The clock is ticking.
There are lots of “last times” happening now. The Last weekend together is gone. Last chance to trim of the hedge, last time that T shirt will come through the wash, last time we will change the duvet cover together. I am starting to plan things for “after”, things to disguise the emptiness that I worry will creep through the house. Tala has coped so well since that first shocking leap into the real world, but I see her face drop when she gets a party invitation for a date that falls after the sentencing.
It reaches out for me too sometimes: the fear of the loss and the dreadful powerlessness to change it. An image from my childhood returns vividly to me, a seminal moment after which nothing was ever the same again. I was reading a Joan Aikin children’s book that ended with an image which terrified me. A phoenix was watching the grains of sand running through an hour glass. When the last grains passed through the narrow waist of the glass and hit the pile of sand already spent, its life would end. This image of the bird, fully conscious of the inevitable end horrified me and I was unconsolable. It was not death itself that scared me, but the moments of life preceding it. What I missed in the image however was the significance of the phoenix…This legendary bird dies and is reborn. I know that Rob will be taken away from us on Friday, and sometimes the knowledge of this impending loss catches me unawares and panic surges in me but the truth is that this isn’t and cannot be an ending to anything. It will be a new life for us all and we either fight it and suffer or accept it and live.
Even in these final days life continues despite what is coming. We shop, we do the school run, we go for a picnic in the park. The mundane is so precious. Strangely these have been some of the best weeks of my life. We have done little, but lived it totally. If I worry about anything it tends to be about Okha.
She is working hard and trying to forge her life, but we are both aware that when she drinks she cannot stop, and this is getting worse. She comes home one morning as I am waking up, her shoes covered in what appears to be tomato sauce, smelling literally like something pickled. One of her arms has stopped working – She can’t lift anything with it. We can’t see bruises, but anything could have happened and she might not have remembered it, or tell me if she did. London can be an unforgiving place to a pretty, inebriated girl in the night.
Still sleepy I put the kettle on as I watch her cook a lamb chop, a pot noodle and a chicken pie. How can a girl that small eat so much or look so good on it? The next day I will find a defrosting Shepherds pie wrapped in a tea towel on top of the fridge. She has no recollection of why that is. It’s sort of funny, and probably normal really, but she looks so vulnerable to me. I know precious little about what is going on for her underneath all of this except for what spills out in blatant self destructiveness. If we talk, it’s about other things.
In her unimposing way she includes herself in the family again. It’s heaven for me to be all together. Tala adores her unconditionally, deeply impressed by everything about her. The age gap between them coupled with Okhas’ unique style has given her legendary status amongst Tala’s peers. She has been almost another parent since the beginning, but that isn’t an easy role. I can’t bear anymore tragedy or drama. A friend once told me that you are only as happy as your unhappiest child. I am fighting this observation, but I’m not sure I’m winning.
Love of all kinds is a risk. You control no part of it: not your own feelings nor the actions or fate of the beloved. You have to love regardless of outcome and despite futility. As the tin man said, “I know that I have a heart, because I can feel it breaking”. The most over ridding sensation I have is of being so very lucky. I have so much to loose.