I am so pleased to have had six of my poems accepted for inclusion in the August issue of the beautiful literary journal, ‘Anti-Heroin Chic’.
We have had had some unseasonably hot, albeit pleasant weather in Scotland the last couple of weeks. This has resulted in a flurry of activity in our allotment and because it stays light until very late this far North, we have spent some lovely evenings rooting contentedly around our little plot.
A couple of days ago, on one of these fine evenings, we bumped into one of the other allotment plot owners, let’s call him Paul for the sake of anonymity. Seated at one of the battered picnic tables near the shed, he was enjoying a cup of tea from a flask that had seen better days. He had brought his mum, Moira, with him — a tiny, old lady who never quite made eye contact during the conversation. Introductions revealed that she was already well into her nineties, and it didn’t take me long to realise that she had Alzheimer’s disease.
As they strolled around the garden, Paul would patiently point out the different vegetables growing in the plots, and his beautiful mum, wrapped in a heavy winter coat despite the heat, would make appreciative noises, but would then turn to look him in the eye and exclaim that she ‘wished Paul could see this’, to which he would gently reply, “Mum, I am Paul”.
We watched them walk, Paul’s hand on her elbow as he pointed out the different plants and vegetables growing, patiently drawing her back to him each time that she did not recognise him as her son.
It was beautiful, and it was tragic.
A reminder of the cruelty of a disease that can strip a mother of the ability to recognise the child that she birthed and raised, and yet, a poignant reminder of the determined power of a love that can never be destroyed by the monster that is Alzheimer’s.
With us that afternoon, was our 9-year old son, Daniel, who happens to have Autism. Daniel struggles with social interaction, especially with strangers, and so, you can imagine how my heart contracted with a surge of emotion that I still cannot adequately put into words, when he gently took Moira’s frail hand in his and without either of them making eye contact with each other, softly whispered, “Look at her hands, Mom, they are so soft. Is she very old?”
And Moira, quietly stood there, not saying a word, except for the almost bird-like noises that would escape her lips every so often, whilst my son’s fingers explored the transparent skin on the back of her hand.
The moment didn’t last long, but it had a magical quality about it. A sense of something other-worldly taking place between these two strangers — boy and woman — who both inhabit a world that is, at times, inaccessible to the ones who love them.
We spoke a little more until it was time to leave, Moira looking at her son, nodding every so often at what he was saying, and Daniel, tugging at my hand, asking to go home.
And as we said goodbye, I had a sense of something deeply special having happened. I cannot give a name to it, but then again, I don’t think I need to.
— A moment in time.
from my hands,
have found their way
— Loss, has made me fertile.
will not give
i do not
— (warrior) mum.
There are days that I mourn what my beautiful boy will never have in this life.
But, I do not mourn him.
He is joy and sunshine and innocence, and my heart is attached to his by an invisible umbilical cord.
He is the answer to desperate prayers and hope fulfilled — treasure in the shape of a boy.
She had come for a blood pressure check.
Would I mind and did I have a moment inbetween patients and she really didn’t want to waste my time?
Her eyes avoiding mine until the tears that silently found their way down her cheeks, revealed that the real pressure was not in her arteries, but in her heart.
And please, please—she was so ashamed of what she had done, but she had had no choice. And she hoped that I would understand.
She needed a safe space to cry—to share the memory of the son she had birthed 9 years ago to the day, but whom she had given away.
Knowing herself unable to mother, her heart (still) mourned. Like a pulsating umbilical cord she bled pain—every single day.
Afraid to share.
Because…what kind of mother gives her own child away?
And so we sat.
Nurse and patient.
Woman to woman.
Mother to mother.
And we remembered the day she gave birth and fought that fierce loss that tore the fabric of her being in two. Watching the life that had grown under her heart for 40 weeks, wrapped in sterile green—vernix from her body covering his—leave her life.
How was it possible to mourn a child for the rest of your life and not splinter with grief?
Not fold in on yourself from shame?
Was it possible?
And together, we remembered the other woman—who, with empty womb, became a mother that day.
Years of heartache evaporating in the face of this gift.
And we remembered the boy.
…we remembered him.
And so we sat, until she could stand up under the weight once more, and breathe.
so that you
the place where
the wild flowers
—find yourself (again).