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Monday, 19 January 2015

Grieving for lost time

With mum in the nursing home in Sydney it's me alone who is getting by up here on the Coast day by day, me alone who gets by with this feeling of nausea at the top of my stomach most of the time, but especially when I go to do something that makes me happy. This may sound like a contradiction but it's true. When I am in bed with the air conditioning on and I pick up my mobile phone to check my Facebook or Twitter, I feel this burning in my guts that tells me this is what I want to do. I feel the same thing when, in the evening, I get up from my desk and start making dinner; making and eating dinner is as close to feeling comfort as I get during the daily cycle.

This is grief. I don't know what stage in the "process" of grief it is, but this is the mourning of loss, and it reminds me of a feeling I actually chronicled many years ago. I have it in a diary I started when I was a teenager and that turned up during the big tidying up that happened at mum's place recently. The year is 1978 or 1979. "I'll never be able to play the tank machine under Farrell's at the Hoffbrauhaus again," I wrote in my neat cursive in the little book with a red-hatted gnome on the front cover, which is patterned in paper and cardboard to look like denim. "I've tried, but it only brings tears. I never realised how lonely I am without Fred [the nickname my brother and I started to use around that time to refer to one another], I never realised how much I love him." This short passage is a relic of past mourning because my brother went away to study in the US and I stayed at home. It is a motto inscribed on a paper headstone as a reminder of the passing of all things.

Missing mum is the same thing as missing the routine we both participated in. When I wrote one or two months ago - or both, I cannot be totally sure - about the sense of separation as I walked down the street or drove down the highway, or about the twanging sensation inside as I came back to the Coast from Sydney, I was writing about this sense of loss, this grief and this mourning.

It was the doing things together that is the hardest thing to get over. It was the daily routine. The evening meal for a start. It was the walking down the street to cook the evening meal at mum's place. When I go to her place now there is just an empty space, a shell that once witnessed this ritual of cooking the evening meal. With all that it involved, from choosing the right television program to accompany the meal to deciding what kind of meat to use in the meal. It was the small exchanges associated with these decisions between mum and I. It was setting the table and putting out the mustard. It was a thousand small events that together made up the joint partaking of the evening meal.

That twanging sound is the rhythm of separation going on inside the top of my stomach as I get ready nowadays to prepare the evening meal alone. That's the sad sound of pleasure, the dolorous sound of doing something you enjoy. Despite everything.

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