Barefoot and Broken-hearted

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Saturday 7th June

My younger sister was stunned by the news, and after dropping us off home, went to work. Her boss had offered her the night off, but she wanted to work, she wanted to be normal.

My older sister followed her out, looking for a take-away; which left my Dad and I. We didn’t talk much until my Uncle Bobby rang. My Dad shared the news and then swore him to secrecy. He told him that the information would be staying within the inner circle, which was comprised of my Dad’s relatives, and 2 of my Mum’s cousins. As an after-thought, he added Donna and her husband.

After he’d said goodbye, I challenged him. I asked him if I could tell others, explained how important it was to me that other’s knew and why I wanted to live in Mum’s new diagnosis as a reality where my friend’s were aware and I could talk freely with others. He was furious. He accused me of being selfish, yelled at me for not thinking about him. He shouted that if my mum’s brother found out, he may visit her drunk, tell her about the tumours, and then she’d die and it’d be my fault. He stood over me, demanding to know what was wrong with me that I hadn’t cried all day. He shouted that I wasn’t normal, I was weird and unfeeling. Frightened, I grabbed my phone and ran out of the house.

Barefoot, I walked through the streets to the next village, feeling the harshness of the stony ground. It felt solid, real, and good; an oxymoron to myself. Tearfully, I called Lola who listened patiently as I ranted about my Dad, cried about my Mum, and stubbornly argued with her about my new plans for my future. I love Lola; she lives hundreds of miles away, but she is one of my closest friends.

I arrived at Donna’s, and let myself in to find her in the Kitchen. Hearing my voice, her husband abandoned Britain’s Got Talent and joined us. They’d clearly been waiting for me. They explained that my Dad rang them for advice following the argument. I listened to them both for a while as they talked about how my family would have to learn to settle our disagreements ourselves because we would continue to have them, especially whilst my mum was unwell. I realised then that they didn’t know the news.

I didn’t want to tell them. For a moment, I thought it could be my own little secret. I could be strong to them too. And then I remembered Donna standing with me over my mum’s bed the night before and I broke. I wasn’t strong. I told them the news, that my mum had something growing in her head. I could imagine it, a black mass getting bigger and bigger, squashing her brain and pushing against her skull. A small living creature reproducing and growing in my mum’s head, threatening to burst forth. I felt the disgust, fear, sadness and anger that I’d been struggling to hold back since the doctor first broke the news. I knew I wasn’t being ‘normal;’ I was freaking out as I described it to them, falling apart in their kitchen. But their kitchen was a safe place to fall apart.

I told them how intensely afraid I was that whilst I was here, she may be dying in a hospital bed, without me. We talked about my Dad, and at some points, I think I crossed into shouting. I was angry that he was controlling who I could tell, that he couldn’t understand my need for others to know. That my mum may die in the next 10 minutes, and most of my friend’s didn’t even know she was in the hospital.

We talked about my Dad. They knew about his co-dependent relationship with my Mum. They understood when I told them about the controlling behaviour. We discussed strategies for me to use in different situations, how I should use my voice, what I should say. They told me that I have 2 parents, even if 1 of them couldn’t talk to me at the moment and I had to consider what she’d want. But he’s my Dad, I love him and he’s having a really tough time with his wife dying, I don’t want to upset him, I want to wrap him up in bubble wrap and take care of him. Donna said that the controlling behaviour won’t ever stop, not unless I learnt to stand up to him, but I still don’t know if I can.

I sat, wrecked, talking in circle’s about how frightened and upset I was, and how unfair it was that my Dad had robbed me of my final moments with my mum by causing the argument last night.

I am thankful for Donna and her husband, and my friend Lola. None of them have a magic wand that can fix my family or make my mum better, but I don’t expect that from them. I’m thankful that in the middle of my mess, when I felt alone and frightened, they stood with me.

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