Smother of Morrows
Smother of Morrows
It occurred to me today that I know more about Siobhan now than when I knew her.
If you know what I mean.
When she was well, she was just Siobhan, or on rare occasions Mam, the calm hand on the rudder of my life, the understated presence in our house, the quiet husky voice on the end of a phone line.
Now as I dissect her here, and in blogs, stories, notes, on air and on screen, I feel I have come to inhabit her very skin. More and more of late , people are calling me Siobhan when they meet me, her old neighbours and friends, the nurses and carers, once I even called myself Siobhan on the phone.
We become intimate with the geography of a loved ones body, its curves and contours, its small secret spaces and places – the softness of the pale skin, the light other worldly heft of a limb. Things that would have been considered a bridge too far in their awfulness become as familiar as anything one repeats on a regular basis. One becomes innured, if not immune. I stare aghast and filled with admiration at the young man who presents at my Mothers door, smiling as he comes in. Of course I have to find out every single thing about him and how he came to be training for a job that frankly leaves me humbled and speechless on any given day.
He asks me if Siobhan is my grandmother. It is in this moment and in the dawning realization as I stare at the latest image of her on my new phone, and it comes to me that this illness has finally done to her what being the mother of a maniac could not, she has aged.
My life at the moment is consumed by her. If I am not in her physical presence I am in her presence still. Her face smiles up and out and over and down at me from a positive mélange of images of her. They are stuck on walls, peeping out of envelopes, saved & copied and edited and framed, and balanced precariously in an impossible Jenga tower on my printer. This cornucopia of a life, these notes on a memory, these ramblings about Dementia.
I am typing in a tiny dark space where the snapshots of multitudes of moments in her life, are frozen forever in time, in space and reality, out at the edges where worlds collide and the lines soften and blur. In the small row boat at the horizon, as the luminescence of water and mist merge in a pale blue light, she waits patiently for me.
I type furiously sometimes. It all comes pouring out in an endless stream of consciousness where my fingers fly across the keys and I wonder are there enough words in the world to get it down, to pin it to the page, to nail it. Other nights I stare blankly at the white space and feel I have to deliver and in a fit of pique hit standby, and watch mind numbing tv to try and remember to exhale. Who is the woman writing this?
And how? Maybe I just never had anything to write about before that moved me like this. What else can explain the feeling that it has taken on a life of its own and is a story that refuses to be left alone and abandoned, untold, forgotten. The words too, have escaped from my head and out into the ether and they are touching and impacting on people I have never met. There are more projects in the offing, an artist is doing an installation of pieces of art that Siobhan painted when she was a small child. A producer wants a documentary about her and her life. A musician has written a song about her using my words. I am the narrator, the custodian, the keeper of the archive.
I write this not for sympathy which is counter- productive, but awareness.
When I was small if I looked sad or had a lip on me Siobhan would come over to cajole me back to good humour by tickling me and saying “Ah, would you look at the Mother of Sorrows here” until I laughed. Tonight I returned the favour. But as I was stroking her cheek I inadvertently spoonered the saying and said – Smother of Morrows.
“I double bluff the Universe, shine the light of honesty
Because that awful nameless thing lies lurking in the dark”
“Martha” – John Stewart & Michelle Dooley Mahon.