Those No Longer Here

It’s 11:25 pm on Christmas Eve.

Presents are wrapped and under the tree.

Mince pies are cooling on top of the oven.

The Christmas pudding is in the freezer.

Father Christmas has been and gone and the Small’s pillowcase (a tradition in my family) is bulging with presents and sweeties. The plate of mince pies has been consumed, the beer has been drunk and the reindeer have left bits of carrot all over the stoep outside (and a little bit inside, just in case the dogs decide they like carrot).

I have done my absolute best to make this a nice Christmas.

My heart is heavy and tears keep coming up unbidden behind my eyes. There is a physical ache deep inside my chest where my parents are supposed to be.

This is my first Christmas without my Mom. This is the first Christmas without her saying (over and over and over again) how nice the tree looks. This is the first Christmas without her giving me strict instructions on how to make the pudding, even thought I’ve made it by myself for the past five years. This is the first Christmas where I haven’t walked the earth trying to find the perfect gift for her. It’s the first Christmas I’m not going to here her saying “Thank you!” and really meaning it even though she has no idea what to do with said “perfect gift”.

This is my third Christmas without my Dad. He used to buy my present all the way back in November and be absolutely unable to wait to give it to me. So I’d get it early, knowing that it meant there’d be nothing from him under the tree. He’d leave something for me under the tree anyway, always “from Santa”.

I was reading through old Christmas cards. Mom hoarded them, seriously. There are some dating back to when she and Dad got married. I read through them when the Small and I were putting up the tree. Christmas is about family and friendship and love, and I was very strongly reminded of that, seeing all the names that, while not forgotten, had not been thought of in a while.

Gran, with your Scottish accent that I’ve never forgotten (And Granddad whom I never met).
Tony, my uncle, I’m sorry I don’t remember enough about you.
Grandmum and Granddad, who spoiled me rotten and always bought me dresses.
Kay, Fiona, Warren who ended their own lives far too soon.
Donny, finally reunited with the love of your life, Art after a decade parted by the Veil.
Muriel, my “surrogate grandmother”. You were taken from us so horribly. Bron and I miss you.
Jerry. Beautiful, kind, passionate Jerry. You were a good friend and an amazing artist.
Christy, my other uncle. I hope you and Mom and Tony are catching up on all those years.

There are too many, and others unmentioned. I love them all. I miss them.

But most of all, I honour my parents by keeping the spirit of Christmas in my home. I know it sounds horribly clichèd, and like something out of a Hollywood movie. But Christmas has always meant a lot to me. It meant so much to them. And I will keep it alive. Even though the memories clutch at me and the tears are so damn hard to chase away.

It’s how I honour those no longer here.

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Closing Circles

2012 has been one of those years. Momentous and heartbreaking and fun and full of changes.

Some changes have been big.

My mom died.
I made the decision to move out.
I’m leaving my Ladybirds and moving to the toddler group at work.
I’m going back to college.
I finally realised I am a girl. With boobs and everything. For real.
I figured out I can actually fall in love – and I’ve even been on a date!

Some changes have been small.

I’m growing my hair.
I have grown in confidence.
I have gained a voice.
I am becoming my own person, undefined by others.

Everyone who reads this: I know you’ve had your changes, big and small this year.

On a global scale, things are changing too. More people have access to the internet than ever before. Dictators are being overthrown. Crimes against humanity are being noticed. People are talking. People are starting to care about one another, bit by bit.

Many circles are closing. And many new ones are forming.

2012. It may not have brought about the Zombie Apocalypse. But my world ended. It fell apart. And I’m picking up the pieces and gluing them back into a stronger whole. I am walking away from the things in my past that have hurt me. I’m letting go of the things that have weighed me down. It’s not easy to put them down, but I am finally ready.

So close the circles that must be closed. Start walking the new ones. They’re bright and full of promise.

Senseless

On Friday a man armed with three guns killed his own mother, then walked into an elementary school in America and started shooting. Twenty children aged between five and ten were murdered, along with six of the teachers, before this bastard finally turned the gun on himself.

Holy shit.

What? Why???

What the FUCK was going through this guy’s head that he would do something like this. They were children. Little fucking kids and they did not do anything to warrant something that brutal. The survivors have lost their innocence; it was torn away from them as they watched their friends bleed to death in front of them.

And we will never know. We will never know exactly what was going through his head.

These were kids just a little bit older than the ones I teach. They were kids the same age as my nephew.

What did they do that pissed this guy off so much he felt he had to snuff out their precious, innocent lives? What the FUCK is wrong with this world.

I know there’s all sorts of arguments about gun laws and crap in the States at the moment. You know what? I don’t think anyone should own guns. I don’t think guns should exist. But that’s not the point. The old saying, “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” rings particularly true here. What kind of life did this guy lead? What was wrong with him that no one noticed? How does a guy become so fucked up he’d murder twenty children in ten minutes without anybody noticing?

What is wrong with this world?

It’s senseless.

One Last Time

I have tried to write this blog post a few times and never really got past the first line. It’s been hard to sort out my feelings, to be able to look at the past few weeks and say “it happened, it’s real” and not want to fall to pieces.

My mom has died. She died on the 21st of July. Her memorial was on the 30th – two years to the day since my Dad’s death.

She was ill. She’d had a mild cold, but she experienced sudden and rapid brain deterioration to the point where she didn’t seem to know who I was. And at times she seemed like she did, but she cried all the time, every time I went to visit her. So I don’t know if she recognised me or not. Either way, I think she wanted out of that hospital and I don’t blame her. But she developed epilepsy (which the doctor’s didn’t tell us until the day before she was released into a nursing home), which meant she’d had to stay there for longer.

The sisters at the frail care home said that if we’d got her to them sooner, she’d probably have survived.

That hurt. A lot. They didn’t mean it in a bad way, but I was the one going to visit her every day. I was the one who saw how unhappy she was. I was the one who should’ve realised that the hospital wasn’t the right place for her, how desperately unhappy she was there.

Should’ve. Could’ve. Would’ve. It doesn’t really matter. She’s gone.

Brett, my brother-in-law, shared a comforting thought with my sister and me: it took Dad two years just to get Heaven ready for her. And as my aunt put it, Peter Pan has been reunited with his Tinkerbell.

I just feel empty.

No one around me seems to have any concept of how I feel and it’s so isolating. I know many people who’ve lost a parent, but virtually none have lost both, and certainly not so close together. My parents are gone. For all intents and purposes, I’m an orphan. My worst nightmares have been realised.

People come to me and say, “You must be so relieved,” and I’m like, “Yes, I’m so relieved my mother just suddenly died, alone, in the middle of the night, surrounded by strangers. I’m so relieved I never said goodbye to her the day before, because I didn’t want to upset her more than she already was.” I’m not fucking relieved. I’m so, so sad. I want my mom. I want my dad. I’m not relieved. My heart feels like it’s been ripped out, torn up, roughly glued back together and shoved haphazardly back into my chest cavity.

But at the same time… there is a sense of relief and it’s not quite the same thing. She’s got her mind back. She’s back with Dad, and her parents and brothers. She’s not miserable any more. I don’t have to clean up after her when she loses control of her bowels. I don’t have to worry about leaving her alone. I don’t have to feel guilty for going out and leaving my sister to take care of her while I have fun.

And then I feel like an absolute shit for thinking that way.

She was my responsibility. I’ve been taking care of her since I was about 16 years old. I’ve been the grown-up in our relationship since I was 14. I had to make sure she was OK. And I feel like I let her down. I feel like I abandoned her to that place. I closed my eyes to her suffering when I should have realised something was desperately wrong and I didn’t.

And I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry, Mommy.

I feel so lost. I miss my parents so much. I just want to hold them. One last time.