A fortnight ago Shaun came home from preaching in a neighbouring church.
(Non-denominational. This is good news. The Anglican ones ask his fee, and he shrugs and says the C of E doesn’t allocate one. The non-denominational church has the generosity not to ask...)
The minister, Shaun said, is reading your blog. He’s not well, and it keeps him going and encourages him. (My blog encourages somebody??!)
He and his wife have sent us this...
(So I am sharing their kindness with you.)
And there were still enough of a few left alive, yesterday, to put a small vase in Rose’s room for her weekend homecoming.
This morning I had a dream. That Bink was well.
Actually, that’s not strictly true. I had a dream, which Bink wandered into, just as I saw her last weekend. With her hair in its funky crop. Probably wearing outsized men’s underwear, her summer uniform. And she was smiling in that Binkish way.
I smiled too, and woke happy.
And thought she was well.
What is well?
She doesn’t like me talking about “well” and “ill”.
I say: Bink, well is finding a job you love; and having friends; and perhaps even falling in love and having your own children one day. Well is being happy and able to do things. Swimming in the river or the sea. Playing your fiddle again. Singing.
Well is getting up in the morning because the sun is shining and life is too precious to waste.
Recently, Shaun entered this debate. Just as we were going to bed:
Perhaps this is who Bink is. Perhaps we have to accept her as she is and not try to change her. After all, we do that with Alex’s Asperger’s syndrome.
But Shaun, I made my mind up on this twenty years ago! Alex’s AS is who he is. I wouldn’t change him for the world. If he weren’t Aspergic he wouldn’t be... so many wonderful things: funny, and clever, and... yeah, ok, late.
Bink’s OCD – or whatever it is – is a miasma. (Studying Oedipus all over again, from the beginning, every evening with my father... μίασμα. How that word creeps into everything. Like the smoke that seeps, insinuating, in thin grey wafts through the bricks of our bedroom wall, when we light the dining-room fire underneath; with its two-hundred-year-old unlined chimney.) Infecting, blighting her life and all it touches. How can we compare that with Alex’s very genius?
Nonetheless, I did try to open myself to the possibility. What would it even mean? That perhaps Bink’s spirit wants to live in a house free of dog- and cat-hairs. A garden clean of hen poo. A stark, modern house, with huge walk-in wet-rooms. And no Great Dane slobber.
(No smoke slinking through the Georgian walls...)
Which is ok. Obviously.
It’s just that usually, Bink’s spirit doesn’t seem to want to live at all. It must, or she would have killed herself many times over.
But when you talk to her, she often expresses a wish that she had.
Since she walked out of her treatment centre, Bink has not managed much. She rang me, two Saturdays running, and I spent a lovely half day with her each time.
By Wednesday I was trying to keep myself out of the dumps. We’ve been here so many times before. Day after month after year of Bink’s life slipping away... and then Sleeping Beauty wakes with an unbearable pain, because all her friends and opportunities and life’s chances are several years more dead.
Last Saturday, we agreed one goal.
Evensong tomorrow. Say hello to the two members of the clergy you know, and ask each of them to introduce you to one person.
Will you reward me? Will you say, Well done! (And stop nagging me...)
Of course! I say. But surely your reward is meeting two new people?
No, she said. My reward is you telling me, Well done.
Fine, I said. That’s easy.
(And then tried not to hope...)
When the kind friend she is living with told me the following night that Bink was normal-ill, infection-ill, she had her husband have had a virus, Bink has picked it up, I experienced that sweet relief I always have when something far less poisonous has tripped Bink up. Virus is fine. Viruses stop any of us going to Evensong.
Since then... nothing. No text. No answer to the WhatsApp line her kind hostess set up for her to talk to me.
I called her once or twice, expecting no answer.
Bink, don’t sink into nothing again! There is still so much of life to enjoy... if you were released from prison, from concentration camp, in your early thirties... wouldn’t you embrace life?
The next goal to pray for was choir on Friday afternoon.
I did. Expecting nothing.
And when I had still heard nothing from her hostess by the evening, I knew she hadn’t.
I sent a text, late: I assume she didn’t make it? And that I shouldn’t mention it?
Sorry, went out without my phone. Great day. Bink up before seven. We went out for lunch at Michaelhouse. She booked herself a shampoo at Scruffs. We were early for Chorale so she went and bought some clothes she needed. Sang. Had shampoo. Bink happy.
Oh my dear, dear Bink. The tears ran...
You did all that?
Clean hair. New clothes. A choir.
(Yes, yes, of course: this is because she can’t wash her own; they will be outsized men’s pjs; and the choir is particularly for those who have suffered mental illness. None of it quite what we imagined for the brilliant Bink of twenty years ago. But look at the trajectory!)
The greatest miracle – by far – was still to come.
She was up at seven? I checked, incredulous. She hadn’t just stayed up all night?
Well no, I don’t think so. In fact, I know didn’t, because she said she woke early...
AND REALISED SHE DIDN’T WANT TO STAY IN BED.
She didn’t want to lose any more of her life under the duvet. She didn’t want day to be night again. She didn’t want oblivion, or unconsciousness, or an end to the pain.
She chose light, and life, and day.
(Sorry: photography has never been my thing.)
Well is getting up in the morning, because the sun is up and life is too precious to waste.