Ninety percent of what I say at the moment are simple commands;
“eat your food”
“drink your water”
On a good day it is peppered with “please”, “thank you”, and “you’re such a good girl”, on a bad day they are short and sharp, they hold any manner of things, anger, rage, frustration, loneliness, sadness, hopelessness.
This is the bulk of what I speak, often repeating each command 20 or 30 times, not knowing when and if it will land. It’s exhausting. I’m exhausted. I crave conversation, but I can’t talk on the phone or facetime anymore, that is also exhausting and I didn’t anticipate that, that in all of this, I would feel exhausted.
I’m grateful for technology, that it is so easy and simple to connect, and I appreciate that a lot has gone into making sure that our mental health is made a priority, but I no longer think it is simple as that. There is something unnerving about only being able to communicate through FaceTime or Zoom, as Petriglieri (2020) states “It’s easier being in each other’s presence, or in each other’s absence, than in the constant presence of each other’s absence.” There is so much language that our bodies speak, transform, transmute, block, dismiss and now with the absence of physical presence reality is becoming harder.
So I am left with my simple comands, and with talking aimlessly at the cat. And that is something that over the years I have become more accustomed too, but it has not made it easier, the routine of loss does not make loss any less painful. As Martha’s memory fades, as do her words and abilities there lies a deep loneliness of being in a persons presence while they are living in their own absence, and perhaps this time of covid-19 is an amplifier to that. A reminder of the need for interaction, because much like Petriglieri discusses, I am in the constant presence of Martha’s absence.
There are rare occasions when she is present with me, but they are fleeting and flickering, it may be a flash in her eyes, her ability to respond, and my work is in drawing these out. Searching for them as though they were precious diamonds, and so I offer my simple commands to her in the hope that one sticks long enough for her to complete the task, and when she does I am momentarily triumphant. Because with so much of the world stripped back it is finding success in the smallest of things. Because I, like so many others are craving meaningful interaction, which isn’t deep or therapeutic in its words but in presence, a lingering hug, a squeeze of the hand, the ability to talk in roundabouts. These things seem which had so little meaning before are now the thing I crave the most. And when the world shifts again, and we are allowed closer than 6ft I hope we can embrace and understand the deep importance of being present for each other. For holding each other, and talking nonsense, and I hope we can rejoice with each other, and that our bodies are able to return to communicating all that, that goes unsaid.