Let the tucket sound! I have finally waded out into the stream of social media, as this, my first blog post is set afloat. (Tucket: a fanfare on a trumpet. Word of the day compliments of Merriam-Webster. So many words, so little time!)
So here we go! Welcome to my blog: Whispers of Age and other Stories I Have Heard. Come on in! Relax, enjoy, and when you’re ready, please take a moment to share your comments.
Blog 1: I heard the Whispers…
To introduce myself, I am a reader that is truly, what defines me, but I have only just recently, gained the confidence to add to this statement: I am a writer! There! Now, I am complete, now I will grow!
Books in all their tantalizing forms: hard cover, soft cover, and paperback, will always be my dearest friends. I keep them close to me, I stack them by my favourite chair at home, have them on my nightstand; they are even displayed proudly in my kitchen—seriously where else would you display Canadian at table: A culinary History of Canada by Dorothy Duncan?
My books have also found their way into my bed, where they recline lazily on my pillows, or sink gently into the softness of my duvet, all of them like pampered Victorian women resting from the heat of the afternoon, as they sigh out their words to me when I am ready to listen.
Therefore, it comes as no surprise that books, their words strung together like perfectly orchestrated music, continue to offer me solace during difficulty times. Words are my literary salve that I reach for, even when my distress is at such a level that I cannot quiet my mind long enough to hear their song.
I have heard the whispers recently, those whispers of age…that slight hum that time gives forth as it rounds the corner towards yet another birthday…they have always been present, but I realize I have been too busy to listen, too pumped up and naive to believe anything else, but that time would always be on my side.
This year I turned 55, it was at this same age that my mother confronted the realty that for her, time had an ending, and not one she had planned for. My mother died following six weeks of pain and denial, both experienced equally and in varying degrees by every member of my family.
The week before she died, I was thirty-two weeks pregnant with my first child and I was in her hospital room bathing her with cold water. The ice cubes, added to the water, formed minute lines of crystals on the washcloth that I used to lay against her hot skin. Her temperature had spiked, and the nurses were busy. They had asked me to help.
I’m not old enough to bathe my mother. I can’t do this. I can’t.
But I did.
My Mom cried out, shivering as she begged me to stop. I reached for her hand when the fever shuddered through her brain confusing her further. She struggled to release her hand, and lifted it to her lips as if drinking from a glass held tight. Her throat muscles worked to push down the phantom liquid, and when done, she rested her head back on the soaked pillow, turning her face away from me.
I held my other hand protectively over my belly as I checked for the daily signs of life from my unborn child. Are you there, I asked, making myself very still. Don’t you die on me, don’t you dare leave me…too.
I remember I called my doctor twice, frantically, and pleaded for him to meet with me in the emergency room two floors below where my mother lay. My baby was silent, movement had stopped completely. A strong, steady heartbeat echoing down through the stethoscope subdued my fear, pushing it back forcefully into a corner where it crouched…waiting.
Later, my mother moved by ambulance from Brampton to a Toronto hospital. Finally, something will be done we thought, for why else would they move her? Shortly after we arrived, a doctor, a callous creature in my memory that has no face, approached us. He towered before us with his vast height surrounded by a suffocating venue of student doctors who looked at him in fear, just as we did. He stood at the end of my mother’s bed, which angled awkwardly off the wall, our present reality being a makeshift room, thrown together out of a utility storage area as space was at a premium.
In response to a question my father had asked, the doctor lowered his clipboard slightly, barely glancing at the information it contained, and replied, “Mr. Vance surely you understand that your wife is dying?”
I looked over, past this man with no face and no heart, to my mother. Her eyes were open. She stared at the doctor in total comprehension.
When we were alone, a grieving family huddled with brooms in a storage room, my mother said, “But I have so much left to do.” Her words hung suspended for a moment buoyed by our silence. I wondered if my baby could hear my heart break and if so, would a blemish mark him in such away that he would forever point at it and say, “My mother gave me that.”
As my mother’s time measured out, she spoke to all those dear to her behind closed doors, their whispers slipping back and forth like the tide touching the shore and pulling back. I became obsessed; believing the words meant for me would be lost in the mix of others.
Then it happened, she was gone, the hospital room was silent, her warmth, and her words, all gone from me. My son was born two months later.
The whispers, like down feathers that tickled my skin, became part of the ignored backdrop of my life, and my mother’s sad wish for more time…that I pushed, along with my fear, back into a corner where I could pretend it did not exist, but I never stopped searching for my mother’s words. I find them now and again, sprinkled throughout the stories I write, and their presence surprises and delights me. It is at those moments when I cannot help but say: There you are! I’ve been looking for you!
Three years past this coming September, my father died suddenly after an accident, his jaw wired shut, his words trapped screaming inside. For a while yet, my writing will not be able to examine this new loss too closely for I am still unable to look directly into the pain. My granddaughter was born two days before he died.
Dylan Thomas wrote that, “after the first death, there is no other.” And with the years that cushioned the grief since the death of my mother, I thought, okay, I am stronger. I will surely be prepared this time.
But I wasn’t.
I was knocked sideways by my father’s passing, driven back by pain, a sledgehammer that drove deep inside me shattering the fragile picture of who I thought I was. For truly who am I without parents? I can see only that I have moved up a level as one generation has said adieu. I am of the ‘old folks’ realm now, the next in line to pass.
My body and mind felt bruised and torn apart. Depression and panic attacks arrived, and have crept into the crevices left open and vulnerable by my sorrow. Fear has crawled out of the corner and lives with me daily, it wraps its arms around my chest and threatens to break me. I cannot move forward nor back.
“Have you heard the saying ‘depression hurts’? my doctor asked. I feel stuck in a commercial, and I know I have missed my cue to smile.
In Nora Ephron’s book, I Remember Nothing, she stated: “The realization that I may have only a few good years remaining has hit me with real force, and I have done a lot of thinking as a result. I try to figure out what I really want to do everyday—am I doing exactly what I want to be doing?”
There is a deadline before me, endless possibilities do not abound, there are, after all, limitations. If I need to do, to see, to accomplish, I had better start doing. The timer has been set, I can hear it…tick, tick, tick…I am frozen, and panic heightens the inertia…the alarm will sound, my time will be up, and I will have done nothing. Whispers, the gentle, but persistent reminders of passing time, have been muted; it is the Sirens I hear now as they call me closer to the rocks. If I do not take action, I will drown.
I finally forced myself to step up to the plate and recognize my depression, my fear, and as I have always done, I gathered my books close and called in their magic. All booklovers everywhere know this truth; books will do nothing but talk about their magic, if you let them! Most importantly, I have begun my own Happiness Project, the idea borrowed from the book of the same name by Gretchen Rubin.
I have narrowed down what is important to me, noted my top ten desires, and I am trying daily, with the help of many books on the subject, to find out what I must do to feel better. It is a work in progress, but I understand that is what life is all about. And yes, I will document my journey, in my novels, in my short stories, and now in my Blog, because that is what I do, after all, I am a writer.
Thanks for visiting!