Tuesday, January 15, 2008

For Better, For Worse

I'm back in Brighton after four days at home in Wales. I saw my sister, I saw my Mum. I even visited the nuns at Poor Clares. And I went to a wedding.

I usually tend to subscribe to this commonly held misconception: the present is what's here now, the future is yet to come and does not yet exist, and the past, well, is in the past. All that sails into it is gobbled forever.

This weekend I remembered a different reality: that the present is disappearing even as I live it, that the future can never be separated from what is happening now. And the past? Well, it never really goes away.

So, at the start of this new year, after eighteen months of watching my mother ebbing away before my eyes, after losing a dear friend, I turn around and suddenly notice that nothing has ever really left me, and that no matter what it feels like in those emptiest of moments, nothing is ever lost.

I don't understand this, but I know it's true. And as I sat at a long table in Wrexham Lager Club, melodies from old Motown songs swirling around my ears, a cocktail stick with cheese and pineapple on my plate, I became absolutely certain of it.

The most painful thing about the passage of time is that you can't bring back what has gone; you can't turn the clock back, you can't undo the mistakes or right the wrongs. You can't recapture what is lost. You can't ever, as it were, go home again. But what do you know; sitting at that table, I realised, it all goes on living inside us anyway, the good and the bad. Something endures.

I finally found an hour on Monday to visit the Convent that sits next to our old house. I wanted to say hello, keep up the contact I've begun. I sat in their chapel listening to the sounds of nuns laughing and running for lunch, then I got down on my knees and prayed. Strange as it sounds, I find it hard to pray very much in Brighton. But there, in that quiet, holy place, it felt the most natural thing in the world. And I remembered that thing about the past again; I felt the holiness pouring through the windows, through the wood of the bench I was sitting on, through my own bones. Something that's there all the time, I just can't see it, flooded the chapel with light; it bounced off walls and reflected off bronzed figures, hitting the sides of benches and lighting up the corneas of my eyes.

I remember this light from when I was 8 years old and kept a picture of St Francis above my bed. I would peer from my bedroom window into the Convent garden next door, watching the nuns as work or giggling together. I never thought one day I'd be on my knees in their chapel, feeling that holiness from inside those walls.

The wedding on Friday was of the father of my ex-boyfriend to his long-term partner. I've known my ex for nearly 19 years, and when we were still together, his family were like my own. He is my kin. And I know what it took for my ex-boyfriend, his brothers and their father to get to the point of making that wedding happen. I also know what it took for me to be there. The amount of love I experienced that night was so strong that for at least part of the evening I was pinned to my chair by the sheer force of it. I caught the train home, humbled and exhausted. The feeling I had was the same as on that chapel bench.

Time passes, but the bonds of real love remain untouched, perfectly in tact. I want to try and remember this. And I know I'll forget it again. I know I'll see the failing flesh of my mother, the darkening of her eyes and I'll not be able to see past the withering skin and mind; it will engulf me. That is the other mystery. We remember, we forget. Only to remember again.


Anonymous said...

Beautiful x

Bob said...

Certainly is.