11 September 2012

9/11. Again. Eleven years later I really can still 'see' and 'feel' that morning. Waking up, going downstairs to start the day, turning on the TV just in time to see the first tower fall.

I was seven years old and in classes at St Joseph's Catholic Elementary School, Pomona, California, USA. We were getting ready to start the maths portion of our school day when one of the novices came in sobbing, whispered into Sister Mary Alligator's ear something so terrible that Sister Mary Alligator burst into tears too. It was the one and only time I saw Sister Mary Alligator as a person who felt things, who had dreams too, just like mine. In that moment, and only for that moment because the aftermath of it all only made Sister meaner, I realised something had happened that crushed her dreams. She had us on our knees praying for the life of President Kennedy in a half a heartbeat. 

The days that followed are acid etched into my memory, and the terrible moment when John Jr saluted his father's casket especially so. When John Jr was killed in that July plane crash my first thought was of that little boy I'd seen, that now he and his father were together but surely President Kennedy was grief stricken that his son had joined him far too early. 

We all have days or times that are acid etched into our hearts and minds, national griefs. Days like 22 November and 9 September. Days like 6 and 9 August. Days like 7 July, and 11 March.

Days like the Cuban Missile Crisis, when we were all sure we were going to die horrifically and even though we didn't, the terror never really went away because the horror was tinged with the most profound of griefs-that we'd unleashed something so awful as instant world destruction that although we'd averted it, we'd only averted it 'for now'. Out there somewhere someone could push a button and nuclear winter would descend on a planet devoid of nearly all life. Except cockroaches. Which somehow made it all that much worse.  

We have the personal days Grief arrives and changes our life; griefs so deep, so profound we are sure we will never 'get past' or 'get over' It. Griefs that we endure day after soul numbing day. Over the years that pass after a personal grief, we are sure the pain will never go away and the truth is that the pain indeed NEVER goes away.

I'm reading a David Baldacci novel, One Summer, and this Scottish morning, five hours ahead of New York City, I stood in the back door watching the sunrise as I read another chapter of the book. In the chapter I read, one of the characters is trying to comfort and strengthen her grandson-in-law in his grief at the loss of his beloved wife, and she writes to him these words:

"It's not so much that time heals all wounds, Honey, as it is that the passage of the years lets us make peace with our grief in our way."

I can relate to that, actually, even though my heart really does continue to ache at all my personal griefs, and certainly at the national ones. Over the years, on personal and national anniversaries of the arrival of Grief, I've managed to 'get through' the anniversary without revealing to others how very much I am still profoundly grief stricken. I consider it an achievement. In that I am no different than any other bereaved person.

The sun will rise over America this morning in five hours, and people will get up to start their day. Family members and loved ones of all the people who were murdered that morning eleven years ago will begin what ever ritual they have developed over the years to get through the anniversary. I remember when I was in training to be a grief counselor and the admonition came from our instructor that anniversaries do not become easier for the grief stricken but instead become increasing difficult because the grief stricken cannot understand how the world has gone on so normally when something so completely awful has happened-'How,' they wonder, 'how can so many years have gone by without (insert name of loved one here) in the world?!'

(Insert a tinge of 'survivor's guilt' here, the bereaved ALWAYS feel some. Even if they have found a way to 'make peace' with their loss. Always. It's normal. It should be acknowledged and dealt with or else the survivor ends up suicidal.)

After the first few years the bereaved takes especial care to conceal the difficulty from others. It's one of the ways the bereaved 'make peace' with the grief, that determination not to spread their misery.

Grief, personal and/or national, changes us. We truly are not ever the same person again after Grief arrives. Too many griefs unhinge, there is a limit as to how much grief a soul can endure without going mad in one way or another; the worst evil Grief does to the soul is to force it to endure to the breaking point by having to conceal the depth.

In the eleven years since 9/11 there are those who say we should 'get over it', and in so doing they reopen the wound. These people force those of us who grieve to conceal our grief to avoid hearing the impatience, the lack of respect is a profoundly painful 'secondary wounding' and those who inflict it on the bereaved are either inappropriately 'coping' with their inability to cope with their own grief, or they are unfeeling savages who at least privately acknowledge that they are incapable of feeling grief and are taking their embarrassment at the unfeeling lack out on those who do feel.

Take your pick, and I'm at a point where my patience is unfortunately exhausted for those who refuse to face their grief and find a way to make peace with it. Belittling someone else' depth of grieving no matter how long it has been is NOT an appropriate way to cope with one's own grief (or recognition of the lack of grief), it just isn't.

01 September 2012

Busy days as winter fast approaches.

We took Roo back to his family last week. The trip down to Essex was sad for Paul and me as we had really come to love that cat but his folks were ready for him to be there as they move to their new home in Devon.

Long, long drive made longer by pouring rain all the way. We arrived on schedule though, and carried Roo into the house to reunite him with the people who'd rescued him from a shortened life as a semi-feral cat in the Devon countryside.

Oh dear. Setting the cat carrier down on the lounge carpet brought the elder statesman of the three cats Christine and Graham have reared from kittenhood, Smudge, a 19 year old Tuxie who looks and acts far younger than his years. He took one look at Roo and let out a warning hiss then went on his way.

Hope floats. Chris let Roo out of the carrier and enjoyed a lovely reunion with her lad. Things seemed to be going well and Roo was let to explore his new home.

Unfortunately he caught sight of the sleeping Dinks, a female Tortie of some years and went over to give her a sniff...erm, never sniff sleeping dragons. She had Roo pinned under the coffee table so quickly the four humans had no chance to intervene. A tiny cat, she puffed in outrage to three times her size, Roo was in shock and looking for rescue.

It all went downhill from there. At one point our hopes were reignited when Smudge was sitting on the patio talking politely to Roo through the screen door but Roo quickly doused those hopes when he tried to smack Smudge through the screen. Then the next night Roo, who had learned to open the guest room door, slipped out of the guest room and met up with the third cat, Shadow, a gorgeous Angora who wasted no time letting him know she did not appreciate his terrible manners towards the senior members of the house.

Christine and Graham are extraordinary gardeners who have turned their front and back gardens into gorgeous beauty spots. The back garden is completely private and features a pond with koi, harmonious plantings, and a sweet arbor bench overhung with wisteria. We spent what time we were not keeping Roo from putting his would be fur-sibs into vet hospital sitting on the terrace watching the plants grow, it was the most restful holiday I've had in years despite the grief Roo was causing by refusing to become part of a happy family.

The animosity between the three and Roo was not the usual jostling of the introduction of a new cat, it was horribly clear that should opportunity knock there would be a lot more than a bit of fur flying. The decision was made to bring Roo back to Scotland to be the only cat-he clearly does not play well with others and never will. I think he thought he could run the other three off and be Chris and Graham's only cat and that was not going to happen. I know Chris and Graham are heartbroken, they have huge hearts and now there is a gigantic Roo sized hole there. Paul and I love the beast but had hoped things would have a 'happy ending' there with them, it was heart rending to have to load him up and leave for the return to our home.

So we are back in Scotland with a Siamese-Abyssinian cross. We are keeping the hire car for another week so that we can do the annual stock-up, and yesterday the first thing we brought home was 100kg of cat litter, lol! Lugging a bag of cat litter up our hill on foot is never pleasant so we took advantage of having a car to bring in a huge lot of the stuff. We also stocked up on cat food (also heavy to carry home on foot), and people food as well-beans, potatoes, other tinned veg, freezer goods, and oh yea, I have a bushel of apples and one of onions to process for freezing-can't wait. Heh.

Winter is coming very quickly this year. Essex was beautiful, better than a trip to Spain for warmth and sunshine-I'm going to remember the warmth as we go deeper into winter. We left their house in the mid-seventies, as soon as we hit Cumbria on the England-Scotland border the temp had dropped over 30 degrees and it was a good thing I'd put the hoodies and coats close to hand in anticipation of a temp drop. It's been down in the low 40s since we got home, and we are going to have to call in the winter firewood a lot earlier than usual! We have a lot of other winterisation prep to do and I'm not sure how long we'll have to do that as the temps simply don't give any hint of going back up anytime soon. Brr, I need to get the winter clothes checked and the winter duvets aired-LOL and of course it's...pouring rain!

And as for my hopes of getting in a fall garden, well, those are dashed as well. With all this rain (which btw has really been streaming down for over a year here in Scotland) there is no way we'll have any sort of veg garden at all, hence the purchase yesterday of plenty of veg to get us through winter.

Better close now, and get cracking on those apples and onions. One apple pie and the rest into the freezer; all the onions sliced, diced, and into the freezer. I did that last summer and it was great to be able to reach into the freezer for apple pie fixins' and ready to carmelise onions:) But it is a lengthy process getting those things ready for the freezer so I'd better get Paul's breakfast and then get slicing-dicing-arranging on cookie sheets for the initial freeze...