes (inherited from dad) and they think isn’t he coping well. No, I’m not. I’m really not. I’m drifting. One of the anchors for my life has been ripped away from me and I’m drifting in the current without any ability or even urge to put my hand on the tiller. I’m on autopilot a lot of the time, just getting through the work day and going home. I get out, make myself go out, go to films, festival shows and I do enjoy them and they do distract me for a while, usually, but afterwards the pain is still there, lingering. It washes over me a dozen times a day, every day. I doubt the folks I work next to even realise there must be so many moments during the day when I have to stop for a moment and try to hold it together as another black wave comes across. And I don’t think some folks around realise how brittle it leaves me, how even small arguments or tensions at work or home cut right through because you have no patience and you have to bite your tongue and suppress an angry retort because emotions are right at the surface right now.

And I don’t think they get that at all. A part of me is broken and it won’t ever be fixed. When someone is in a dreadful accident they may spends months in surgery and then therapy to walk again. And even when they do they never walk the same way as they did before and always the memory of that trauma is there, waiting to pounce on them at any time without warning. Its much the same with loss like this. I’m slowly trying to learn how to get on, but even as I do I know I won’t be the same again. I’m not the person I was in March, that Joe doesn’t exist anymore except as a memory. Everything feels different now. When its bad I wonder why she isn’t there to comfort me as she always did. When it ever gets good again – if it does – I’ll wonder why she isn’t there to share it with me. And yes, I know in a way she will be, but its not the same, its just not the same. And I know I am being indulgent – some kids never get the love and security that I’ve enjoyed since the day I was born, probably since before I was even born on a New Year’s Eve years ago and I’ve had a lifetime of that love and I ache for those who never had that. But I’m still broken inside and the person you see is just a simulacra, not the same person as before. He might improve a bit but he’s not going to be the same again and there’s nothing that can make it better.

And that’s the bitterest part of all. Nothing can ever make it better. There’s no fix, no magic, nothing. Dad and I can alleviate some of it for each other but we can’t fix it and that’s the horrible, bitter reality of being born mortal. And I hate that feeling. Along with the sadness I feel angry at the world for doing this to us, for taking her from us just like that. Why so many evil, selfish people get to live to old age while my mum is taken at 61 I don’t understand. If its god moving in his bloody mysterious ways then I’d like to give the old deity a good kicking because he deserves it. The headstone went up just a couple of weeks ago and that ripped me open again. Dad and I are up there every weekend with flowers and it upsets us terribly, but at the same time we can’t not go up to visit her, to take flowers. I used to take flowers for my mum all the time or arrange to have them delivered to her on her birthday or mother’s day and I loved how delighted she always was with them. And now taking her flowers spills my soul open. I could barely look at the bloody stone. Its a lovely stone my cousin and I picked out, but I still can hardly look at it. My mum’s name is on a bloody stone and that’s just not right, its never ever going to be right. I feel sick and tired most of the time and the smallest thing can set me off, even emotional scenes in the movies or books I try to distract myself with; I’ve got no armour left, my shield is shattered, my lance broken and my armour is all undone and I don’t know if it can be mended. And if it can it will still never be the same. Its too much to bear sometimes. I loved her so much and the world took her away just like that and I can’t bear it. I still can’t work out how a heart so full of love can just stop. Why isn’t it enough? It should be and it isn’t and the universe doesn’t care.

What happened?

I know I haven’t posted for a while, folks, but I’m afraid my world has been turned upside down and pulled inside out and I feel like my heart has been too. I went to bed on Sunday 30th of March content after a pleasant late afternoon chatting to friends over drinks in my favoured haunt of the Caley Sample Room. And in the small, dark hours of the following morning a phone call, a sinking feeling because no-one phones at 3am for good news. Stagger out of bed, grab phone, it’s my dad. It’s my dad more disraught than I’ve ever known him and through tears he’s telling me we just lost my mum. I don’t understand what’s going on – I’m half asleep, mum wasn’t in the pink but nothing serious that we knew of, what’s going on, what does he mean. I’m still in shock shortly after as my cousin and uncle arrive to take me home to Glasgow, driving through the dark and I’m praying please let this be a bad dream, please let me wake up, please let me wake up, please let me wake up. It wasn’t. We just buried my beautiful, warm, loving mother a couple of days ago and I feel like someone’s ripped a chunk of my soul out.

I came home to Edinburgh today for the first time in over a week and when I checked my emails there was one from my mum, sent on that Sunday, which I hadn’t seen because I had been out all day and because I never checked the following day because I was sitting back in Glasgow in shock with my dad wondering how this had happened to us so shockingly suddenly and why was it happening to us. She just got online a few weeks ago and was so proud about emailing the relatives in Canada and elsewhere. It was just one, short line, asking how I was and telling me her and dad had just booked their summer holidays – in fact there are two new cases they bought on Saturday lying unused in my room back home. It finishes ‘see you Wednesday’ – they were coming through to visit their wee boy and drop off his Easter egg. I didn’t get to see her. Instead I saw her in the hospital and the spark that made her my mum was gone from her. And its not bloody fair, she was 61, her and dad retired only a year and I want to scream at the world for taking her from us. I wanted her to get up so badly, I touched her beautiful red hair and kissed her and she didn’t get up and we had to leave her in that cold place. It feels like we’ve lived a year in the last nine or ten days, so damned hard and more than anything I need a cuddle from my mum and I can’t have it and that’s breaking my heart. I can’t write anymore just now, its too raw and everytime I think I’m getting a grip something else will set me off again, I feel like my heart’s made of glass. I wanted to write, to let some of it out but its just too hard right now.