It was the first day of winter and a Saturday. The weather had turned sharply a week before and there had been constant rain for a week. Her son fell asleep at the wheel at 5.30am on the way to work. He had put his hand up for overtime. He is a good boy; a nineteen-year-old Diesel Technician apprentice. Usually, when someone falls asleep at the wheel the pressure on the accelerator pedal reduces. Still, it doesn’t usually end well. There’s always a tree, or an embankment, or another car. Her son was on the Western Highway at the speed limit of 110km per hour. He woke up when all four tyres hit the dirt. His tyre tracks ran through the new grass and then his car slammed into the newly installed barriers. His car spun out across the highway enough times to give him time to articulate the thought he was going to die. His mother is at once dizzy at that thought and then her heart cracks wide open as she puts herself in his experience. He slammed into the barrier again, taking out another six or more posts but the wire held firm. The wire saved his life. His own car was in the shop so he was driving a very old ute that his Pop had bought for a runaround. The roadworthy had stipulated new seat belts so they had been replaced. The car was towed straight to the wreckers but he walked away without a scratch. Police attending another accident where a car had hit a pole on an adjacent road watched the whole episode unravel and walked over to comfort him immediately. It still feels like the worst day of her life. If the wire wasn’t there he would have sped down the small, sludgy embankment and most certainly would have flipped his car and most certainly died.
The Mothers cracked heart is only holding together with strings of constant tears and a new appreciation of what it is to be anxious. A state too filled with too much of everything. She is grateful for the wire but her experience needs to be filled quickly with new hellos and goodbyes and more hellos so her son telling her I thought I was going to die becomes a distant troublesome memory. Is that even possible? She woke this morning at 4am wanting to wake her son to check he hadn’t bled to death internally overnight. Irrational but compelling. It reminds her of when he was a baby and if she woke in the night she would check for his breath. The universe guides her but it’s Sunday and she wants him to rest so she resists for a few hours. Is resisting strength or a deviation to remaining true to who she was before? This is now the mother’s anxiety. At least in the quiet hours on the road, when sleep is the enemy, she can be comforted that the barriers will guide the way.
July 17th, 2015
Empty Nest you say? I think you’re mistaken. That phrase belongs to that moment in time when you saw your fluffy little chicks off to school. This is so much more.
You once marveled at how cute they looked in a uniform and with a heart ready to burst you waved goodbye. The oversized backpack marched off full of importance. You may have turned around with an invisible elbow punch to your thigh or if you needed to earn a living – went to work guilt free. Knowing all the while that you would pick them up at 3.00pm and continue to micro manage them, shaping their little souls and being amused at their emerging personalities and proud of their achievements.
Now they are driving around independently, they have friends you don’t know, and when you see them off at the airport you know its only going to fuel the desire to travel. You may lose them for years. They are no longer yours to manage. You find yourself breathing so shallow that if something else distracted you—you worry you may forget to breathe altogether. There is a disconnection and it threatens to undo that sense of purpose you only discovered was possible when you had your chicks in the first place.
When they were born and during those first few years you occasionally contemplated about your past life and tried to remember what motivated you. Then life got so busy you forget to reflect and plan. You may perceive that you are multi dimensional but your first characteristic, the thing that defines you the most – is that you are a parent.
You might be in your forties. You feel like a teenager again without the invincibility. There is peril everywhere for them and for you. Your path is uncertain. Here’s hoping, you are only halfway there – so what the hell happens now?
July 6th, 2015
I hope that you can grieve for your husband in the same way that you would if a stranger had murdered him and had been brought to swift and appropriate justice and showed deep remorse for his actions.
I hope that you can grieve for your son, for his drug use, his addiction, his mental health past, present and in the future, and the calamity he has brought upon himself – as if he had murdered a stranger who had no ties.
I hope that you can separate these two, long-term for both are burdens enough to bear and to reconcile these grievances’ is beyond comprehension for any mere mortal.
Finally I hope, that on reflecting upon the relationship between your husband and your son, as we all would upon a husbands natural death, that you keep close to your heart the idea that they both coveted a reconnection of spirit and loving bond, for how can a father and son not?
Know that please, it was only the scourge on our society that irreparably damaged this possibility and we the Australian public, football followers and others, grieve with you. Let us make ICE the dirtiest word that ever existed and maybe our youth will steer clear.
(I’ve made assumptions here and I apologise for any offence this may cause. I wrote this as an emotional reaction to an event as it was portrayed on our screens, which I acknowledge should never be accepted as the full truth.)