Saturday, 17 January 2015

The mono-rail

Life in my new normal world still has some sort of familiarity. 

Today I did my weekly shop in the same supermarket I have frequented for the past year, although the list is different. I have slowly got to grips with shopping for one.

At the checkout, I was behind a mother who was in the throes of trying desperately to placate her toddler who was throwing the most almighty tantrum.
I had not witnessed the start of the battle but it had escalated to such an extent that the little boy had thrown himself onto the floor and was having a meltdown.

‘Why?’ he screamed, amidst his snotty gurgles. 

‘Because that is why!’ said his mother, as she multi-tasked packing the frozen foods whilst half leaning over and trying to coax her child back to his feet.

I was pretty sure that her answer was not going to cut it with her little lad. If he was in such a fit of rage, he was clearly expecting a much better answer to his question than the one that she was offering.

‘But why?’ he persisted, or rather it was more ‘But WHYYYYYYYYY?’ 

At this point, I started to put my toothpaste and bubble bath neatly on the conveyor belt, behind one of those nice plastic barriers that denotes that my goods are separate. I noticed that the little fella had put so much effort and emotion into his query, that his face was almost the colour of my pickled beetroot.

With her shopping packed up and her bill paid, the mother then bent down and scooped up her child. He was still kicking and screaming. He was still asking ‘why?’ and she was still adamant in her response. ‘…because that is why!’

It struck me today, right there at the checkout, that the toddler in me is still living too. Okay, I am a grown woman and have the grace not to put on a full scale drama show and crumble to my knees screaming ‘Why?’ at the Sainsbury’s checkout.

But behind closed doors, I have asked the same question as that kid, with all the tears and snot and rage. In fact, I have done it many times since ‘the blow’ – never in front of Bebe but certainly in front of the mirror in the middle of the night. Back then, I screamed the question silently with a pain so deep in my soul, I thought that I myself may die from it.

I never thought that I was capable of displaying my emotions so silently. Anger, I thought, was something that showed itself with sound. 

After he died, the emotion came with sound. It also came with volume. It wasn’t in public but it was in my home and yes, I was like that child – crumbled on the floor in a pitiful heap of sorrow and rage.

‘Why?’ is probably the first question we learn to ask as we are growing up. 

‘Why’ is a powerful because it demands a reason. 

We always want to know the reason. We always want to know why, because somehow we think that if we have the reason for something that can’t, might, will or has happened then we have this sense that it will be easier to accept.

But if we continue to ask the question and we don’t get an explanation or a reason then we continue to feel desperate for an answer. For months, I was in that loop. It is a horrible place to be – like I was on a monorail at a grief theme-park and it just kept bringing me back to the place I had alighted.

For the past couple of months, I have refused to engage with the question. I have accepted that there is no reasonable explanation of why Bebe got so ill, so quickly and so silently. I have stopped asking ‘why didn’t we realise that something was so terribly wrong?’

And I have also realised, that even if you attempt to ask the first question, it really only leads to a chain of other equally frustrating ‘whys’ and the worst one of all is ‘Why him?’

I refuse to ask any longer because firstly, there is no acceptable reason and secondly, it changes nothing.

If I continue to ask the questions, then I continue to be frozen in time and paralysed with fear and pain. I choose now to move forward and I know that he would want that.

The thing is, he never asked the question ‘Why me?’

He did the direct opposite and asked ‘Why not me?’

I remember him saying it very early on. And he said it with a surprising nonchalance.

The mother at the checkout was more accurate than she may have even realised today. Her response was ‘because that is why’

She had a point.

For Bebe: I have stopped asking ‘Why?’ There will never be an answer. Like you always said – ‘It is what it is.’

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