Has my heart hardened?
I ponder this, often. Time between thinking about Connor stretches or repeatedly collides creating shifting and unexpected shapes. I don’t think about him all the time now. [Howl.] Grief rituals seem to be slowly disappearing. The weekly Thursday morning ‘getting that call’ pain hammer has largely gone. Marking the 107 days Connor spent in the unit has receded. Comic Relief – the start of that unfolding – crept up on me this year.
We’re moving house. After twenty odd years of living here. Eight years after Connor died.
Stuff disturbed. Memories shaken from slumber and disrupted. Revisited in a different space and context. A backdrop of global pandemic. Boxes of stuff. Paperwork. Years of reports, condemnation, reviews, reports and condemnation. The paper, typeface, words, postmark, pre-internet. The careful and meticulous pathologising and marking of a tot who wouldn’t reach adulthood. Because of a lack of care, pathologising and marking.
Should we just chuck it all out?
I brusquely pat my forehead upward with the palm of my hand. Like Connor did when faced with something that bothered him.
Forget about it mum. Yep. Forget about it.
I funnel stuff from the loft into a skip that sits outside our house for weeks. Operating a piecemeal ‘keep or chuck’ operation with the aid of a giant Ikea blue bag and Rich or Tom when necessary. Precariously balancing ungainly and leaking bagfuls of stuff down the loft ladder. Emptying the content into the cold metal container out the front. Lobbing some bits from the front door with a sense of ‘fuck you’ satisfaction and achievement. Squeezing by later, to go to the Co-op or walk Bess, I rummage about and pull stuff back out. Worrying about rain and snow.
Why? I’ll do something with it. What? I dunno. Write about it. Mark it. Like it marked Connor. Marked us.
I started playing Candy Crush on Mother’s Day 2013. A week before Connor was admitted to the unit. Rosie told me about it that weekend.
It’s so good Mum, me and Becky haven’t stopped playing it.
I was heading to Manchester that afternoon to see her, see a mate and attend a stupid fucking work meeting on Monday morning.
I left Oxford early, late morning. Rich encouraged me to go. Things were not good at home.
I downloaded Candy Crush on the train.
Days (weeks?) after Connor died, a neighbour stopped and told me her daughter had died some thirty years earlier. In her early 20s. A road accident.
How is this possible? We chatted on this street for more than ten years. I sat in a meeting about primary schools with your daughter-in-law. Your grandson went through school with Rosie. We’ve talked weather, empty niceties for years. What do you mean your daughter died?
She shared kind words of wisdom. I don’t remember the detail. I could not understand how someone could weave the enormity of such loss into their everyday life without it being visible. Tangible even.
I still play Candy Crush.
We’re moving to the Manchester area.
I still don’t understand the ‘hows’ of weaving loss into everyday life though I think we’re doing it.
Should we chuck it all out? That struck me like an arrow. For different reasons,but where horrific things happened in places they shouldn’t, we kept almost a whole room catalogued as evidence or out of fear it would be evidence but we were too traumatised to sift through to find out. On one occasion having decided to ‘draw a line’ even getting a shredder truck to visit so could cathartically watch the toxic contaminating words , lies, denigration destroyed. Only to find more came this way.
Different story, same protagonists. Same coordinated campaign where an NHS Trust thought it appropriate to sift through social media we weren’t even ever on. One presentation sticking where the stalking senior manager ( for cannot compare with anything in the lawful world) denigrating not only the victim but carers , including young carers. What sort of NHS professional thinks this is OK we kept asking. And probably will to the ends of our lives. Papers may disappear but experiences dont.
With the Trust’s comms teams chipping in with egs of fabricated ” evidence ‘ of accounts of those we didn’t know on the basis that we all must be connected as part of the same ethnic community . ‘ They have a history of not trusting us so we know it’s connected to X’. A MH Trust white managers, them and us, and we are all the same , obviously. The idea that other people of the same ethnic background had lethal experience of a MH Trust? No Shit Sherlock.
So back to now destroying again the incriminating toxic material that has been shared, sits with those it needed to ( whether they acted or not ) and we feel like we’ve failed because we can’t undo what happened but know some will think twice before acting that way again. The rest, the jobs for life brigade, will of course become even more corrupt and use deflective denigrating but called out for what they do and a name put on their actions towards vulnerable humans. But so many, where do you start and end?
Like you the need to move has made this final push. Downsizing to try and have a new life because every local landmark brings back overwhelmingly conflicting memories as dors the family home of many many years..
You do what you can and forever there will be that lurking feeling of was it enough? So if the skip stops working know that the shredder truck is an option….
Connor goes with you into your new place and life. We carry our loved ones with us in a treasured way, no longer struggling to bear the immediate trauma of their loss, but in a growing warm certainty of knowing how much their lives mattered and how dearly they are loved – always.
All the very best for the future to you and yours ❤️🙏❤️
My son and his wife love parties. Their two decades and more together has been full of all sorts: at the centre a shared love very hard won.
They retain an inspirational belief in people. In spite of experiences where care should have been.
The parties celebrate them and their rock solid love for ech other; held usually after one or other has recovered from a preventable injury or illness. Joy in recovery. With family and wonderful paid people (who sadly rarely stay very long) and generous volunteers who do.
My sons family is always ready for a party. Scottish in particular. The fun at the party always includes loud mock boos from son and daughter in law – and the English, when I always insist disco play Proclaimers ” I would walk ten thousand miles….etc”. ‘For Iike all – mums and dads of LD children -..I will and I do.
I store photos. We have loads of brilliant photos – going back decades. Each party is hung with banners made by a local printer with photos from my sons baby and childhood and their son and daughter in law’s early life meeting at school; then their long (unreasonably difficult) and at times hilarious courtship. And their two decades long marriage. We have great parties. Helped by family and support workers – magnificent in their support – and love of partying. We celebrate.
For – Life outside – in Social Care world can be grim. Son and daughter in law, both though only middle aged – are failing in health.
I store stuff. I store emails and correspondence. I keep all that relates to my son and his wife’s long experience of social care. I learned from my long career – in the profession and onwards – to write it all down…store it and save it. If you don’t ‘it’ never happened.
I have years of thousands. I am afraid if I update my internet provider I will lose them. Record full of decades of struggle. And Hope. And disrespect. Un rereadable painful ones – from solicitors, care agencies, the local authority and NHS.
Tears stored in a virtual cloud.
Stuff – kept in hope of better wrapped in realisation that the battle was lost long ago.
Life is too short. Made far too short for people with LD.
Better we just keep on partying the joys?
Walking and celebrating the miles – together
To keep or to throw away? Sara you are moving and have the mammoth task of sifting through your past and deciding what to leave and what to take with you. I do not envy these tasks. However we cannot throw away our good memories and that will stay with you and Rich and the family indefinitely.
Time is a great healer and the awful pain of losing someone you’ve cherished does get less. My sister’s son died when he was only twenty and watching her and her husband fall apart left us, her family, in pieces. That was thirty years ago. Of course she still misses him but now we can talk about him with love and humour and not with the screaming terror of loss that we felt all those years ago. I wish you and Rich joy and peace in your new home.
Some friends of mine lost their 7 year old to neuroblastoma cancer a few years back.
It’s a strange childhood cancer. It only occurs between the ages of 0 and 10 and the aggressive version virtually disappears by age 5. Their son was 5 when he developed neuroblastoma.
The trampoline stood in the garden for ages afterwards missing it’s occupant. His bedroom untouched so they could breathe in the memories. Then these things slowly changed as time moved on.
I don’t believe that loss is healed through time. It retains its sharpness but the distance to that sharpness becomes longer as we continue to build experiences through living. Then the lost becomes part of the longer term memory which has its own rules as to what gets accessed and how it is prompted.
Which takes me back to trampolines. In one of the gardens opposite me, there’s a trampoline that used by two young girls joyously. It makes my heart warm but also it reminds me of my friends’ trampoline, of being talked into trying it out by their son and the laughter that my hopelessness generated. It’s a happy/sad memory.
Some people’s hearts do harden but I tend to think that most develop a more complex relationship with loss. To take solace and joy in remembering. To carry the better parts of what we have lost. To remember the gifts given.
“People change and smile the agony abides ” I did not understand this when I first read it at 18 now I utterly do .. Many best wishes for your massive and brave move to Manchester much love x