Independence

Each year we go away somewhere warm for our BoysBookClub and as we go away for the weekend (Malaga this year) we decided a couple of years ago to do something creative ourselves as well as reviewing our monthly book.  We tend to decide on a theme and then you can choose what you do, people do short stories, essays, poems and this year Phil did our first graphic booklet.  The theme this year was independence, chosen after our trip to Barcelona last year and despite having ages to come up with something I was frantically typing the week before, a deadline sharpens the mind I guess.  My effort is below, I was happy with the idea but it could do with quite a bit more work to get it where I’d like but I thought I’d put it up as it was. Happy to hear what you think.

Independence

All things end, life, my life, relationships, the bed I’m lying on will someday be no more, the planet we live on and the sun that warms it, all things end. I think that it took me many years to slowly realise this but this inevitability has a calmness to it, you can’t change it it just is. My life is drawing to it’s end now and the physical decline being hurried along by a debilitating illness means that although I cannot predict the actual time, my time is drawing to a it’s end.

I tend to wake early now, never quite sure of the time as the stiffness means I’m unable to turn my head to see the bedside clock. I try and judge the hour by the light that seeps in through the edge of the plain cream curtains that just reach down to below the window sill. Pam would have hated these curtains, she always wanted heavy patterned luxurious curtains that reached down to the skirting board. She was fastidious about how they were folded back and tied each morning, I can see her doing it now, fussing and brushing and making sure the folds were exactly the same on each side. It’s funny the things you remember about those you love, it’s always these weird little actions and manners that only we know. These dull excuses for curtains will not be tied back and they will not be opened carefully, the staff will breeze it at some point bellowing “Morning Mr Davis” and briskly sweep the curtains aside. I’m not sure why they shout so loudly, ill and fading away I might be but deaf I’m not. I’ve also told them repeatedly that my name is Bryn not Mr Davis, my dad was Mr Davis not me, it’s even written in my care plan apparently but with the dizzying changes of names on their shiny lapel badges I guess they don’t have time for the nuances of care any more. It’s all function, get in, get him up, bag emptied, washed, dressed, medicated, and sat in ‘the chair’ and then move on down the corridor to the next lucky soul. 

I can hear each knock, the heavy latch and sprung door slamming shut and the same greeting. “Morning Mr Stevens” “Morning Mr Reed” “Morning Mr Brimson” the pitch identical, the volume slowly receding as the morning team move among us, the waiters and the worn out. Once in the chair I wait for the next shiny lapel badge to help me down to the breakfast room. All this is a few hours away yet though, they tend to come between eight thirty and nine o’clock but judging by the early first shafts of summer light and the lack of noise from the nearby road I suspect that it’s around five thirty. So I do what I always do now wait and think.

Ironically for most of my life you had to drag me out of bed, unwillingly, much to my dad’s disgrace who spent a lifetime doing shiftwork. Even when I had grown up and settled down, whatever that means, the morning punctuated by an alarm clock was something that I could never get used to. I moved from disgracing my dad to disappointing Pam who seemed to spend her lifetime being busy bless her. I always wanted her to just sit sometimes and be still, take in what was around her but no something would always need doing. ‘Leave the dishes love they’ll still be there in the morning’ but she never could.

Now when I have no need to get up I wake up before everyone and instead of lying in my dreams I seem to relive my life through snatches of memory. They bounce back to me randomly reflecting all the various stages of my life, it’s as if I’m holding a shell to my ear but instead of hearing the sea I see episodes of my life washing over me. I can’t control what they are, or at least how they start, but I like the randomness to it. I sometimes wonder if this early morning space is almost like a mental ‘putting my house in order’ before I die.

It occurs to me though that each memory and thought are triggered more by senses, the experiences that I’ve had over my life, or at least the ones I remember are usually evoked by the senses, things I’ve seen, smelt, touched and tasted. Slowly they fit together, the river, grass, mud, a wood fire, potatoes baking, sand between the toes, linseed oil in the summer liniment in the winter, leather, books, kisses, the noise of the city, new accents, wedding bells, babies crying, jet engine, Spanish heat, wine, skin, leaving drinks, leaving kids, skyping grandchildren, piss, shit, blood and the smell of death.

These eyes are eighty two now, hooded and wrinkled around the edges, often closed, but they are still the eyes I had at twenty two and the light that entered and travelled on unseen lines to my brain has created a vast dot to dot of jumbled, joined up images. These images rotate each morning in this quiet stillness like some memory fruit machine, spinning through the back story of my life until they settle on something or the thought process is broken.

I think more and more about the lines that join things together, the linear journey taken through life, childhood, school, university (first in the family to go), shirt and tie job as dad always said, marriage, house, mortgage, kids, small savings, decline. These lines are ones that most travel down but do they only really create a box for us to live inside, that controls our thoughts and actions, un-threatening, calm, safe and unimaginative?

I walked along this line, the straight and the narrow, I wonder how things would have been if I’d stepped off it and fallen through the gaps.

While I was able I loved to be outside, playing rugby and football, then walking the bridle ways, hillsides and coastal paths as I slowed down, then when the body was no longer willing, painting and writing. Pam always used to say ‘Bryn love you are always doing something just nothing of any use’. But for me it was perhaps only in these moments that I was truly alive, truly me. They were so fleeting though when I look back, most of the time I walked the line.

I wonder who will be the first through the door this morning, I used to know all the names, then when they started to change I used to keep a little notebook by my chair and after they had got me up I jotted down each new name. I had got up to fifty three names and then it all seemed rather pointless. It is what it is they get me up move me about and put me to bed again, the same routine delivered by a united nations cast.

It’s Pam I miss most, she looked after me when things started to slide downhill. The kids were always pestering us to get some help but Pam didn’t really like strangers coming in the house. I think she felt that they would judge her somehow and once Pam made up her mind that was it. Wore her out though it did looking after me, the medical reports may say different but I know what killed her.

I try not to dwell in these morning thoughts, rather piece the memory jigsaw together, the bits between the lines now come far more to the fore, the music, art, words it seems to be this that matters to me. Maybe that’s all there is, this and a mind free to dream. All things end.

“Morning Mr Davis”

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