It’s approximately 3:30 am here in London and I woke up about an hour ago. The ‘thing’ biting the dust, is a Saturday. This is a regular thing for me and I keep account of how many days I sleep through. But I am marking this now unremarkable happening because of something I have just completed. Just before making a tea and sitting here, and after a heroic pee, I cleared a path through our ‘utility’ room so my Dad and a minion could wheel barrow 4 tonnes of soil from the front path to the garden tomorrow (well, today, but, well Sunday).
I sleep a lot because I am genuinely exhausted. I can’t recall exactly when I went to sleep on Friday, or early Saturday morning – I had been volunteering in the afternoon, and I frequently can’t sleep after that. I either crash when I get home, or stay awake wired for hours – too tired to do things or concentrate, but too humming to sleep. It’s like getting ‘second wind’ when the first one was a dove fart. What I do remember is waking up at about 8pm on Saturday unable to move anything but my eyes, and diaphragm. I experience this a great deal when I’ve ‘Dead’ slept after physical activity. My hands stiffen and I look like recently poisoned vermin – hands curled in the air etc. After the ‘rigor’ wore off, I checked my clock, saw the time, and fell asleep again. I must have turned the light on beside my bed because when I woke up around 2: 15 am, it was on. I was aware, this waking, of what the time might be without checking, from the clanking coming from the railway. I had to decide if I just attempted to sleep again, or got up and did that I needed to: clear a path through the utility room.
So, after sleeping dead through a sunny (was it?) Saturday, and the Eurovision Song Contest etc. I get up and go to clear a path through piles of clothes and boxes expertly placed over years by my Mum. My Mother could stack’n’pack like a pro. No one I know has ever fitted so much stuff into such a small space (she was also very good at chopping fruit, veg and meat into thin slices – years in catering). I am the Anti-Mum in this. She used to call me ‘What-A-Mess’ after the children’s book because things fell over when I looked at them and I always have a haze of fluff and detritus around me. The room I’m trying to clear a path through contains our boiler, washing machine and tumble dryer, shelves of cleaning products, plastic draw sets filled with my Mum’s vitamins, potions, lotions and nail varnish* and all our washing, as well as plastic boxes full of things inherited from my Gran in 2008. Oh, and a car jack. It’s very full. Very full. I’ve been gradually trying to clear it since Mum died, but I’ve not been able to bring myself to throw out all of her pills, face creams and make up. I admit I am sentimental (emphasis, perhaps, on the ‘mental’) about her maquillage (though she’d give me a look for that word). My watching her apply her ‘face’ is my earliest memory of her and it is a constant. I always stopped what I was doing and watched her, even up the last time when she was in hospital – she painted while I brushed her hair**.
My Dad wanted to clear the room – he’s not a total arse about that kinda thing – it wasn’t left to me just because it’s home/ woman stuff***. But I knew he’d try and throw things out that I am just not ready to get rid of. And I also didn’t want him to find some of thing things my Mum had hidden in there. I also didn’t want him to mess up the piles of clean and dirty clothes etc. etc. But I slept through today. And when I woke I did expect to find that room ‘Dad’d’ – cleared by Dad. I would just live with the side effects if he’d done this. He has work to do tomorrow and wants to know he can get it done. When I did get up, the room was exactly as I had left it. So I cleared it. Piling clothes on clothes on duvets on towels. Bringing the drying rack (loaded with pants etc.) into the kitchen, moving the ironing board with it, turning the draws round so they projected less. I tried to move the jack outside, into the empty space beside the house, but it was too heavy. Now this is an important part of this story. The jack is used to lift cars up so you can change a wheel. It’s very heavy – solid steel with hydraulic parts. I tried to lift it into the outside because it won’t wheel over the door frame. So I, chronic pain sufferer with twisted back, tried to lift something that lifts cars. I did it, I got it outside, but I couldn’t put it down, so I turned round and put it inside. I couldn’t put it down because it would have landed on my foot. But this is the crazy type of stuff I can do – lifting steel jacks – and don’t think will hurt me, or add to my hurt. I don’t think ‘Hey, you, 35 year old lady, what the hell are you doing lifting that thing?’, if I saw someone else try and do it, I would stop them immediately. So the room is cleared for my Dad to move 4 tonnes of soil. And I am sitting with a tea and writing before going up to bed. It will be light when I go back to bed, and I hope still light when I wake so I have some idea of the time and day etc.
*When she retired my Mum suddenly started to spend money on things she’d never cared about before. And she’d stated she didn’t care. She bought face creams, vitamins and nail varnish. TV shopping channels helped. She loved it all. There are 3 sets of plastic draws full of it, and I’ve cleared about 3 draws. It’s going to take me a long time to get rid of her ‘face’ – make up is so personal and with us it was a bond. She was encouraging me to wear it when I didn’t want to. She also wanted me to smoke. Rare woman.
** A sign of just how sick she was. Mum hated anyone ‘fiddling’ with her hair. I had never been allowed to touch it before she got sick. As she got sicker it fell out – she wasn’t having chemo or anything, she was just dying. I kept the hair I brushed out and make a locket of it for my Dad. He wanted such a locket.
*** I just want to make that clear. Yes he’s 72 and if I don’t wash his pants he won’t have any, but it’s not conscious. He can and does look after himself, it’s just habit. And he admires women who are hard working, ambitious and interested in their careers.
Postscript/ addenda: I finally posted this on early Monday morning (it’s about 1am). I slept until 1:30pm on Sunday, when my Dad called me to make some lunch for himself and my cousin – they were soil moving. I did this and went back to bed about 4pm, in my clothes, until 11:30pm. I can tell you that Sunday was sunny and that lifting jacks is something I should not do – my brain should just stop me looking at stuff and going ‘I can lift that’. My Dad was pleasantly surprised at my having cleared the room. Which is good.
What-A-Mess by Frank Muir: here he has a bird in his hair – https://alliwaw.files.wordpress.com/2010/03/what-a-mess.jpg