During the last year the reach of my steps, my reading, my ability to keep up, be in touch, have noticeably diminished. As connections into the well-er, by which I mean more energetic, world, dip, slip, die away, I find myself beheld by an ever smaller group of people: mostly others who are chronically ill, others who have M.E.
Sometimes home feels like a snow dome with air holes. On better days I press my nose against its plastic pane. When politics lurch grimly towards gripe and tribalism or some stress-not-care dispensing institution kicks us anew, my heart beats so fast it bucks against the cover like a mule with a bur up its bum.
My elderly mom, out grocery shopping, is mugged not far from home. In bright light she is thrown to the ground and robbed of purse, vitality, and wobbly confidence. I, useless as a bowling pin, do not rush to her side, not by road, river, runway, sky. Tremulous voices steer a course, measured mouthfuls, the telephone astride my chest like a luckless charm. In time she rights herself, retraces daily routes to shops, dad’s grave, fast walks through empty fields, with fierce intent.
A friend of mine, severely ill, whose spirit rises every morning while she can but lie, does not share her mother’s dying hours, nor attend the funeral. Her grief, of which she cannot speak, her devastation, remain unbounded by communal rituals. Processing is inner, remembrance alone.
Not being there when we need to be, want to be, is felt, by us, no matter what the circumstances, as failed fidelity, incurring a debt of love.