Relationships with our parents can be enormously complex. How we deal with their *legacy* can involve many hours of celebration or (in my case) many hours of therapy. I had thought that my Father and I had the most complicated relationship but, on closer examination, my Mother was a deeply troubled and complex woman and shaped many of my addictive behaviours, especially over food and self-medicating. But I still loved her even though her love was conditional.
I often think that if I had managed to wrestle her away from my Father, or that he died first, we could have healed so many of the wounds inflicted by their marriage and her childhood. I didn’t have the chance, and like many, am left with a longing that will not abate.
This poem I think reveals much of an adult child’s confusion and unease about losing the one parent they can *feel* loves them, however, tricky and painful that path always is.
I can only hope that I am giving my own children a clear shot at being unconditionally loved. I try harder at that than anything else in my life. I am desperate not to fail them.
Bare Bones of It.
‘Don’t throw me to the wolves’, I whispered
but cancer had your brain by then. Along
with bone, and skin and hair.
I have things to tell you that I couldn’t.
I am a late starter, lost my virginity at 18
to the video repairman, in the spare
bedroom with the rough navy blue sheets
you bought from Peter Jones.
My children love you best even though
you have a radiance that they can’t see.
When I was ill you would give me
asparagus soup from the can. And
Lucozade with its flashy orange cellophane
coat. Not out of place on a Kings Cross
night. And I would drink it carefully
sipping your love, letting it fill me
I used to crack jokes about you to
make my father like me better. They
were cheap shots, Advocaat insults.
Mocking your terror of tunnels and
lifts, dark, sharp places that chopped
you off at your knees. Then I
remember you dancing on 7 Mile Beach,
the inky night a Covent Garden backdrop.
A fourth daiquiri in your hand,
you were a Goddess.
And people sent you crazy ideas about
cures. Rattlesnake venom, aloe vera and
blessings from some Saint who didn’t give a
fuck. I cursed God in the night, rocking
your Grandson, salted fury coursing
and how I hated, everything.
Wait for me in those fields of gold,
I’ll come when it’s time. But for now,
tracing the outline of a photograph and
slamming the drawer shut fast before
tears come, that is all I have.