It’s Saturday afternoon and my Mum, Dad and brother are sat downstairs watching TV. After a few days of rain and a lot of days of grey, summer seems to have returned. The sun is shining, the birds are singing, it’s hot, there’s a nice breeze flowing through and a hum of lawnmowers in the air.
A year ago Mum would have been out in the garden tending to the vegetable patch. If she wasn’t there, she’d have been at her friend’s, playing their saxophones, baking something in our kitchen, or sitting outside with a book and a cold drink. She might have been doing the weekly shop, changing all the sheets or de-cluttering the kitchen. Whatever it was, it would have involved being on her feet, being busy, and not stopping until this evening. We probably wouldn’t have been allowed to be sat down either.
In fact on a day like today, around this time, my Mum would probably have come in from the garden, wiped her muddy hands on her gardening trousers, told my brother it was a beautiful day outside and he should get off the computer and join her out there, and gone to get a drink before heading out again (most likely dragging my brother with her). The door to the garden would remain open all day and the house would feel light and airy.
Today, the door to the garden is firmly shut and three faces stare at the TV screen. The sound of dramatic music can be heard throughout the house. None of us have ventured anywhere near the vegetable patch, we haven’t heard the saxophone in months, Dad has done the weekly shop so there are different foods in the fridge from what we were used to, and the kitchen remains somewhat cluttered.
This frustrates me. I want to walk into the lounge and shake everybody and tell them to get up and get outside and shout about what a beautiful day it is. I want to kick-start our family into moving again. Into having lunch before 2pm and getting up before lunchtime. This is not who we are and it is not what we do; we are active and engaged and busy all of the time.
Mum might not be able to do much but surely she can at least take her book outside?! (I asked Dad about this and it would involve taking her chair outside and be as much effort for Mum as walking half a street and she can only probably walk one street so realistically this isn’t so possible). Dad isn’t cancer-ridden, so surely he can do stuff? But he wants to spend Mum’s waking hours with Mum, which I guess makes perfect sense.
As for my brother, he’s young, fit and healthy, he should be doing stuff with his summer. Starting projects he’ll never finish, visiting friends, pretending to do his summer homework. I’ve thought about it though, and in a year’s time, he probably won’t be able to sit and watch TV with Mum. In fact, he probably won’t be able to in a few months/weeks. So maybe it’s okay for him to sit there with her, and maybe it’s what he needs.
And me? I’m desperately resisting this way of life, terrified that once I fall in I’ll never get out. I’m spending my summer working, revising and project-ing. I’m running every morning to get me out of the house and just keep my body moving. I’m cleaning every surface I can see (or as my Dad calls it, ‘drinking bleach’) and throwing away anything ‘unnecessary’ in my life. I bake and bake and bake and then drag my poor brother into the kitchen to do some more baking. I’m going into overdrive; a whirlwind of uni work, housework and paid work, before crashing into bed each night, absolutely exhausted.
None of us know what we’re doing. We’re all swimming in a cancer-ridden life, hoping that we won’t regret each decision we make. We are all trying to cobble together lives of ‘spending time with Mum’ and ‘carrying on as normal’, but often it’s like trying to join two pieces together from two different jigsaws. Thinking about all of this leaves me feeling frustrated, angry and upset. So I’m going to go and put that energy into making my bathroom as clean as it’s ever been. I hope you all have lovely Saturdays wherever you are, and if you’re able to, please make sure you get outside and enjoy the sunshine, even if it’s just for five minutes.