Last year was one of the worst years I’ve had. That includes my separation, divorce, my multiple moves, health issues etc etc blah etc.
Last year was also one of the best years I’ve had. It’s surreal to be pulverised by grief, chewed by worry, and astounded by joy all in the same hour – and sometimes in the same moment. People have said to me that you can’t feel two emotions at the same time, like relaxed and worried, hate and respect, fear and lust.
Life isn’t that simple.
My oldest is an adult now. I’m mindful that I need to be more circumspect in writing about him, even though I’ve asked general permission to write about him and his life as it interweaves with mine. He smiled, raised an eyebrow and said “Sure, no worries Ma. Want to watch a movie later?” but the reality of having an adult son who has his own life, who is starting his own journey into the world as an independent person, has a different heft to any number of years ago when I could write of him being part of my nested, protected span.
People change. I have a stack of white hair now, all through my red, and my youngest now rests his chin on those dappled strands when we hug. He’s tall, and wonderful, and has weathered as huge a year last year as Hatro and I both did.
My universe moved, again. Over a year ago, I answered my mobile phone one evening and I couldn’t understand what Hatro was saying initially, he was stuttering so bad. He’s never stuttered, never, and his replies were delayed. I sped home, tore inside, and found him slumped on his bedroom floor having a stroke.
Don’t tell me you can only have one emotion at a time. Don’t even open your mouth. I did triage on my gorgeous firstborn, kissing his sweat-drenched forehead, smiling at him, talking to emergency dispatch on my phone, screaming inside my ribcage as my heart broke yet again for and forever in love with my gorgeous Hatro as terror and calm and ‘oh God’s ground my thoughts to dust.
It wasn’t a stroke. But he had over 50 more of the same episodes, stretched out over eight months, the panic and frustration in his eyes burning my bones every recurrence, hope and caution bubbling in my nose with every specialist appointment, gratitude and fury shaking my fists every kiss I gave him. The prognosis was so unknown, the episodes so random, I had no idea if he would wake each morning.
You can hold more than one emotion at a time. I hold my sons, and the emotions are a cascade, in colours and feelings I can’t even explain let alone name or count.
This last year, we held on. I held on to my boys, and I loved them. More than anything else, I loved them.
I loved them when they were feral and hurting, when they were faint and hurling. I loved them when they told me their truths, and I loved them for it. I loved them as I wept, as I wondered, as I sang lullabies to the babies I once cradled them as. I loved my sons and I loved them and I loved them.
My universe moved, and now circling a different set of stars to the one we did last year. I think everyone, at different points, thinks about what we’ll do, what we’ll say, how we’ll react under certain circumstances. “I’ll stand up them” or “I’ll say ‘Get out!’ and throw something” or “I reckon I’d burst into tears” or a million other possibilities. I think we all hope we will chose well, will do the right or good or best or perfect thing.
Last year, I did the one thing that resonated and shone as the obvious, the ‘of course’ action. I loved my boys.
I was terrified, and I loved them. I was furious, and I loved them. I ranted at God and idiots and my boys and I loved them. I was abandoned in some ways, remembered in others and I loved my sons and I loved them and I loved them.
I held my exhausted, pissed off and twitching heart in my hands, and wondered if the latest calamity or revelation would find its final, twangy limit. I held my messy, glittered, duct-taped, nail-gunned and haemorrhaging self out to particular, peculiar friends… who then held my heart and I both, and cried and swore and sighed with me.
And I loved my sons.
It hadn’t crossed my mind that I’d have to suffer so thoroughly again. That’d I’d be faced with more trials and difficulties because, REALLY, God, can’t you share this crap around? In the middle of last year, I was telling someone about some new development with the boys and extended family, when she looked at me and said “Your life really is one catastrophe after another.”
There was no malice in her statement, just considered evaluation. “In some ways, maybe,” I said. “But that’s also why I’m still upright. I’m used to it.”
I hadn’t thought I would be exempt from pain, but hoped there would be some breathing space between disasters. I hoped I wouldn’t be carrying fresh grief in my pockets, or worries tangled in my hair.
Difficulties came, and I loved my sons. Truths were told, and I loved my sons. Hatro got a diagnosis, and it wasn’t anywhere near as dreadful as the tests were indicating. The fact that he hasn’t been to church in a year has not troubled me as much as ignorant vultures have told me it should. You can hold more than one emotion at a time – if you tell me I should kick my son out of home I can hold my tongue and disbelief and laughter and disappointment and carefully close the door behind you when you leave. I will hold my motherroar and determination and pity and not let you enter again.
And I will love my sons.
I will love them as I have always loved them. I will love them more than I have ever loved them before, because of their bravery in telling me their truths, and their hurts, and their hopes and successes. I will love them because of who they are, who they want to be, their determination to do good and to be their true selves. I will love them and their girlfriends and boyfriends and friends and worries and grins.
And I do it all gladly. I don’t do it blindly, or hopelessly, or gritting my teeth for some eternal reward. Do not get me wrong – the decisions and repercussions this year have been hard. As in, planet shoved sideways beneath you panic, fallen to freshly-broken knees and tasted blood for weeks bitterness, fluctuating gravities and futures buried hard. I’ve remembered, choking and bereft, how gutting and huge grief is.
I’ve also rediscovered my ability to be an incandescent and viciously mawed dragon in the defence of my family. I’ve been braver in this past year than I have in easy memory, in multiple arenas. My universe may have moved, but there are eternal laws which remain in effect, and one of the greatest is I will love my sons.