When I was younger, if I was hurting, my Mum or Dad would kiss it until it was better.
If I was scared, they would tell me why it wasn’t scary and leave a light on because it would stop things from feeling so terrifying. At nighttime I would hear The Archers theme tune play from their room as I fell asleep.
If I was sad they would wrap me up in their arms. I might cry and shake but they would hug me until the world settled, or until I was too exhausted to be upset any longer.
As I got a bit older, I learned that Mum and Dad couldn’t fix everything that hurt. But they could be there to listen when things went wrong, to be ranted at, to console, to hug and to hold.
If I was scared we’d talk it over, we’d work it out, we’d make it not feel so scary any more.
If I was sad I’d go to Mum and when she hugged me things would somehow seem better.
Late into my teens and life had changed a lot. I knew Mum and Dad couldn’t fix everything that hurt. But they could still stroke my hair. I could still lie on Mum’s stomach and she could tell me things would work out. We could watch something funny together and eat some chocolate and the world would seem brighter.
If I was scared at night, even at 17, I would go into their bedroom and crawl into their bed. Sometimes Dad stayed and sometimes he’d leave, but I’d sleep next to Mum until morning.
Some mornings I’d feel so sad that facing the day felt too hard and Mum would come in, give me a hug and lay my clothes out for me. She’d go downstairs and make me a bowl of cornflakes with chopped up nuts while I got dressed. She’d help me go from sad to school-ready in the space of forty minutes. A hug and a ‘see you tonight’ giving me the strength to face anything that life threw at me.
Tonight I’m sad, I’m scared and I’m hurting. I can’t crawl into Mum and Dad’s bed because that bed no longer exists. Mum’s hospital bed resides in the lounge alongside Dad’s tower of mattresses. Her hugs no longer hold the strength they once did. Nobody can tell me it will be okay because it won’t be. We will develop a new okay, in time, but we will never go back to the okay I’ve known all my life. Nights aren’t as scary as they once were, but have become long and lonely. I listen to Radio 4 short stories until I become exhausted enough to sleep. Mum can’t make me breakfast – it’s my turn now to get her food and drink when she needs it, and I like doing that. It feels right, and at least I can do something. I tried watching something funny tonight, but a cancer thing came on in the middle and made me cry. I tried eating chocolate but it doesn’t taste right and I’m not hungry at all. I sit, wrapped in a blanket which feels like a hug, stuck to my chair. If I don’t move for a while then time stands still and I can just about breathe. It’s okay, it’s okay, it’s okay.