Last Thursday, the 4th August, I say the date because time has been shaken up into a new and more watery condition. I like water… the place I am most held… anyway, on that day, I fell very hard on my head, quite simply mis-stepping in my garden off a very low wall. I thought I would find ground, but instead I found space and I fell like a sandbag, hitting my head on a cast iron bench.
Very, very strange, new country.
After managing to find someone to cancel my line of work, I called 111. Not nice… has no-one thought about how to deliver this service to people, all in one way or another in distress? (Rhetorical question, obviously)
Eventually, a person, questions = ambulance.
It felt excessive.
I felt embarrassed.
I had thought, with dread in my bones, I’d be told to go to A&E, but apparently I sounded like I had/could have a brain injury, so A&E came to me.
2 incredibly relational, kind men arrive in my bedroom, and I am really seen, heard, and got.
I wept with gratitude.
They said I should really go to hospital with them for 6-10 hours of monitoring.
I said, I’d like to self/friend monitor here.
They said, absolutely. It’s lovely here… can we stay here.
We agreed that I was stable, and hadn’t escalated, that I understood the red flags that could happen, and would call 999 asap if I started un-ravelling, that a friend would call every 45 minutes to make sure I still knew what day it was.
Did I say how kind they were?
I felt fathered and brothered… 1 young Aussie, and 1 older dad/bloke kind of chap.
I had to not work last week (what is a week?)
I’m working gently this week… a precious person is landing in my zoom room soon.
This is a little impulse to check in, to say, oh here I am, I’ve been somewhere, and I’m still coming back. Like going any somewhere, we come back a little bit different… I’m just tasting the different, like the space where a tooth came out. I lost something, though I couldn’t tell you what… and it feels like a blessing, not something I need to get back.
Another year has rolled around and we are both still here.
Six years translated into 2190 days.
You are my love story, my anchor to life. You anchor me.
When you got seriously sick a couple of months ago, showing all the classic symptoms of pancreatitis, the particular vulnerability of the schnauzer, I felt sheer terror at the prospect of losing you.
I stared into the face of your fragility and mine. I have such a longing for what I know I can’t control. My narrative of longing that we have approximately the same lifespan, that I get to breathe my last out breath with you by my side. Of course, I have provided you a place with someone you love and trust, to breathe life in and out of your precious body until you are done.
Then we are both returned to the mystery of nowhere, and I have avoided losing you.
You were so ill, shitting blood, distressed, spasming with pain, that I couldn’t not know that you might be going to die. My plan, that we stay close until it’s my time to die, that I know is fragile as fragile can be, was showing me that knowing isn’t the same as being in direct experience. I know that too.
You didn’t die then, and I didn’t die this year, which was on the cards. We are both still here. You had an acute gastric episode, and I had the miracle of top-notch spinal surgery. I am no longer in the constant and extreme level of pain that reduced life to survival. A condition unacceptable in the long-term if it couldn’t be improved.
It is improved.
Still a constant, though manageable, and a doorway back to life rather than survival. I have returned. I have more life to live and you are my love story and my anchor.
There is a cricket term that I learned from a very dear client. I know nothing about any sport, and yet through years of walking the road with this man, I have learned the feel of cricket and discovered it is full of poetry. The Corridor of Uncertainty. It means something particular within the game of cricket, and it is life. We all live in the corridor of uncertainty, no matter if we can bear to know that or not.
All my plans about timespans and how I’d like to die on my terms, are well and good, and that you are my love story till the end is the truth of my heart. I guess in the reality of the corridor of uncertainty, any human heart needs courage to dare to long and love and live, and to allow the uncertainty and fragility to make us more human. As my other Leonard speaks of throughout his body of work: we are so lightly here/the light comes through what’s broken/if it be your will…. He knew about the corridor of uncertainty, though I have no idea if he had any interest in cricket. I know a lot of things about Leonard The Man, but not that.
I digress. This is your annual love letter. The tradition of counting our days.
And, for this account, my memory of facing the prospect of your death, way out of accordance with my longing/plan/dream/wish/creative vision, is still very vivid. What if you had gone?
I can’t answer such a what if, but I can tell you that it took me somewhere that I am still feeling into and exploring, that feels both horrifying and necessary. You really are my love story. Not my only love story, as I have tried in my way to make a normative human attachment work. I have even believed I needed to find that, and have tried to make a few square pegs fit into round holes… and in the one instance, the only human love story I was made for happened. A child was born and for small measure of time two women welcomed and helped a tiny new baby to have the beginning that neither one of them had.
That little babe just turned sixteen, and her Mother and I have only very recently opened up into some gentle reconnection. Of course, it ended badly. They were the best and the worst thing that ever happened. The love and the loss. Thing is the love was and is just simple. The stories of who needed what and what we were trying to build got very confused. I had to find my way alone, to understand and trust the meaning of our fleeting three years of being a family. I had to trust all that was simple and meant and healing and holy, was in all of us, even if a door was never ever re-opened.
A little life is such a pilgrimage, and you my darling Leonard are the love story I can’t create in this little life with another human being.
I notice the writing stopped flowing at the end of the above sentence. Some judgements got triggered at ‘can’t create’. I had an impulse to start writing about why not, as if I had to explain a failure, rather than stay with our 2190 days.
I do understand why not.
Some of you reading this that know me well, understand the story, and that does matter, but I just a caught a moment where a little flash of ‘not okay’ happened.
With you I get to have many aspects of what human to human relationships nourish. I share a bed, for the one and only time without any speck of ambivalence. I get to find you there throughout the journey of each night cycle, during which I wake often to rearrange my body related to pain, and to high frequency peeing. You snore like a pig, which I find endearing… the little sounds you make in your throat, the tenderness of knowing so intimately how you smell, and knowing that you have a heightened experience of how I smell, being a dog and all… waking up each morning, never an easy moment, is gentled by yawns and kisses and the warmth of presence and connection.
You have and continue to teach me many lessons. How to be here in this moment. How to move away if you need to, or towards, with no fuss. What joy looks like.
You are my love story. The one I can open every part of all my quirks and wounds and old bits of shame, and all that I have to give… Loving you is beyond words, but I’ll always keep writing. You are my true muse…
12October · 2016 (facebook)
Dear, dear, Leonard The Dog If I wrote a million poems I couldn’t quite write the one, true love song to you
Leonard The Man once wrote about how love comes how it comes. He actually mentions dogs, saying something like: it may be a woman, a man, a mother, a dog… just recognise it when it comes.
Sometimes I hold your precious face in my hands and say: Leonard, don’t die… and I know that can only be a prayer. It is a prayer. Thank you for another year dear Leonard.