Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Remembered

I remember the surf I had on the day I found out my mother’s cancer was back and she was going to die: the colours, the sunset, the wetsuit, the disbelief, the sadness. I remember the evening light on the water. I lay flat on my board, my face at water level, watching the orange, gold, lilac and silver of the fading day shimmering on the glassy green surface of the sea. It was so beautiful. I think of that day when I surf of an evening. I think of my mother then. That beautiful soft light is bittersweet for me. From that evening, the ocean, the light, the time of day, the water, the waves, my board all wove their way through the following years, so the moments of pain, reflection, sadness and love found traction in my memory in ways that make sense, for me.

I remember the moment when I realised my heart was breaking. When I paddled out into the crowd last summer, thinking I could escape from the fog of sadness. But it didn’t work, nothing worked, and I was frustrated. I remember the too-bright sunlight and the too-full waves feeling like a taunt: See how good things are? See how life will go on, how it is going on? I remember the way the kind words of a friend made my shoulders and tears begin to drop as I sat with her in the salt water. On that day, I stopped trying to fight anything.

With continuing confusion, I remember the times when the ocean failed me. When it failed to offer the comfort, escape and release I had always found there, that I assumed. When it dunked, tumbled and drowned me. When it swallowed me and spat me out. When I walked home covered in sand, more tired, aching and unsure than when I had arrived.

I remember the last time mum came to the beach with me. She insisted on coming to watch me surf, even though I knew she couldn’t see that far. But that wasn’t the point, really. She shuffled to my car and I closed the door after she tucked her already tiny frame inside. When we arrived, I ran up the path to check it was worth it – like there was any doubt – and bumped into an old friend who helped me set her on a towel in the sand and sat with her for a while. In an uncrowded lineup I waited for the one foot set waves to peel through. A dad was there with four ‘sponsored’ grommets, maybe nine or ten years old, there for a competition that weekend. The kids were awfully behaved and kept dropping in and snaking me, and the two others out. I paddled further down the break, away from them and into a lovely long wave. One of the kids tried to snake me as I surfed, and when I stuck the line, the child screamed after me ‘Fuck you, mate’! Furious, I paddled after him, towards his father. I told him what happened, he told me to get over it. I erupted into words and gestures, pointing to my mother, so small in the sand-dunes, arguing against such behaviour, arguing that I was there to get waves, to escape, not to cop abuse from a child. The father accused me of nearly hitting the boy, believing the bald-faced lie the child had told to avoid getting into trouble. Don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t cry. They paddled away and I sat in the disappointment of the moment. The shock of the argument, the treatment I was forced to accept. That this was the last time I would share the beach with my mum. I fucking hated them. I think I still do.

I remember the time I surfed the beach break behind my house, alone except for one cute guy. Chatting with him, forgetting the little body that I loved so much, that was wasting into skin and bones not even 500 metres away from where we sat: salty and flirting. I remember watching him and thinking of a million other ways to escape and forget, but choosing instead to catch a wave into the shore and walk back along the track alone. Home.

I remember spending hours sitting on the edge of a north Sydney beach. The beach itself, as a whole, felt familiar, but the pieces of it strange and ill-fitting. Course, grainy, yellow sand, almost-black water, pine trees and over-sized houses crowding the shore. I wondered how I would make it back up the hill and down again to where I was staying, how my legs would get me there? How my heart would get me there.

I remember, more recently, starting to breathe again, finding solace and calm in the ocean once more. I learned to paddle out alone, to say no, to leave the others. I found a way to make the ocean my own in new ways, to surf it on my own terms.

I remember finding how weak I have become. Finding it hard to paddle, to carry my board, to make it out through the whitewater. My body no longer accustomed to the rhythms, demands and requirements of surfing. The things I have been so proud of – being capable, being strong, being able to look after myself – have drifted and weakened and I have learned to accept help.

And now I remember my surf this morning. Tiny and full and gently raining, but I paddled into the water anyway. Me and two old guys and waves a-plenty. I picked off the middle-sized and smaller ones, which were better as they held their form and broke along the shore without closing out. One of the guys was chatty, complimenting my waves and dwelling on the beauty of the morning. When he asked me how I was, without missing a beat I answered ‘Good, thanks’. And I meant it. Feeling good made me think of my mother, alone in the hospital in town, tiny in her bed, like a pile of blankets. Dehydrated, in pain, drugged and unaware. Dying. Really, dying. I wondered how I would feel if I got back to my car to find a message that she had passed away while I had caught waves, surfing? How would I feel about that? I knew then, I would feel fine. She would love to know that I had been happily doing this thing that I love as she slipped away. She’d really love that.

In the coming days, weeks and months I will find solace and calm and love in the salt-water, in the waves. I will remember this too. I will find myself, my heart, my strength, my grief. I will let my tears fall back into themselves, falling along my cheek, onto my chest, legs and board and into the water, washing away. Those tears will take their place in the sea, forever a part of the waves, no matter where I surf. Forever.

16 comments:

  1. Bec, so much beauty in your words. sendind you lots of love xo jules

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  2. Oh Bec. that was beautiful. You write so generously. Sharing things so openly and poetically. And its generous because although it is so personal there is so much here we can all feel in ourselves.

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  3. Laura8:45 PM

    no words, just beautiful. We are here. x

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  4. Beautiful Bec thinking of you all your mum will always be close to my heart lots of love through the toughest of times. Love Joel

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  5. Anonymous10:43 PM

    Hi bec. I havent seen or spoken to you alot but i see you all as family, my mum has been friends with Jan since they were five so thats 50 years. The beautiful words my mum has spoken of her over the years makes me cry now when i think about it. I wish i could stop all of this but i no none of us can. So i sit here in melbourne sending my love every morning when i wake and every night before i close my eyes. Love love love

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  6. Anonymous10:44 PM

    The last comment was posted by zoe fox sorry forgot to type at the bottom xxxxx

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  7. Ollie4:49 AM

    Beautiful words Bec. You are brave and strong to reveal this much about yourself in your writing. So much love to you... Ollie.

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  8. Bec your words are so moving. It brought back the ache in my chest that I had when my mother died. Her passing was an accident so all of these intense emotions came afterwards, but i remember that moment of clarity when I realised that I would get through the pain. Thanks for making me remember this - I am thinking of you often. kristyn x

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  9. So beautiful Bec. It's so hard to share a piece of your story, and when someone does it's very special.

    I read this the other day...

    "The cure for anything is salt water, sweat, tears or the sea"

    Xo Johnny

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  10. Beautiful Bec! It's wonderful when someone shares a bit of their story, even though it's so hard to express at the time...

    I read this the other day...

    "The cure for anything is salt water, sweat, tears or the sea"

    xo johnny

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  11. Incredibly touching, Rebecca. I send all my love and thoughts from New England. I offer this video of a Tennyson poem so that may you know she will always be with you: "Be Near Me" http://vimeo.com/27229362

    Noah

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  12. Anonymous2:12 PM

    Hey Bec, I meet you once at Izzy's place. Izzy and I used to live together many moons ago and she told me about your blog, so I drop in from time to time when work is slow. I must firstly say sorry about your loss, this was one of the most beautiful pieces I have read. A grown man sitting in an office shedding a tear isn’t something that would happen every day, but my sister is embarking on the a very similar journey to what your mum went through. My condolences. Fraser

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  13. Thank you al for your kind words. I wasn't sure about posting this but I'm so glad to know that it has been so well received.

    Thank you xx

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  14. Eloquent and beautiful. Anguish and tears.
    And so much love and so many fond memories.
    Thinking of you, sending love.

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  15. Your writing moved me so and I'm not sure how else to say what I am feeling, but that I am thinking of you with love.

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  16. Dr Olive, Your post was sooo moving and eloquent and sad at the same time. There will be folk that don't understand, like the colleague last week who wondered why I started working part-time and why I found the loss of my brother and father so harrowing. Then there are others who understand and will support you through the months and years. It won't be easy. Grief is sneaky and jumps out of nowhere like when you see a person in the crowd who reminds you of your lost one. But you will make it as you are not alone. Even when you are by yourself you carry lost ones in your heart. your brine brother Neil

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