The big F

My old friend fear is back for a visit. Hello again.

I did a first aid at work course today, something I was sent off site for and was only too happy to do as it could benefit my work, and my career. After spending the day strenuously learning about CPR, how to help someone who is choking or having a seizure, I came home to find mum poorly and laid up in bed. It’s happened before, quite a few times; she works in a trying environment, and I tend to assume it’s down to tiredness when it happens now. Normally nothing happens, she just gets up after a few hours’ rest and resumes normal living. Only today she really is ill, throwing up in a bucket and not eating or drinking anything. I’m taken back to the week four years ago when she had pneumonia, when I thought she was going to die. This time it doesn’t seem quite as bad; she’s only thrown up once and seems to have got it out of her system, whereas with pneumonia the vomiting wouldn’t stop and we had to take her to hospital. But just the reminder of that week is bad enough, the reminder that she’s mortal and I’m the only one who can help her in these situations.

First aid training had us practising our calm, reassuring personas so through the evening I’ve been the calm and reassuring son, which I know she’s grateful for. Inside I’m crying, saying I can’t do it, I can’t do it, I’m desperate for this to end and for her to get better. In normal times I often complain about the sound of the TV when she’s watching it in the other room, but now that’s it’s off and the flat is full of silence, I miss the noise. I’d given anything to hear that TV tonight.

As well as her mortality, this kind of thing always reminds me how much I depend on her. If she were to get really ill and had to stop working, there’d be no one to pay the rent any more and I’d have to get another job to take over the responsibility. My plans to go part time at work and start the counselling diploma in the autumn would be out of the window. I couldn’t possibly afford it.

I’m sure she’ll be better soon and everything will return to normal like it always does. I just hate these reminders of what could be, which always feel like little prods from my higher power, telling me not to get too cosy. How cruel it would be if things got worse instead of better, and I had to abandon counselling. When everything so far seems to have pointed me to carrying on with it. Would that be fair? I know life can often be unfair, it just hasn’t been that unfair to me yet. For ten years I’ve believed it could never be unfair to me, as long as I prayed and practised my program. There’ve only been a handful of occasions when I’ve been tempted to question that belief, most of them involving mother’s health episodes.

I may have expressed my greatest fear the last time she was really ill four years ago, the fear that without her I’ll be entirely alone in the world. In fact I can’t imagine life without her. I assume nobody can really imagine losing a parent until it happens, but the idea of going on after she’s gone doesn’t seem right to me. I doubt I would ever feel like I have a full life again. And that’s the nub of it, the fact that my life isn’t really my own, it’s so tied up in hers. My happiness depends on her being well; the few close friends I’ve made in recovery won’t compensate for when she’s not here. No one can. So I don’t know what I’m going to do. She’ll get better this time, but eventually we all know there’ll come a time when she doesn’t get better, when a deterioration starts and everything slides downhill fast.

Above all I’m scared. This is real fear – the anxiety I feel in the mornings before going to work doesn’t compare with this. I don’t know what I can do other than write about it. I sense the need to do anything I can to step back from it; writing is the only step back I can take. The fear remains but now I’m looking at it, I’m not completely lost in it. I still don’t know what I’m going to do when the dreaded day comes in the future. But I mustn’t get lost in terror, I must keep a firm grip of myself, of the present moment. Seas of fear swirl around me, I must remain anchored here and now.

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