As the sense of my mother leaves the room, I squeeze my new-born son close to me, as if clinging to him is clinging to her as well. “That was your grandma Rose, Bean. She was a wonderful woman with a lot of love to give and she would’ve given it all to you.” I choke back sobs as I rock Carter gently, whispering to him the comforting words I could really use right now. Oh mom! I’m exhausted, all I want to do is sleep. I’ve gone through labour and lost my mother, all in one evening, and now I’m home alone basking in love and sorrow while I wait for my husband so I can introduce him to his son, and tell him about his mother-in-law.
I’m still rooted to my spot when Berjes arrives home from work and as soon as I hear him call out “Oh Mommy! Oh baby Bean! I’m home!” the tears that had dried spring to my eyes again. He’s stinking like kitchen and clearly as weary as I am when he walks into the nursery but just the sight of him nearly causes me to break. It’s terrible to tell him the news, with Carter still in my arms, but I can’t bring myself to stop my tongue so long as I’m holding my crying at bay. In a heartbeat he looks just as crushed as I feel. “Take a bath and go to bed, sweetheart.” He whispers to me, gently taking our baby boy from me. “I’ll join you soon.”
I leave my husband and son alone and flee to the privacy of the bathroom, but not before catching a glimpse of love and pride in Berjes eyes as he holds Carter for the first time. When I slip between the covers of our bed, I can hear Berjes soothing tones drifting through the wall that separates me from my family. I can hear him promising Carter the world, and all the love and happiness and joy in it while trying to cajole him into sleepiness. The tears I’ve been holding back roll freely and then dry up before Berjes’ comforting presence weighs down the mattress next to me. His warm arms wrap around me, his lips press against my skin and he consoles me and holds me throughout the night.
After the first night, there we no more nights slept through. We had intended to switch off who got out of bed when Carter screamed but that plan encountered a… A small hitch. For the first little while after mom passed away, I could hardly bring myself to set foot in the nursery. Everytime I did, it felt so empty that I promptly burst into tears. As a result, Berjes took the night-shift until I could pull myself together. Days were easier, I could pick up Carter and have him around the house with me while I did this or that, but for the most part, I was absolutely distraught. I had expected my mother to be here with me, through everything. It never truly occurred to me that we didn’t have forever and as a result, I’ve been a mess for weeks now.
Between planning the funeral, and my own grief, I haven’t been paying enough attention to my family. I know that I should be getting involved, but when I hear the strains of mom’s favourite show and it’s Berjes in there with Carter, but no mom, I can’t run from the television fast enough. As usual, my husband is nothing short of patient and supportive. There are days where I wish he would grab me and shake me out of my funk, but he doesn’t. Instead, I sit, I weep, I eat, I weep, I eat, I sit… I’ve never felt this terrible. Not before going on stage, not coming down off a high, not withdrawal, not when dad died, not on the worst days of my pregnancy. I feel bloated and absolutely miserable.
The final words of the funeral rites drift away on a warm breeze, and I finally wipe my eyes enough to see the family that surrounds me through my haze. It’s a terrible reunion, full of half smiles and heavy hearts as we all say a final ‘farewell’ to Rose Clarke. In the wake of her death it’s easy to forgive all of the harsh words we endured at the receiving end of her temper and it’s simple to forget how much we did for ourselves while she lazed about the house. The important things are the love she shared with us, the way her spirit filled a room and the good she did – she raised the five of us pretty well! With Carter cooing in the sun and Berjes at my side, I know that I need to honour her memory by giving more of myself to the two most important people in my life, but all that’s left in me is an ache in my heart and a weight in my belly. I want to curl up in bed and never leave it again. I could mourn my mother forever…
It feels like I do, as well. Anything will set off my tears these days. A broken dishwasher. A stubbed toe. News about the bodies of the people who went missing so, so long ago. Bean’s whimper, in the middle of the night. Berjes snapping at me, after a long day of work. A band breaks up, a family is reunited, an ad reminds me of mom, a song reminds me of The Mighty Huge and the friends I never had but still lost… I’m on the verge of breakdown every second of the day and it takes all of my strength to pull myself out of bed in the mornings to join my husband for breakfast and kiss the fuzzy patch of hair on top of my son’s head.
Berjes is my rock. And Carter’s rock too. While I mope around the house, struggling to find the energy to walk up the stairs or sit outside in the sun, Berjes is taking care of everything. He responds to the smallest of Carter’s sounds and dotes on him whenever he can. He brings me food and holds me close, telling me it’s all OK while silently stressing over the job he’s working but hates. He never pressures me, even in the slightest, to just get over what I’m feeling or bottle it up. He accepts me for who I am and never says a word otherwise but I can feel his frustration as he wears himself ragged. Meanwhile, I’m just ragged, too sad and upset and generally depressed to be any good to either my husband or my son.
I can no longer convince myself that my emotional mess is tied solely to the loss of my mother. Maybe it’s a chemical imbalance of some sort… I still miss her dearly with ever fibre of my being but I no longer flee from rooms filled with her memory in favour of less used rooms. The sinking tug at my heart that used to accompany any thought of her is now a gentle, sad, twinge. I’m trying desperately to connect with her or her memory, to say a proper goodbye and let her know how much I miss her, how much I love and need her still. I remember the feeling of her but I can’t find it anywhere, not even in her studio under the watchful eyes of her last painting – a portrait of my handsome and under-appreciated husband. I keep hoping that spreading paint on canvas will make me feel closer to her, I haven’t painted since I was a child, but all it does is make me feel… Ill… Uh oh.
The nearest bathroom to the studio is the one in the suite that used to be mom’s. With my hands and knees pressed against the cold tile and my face hovering above the porcelain bowl, I shed myself of dinner and am struck by a realization. The realization. My out of control emotions, my insatiable appetite, that ache in my belly… None of these are caused by loss, but rather by gain.
With my arms wrapped protectively around my baby bump I fall onto mom’s mattress, causing her scent to waft up at me from the linens. Exhausted, the tears begin to flow and I cry. Not just a drop or two, not a quiet weeping. I cry. I wail and I scream into the pillow, drenching it as I let out my frustrations.
“How could you leave me?! I need you mom! I miss you! I don’t know how to be half the mother you were? I need your help and you’re gone! How am I supposed to do this?”
I might’ve screamed myself hoarse except while I’m busy wallowing in self-pity and misplaced rage a far more rational part of me speaks up. I will do this the way women have done this since time began. I will hold my children close to me and vow to love and protect them. I will put aside my selfishness and give everything I have to give to their well-being and happiness. To do this, I know I need to be a better me than the shadow of myself that I’ve become, but first… First I need to sleep.
I intended for this to be a much longer chapter but Lee’s emotional turmoil, while intrinsic to the next part of the story, doesn’t go very well with it in the same chapter.