Sunday, 6 November 2011

Living Through Clint's Birthday

As much as I tell myself that Clint’s birthday is just another day now, no different from all the other days of sadness, tears and tragedy, I mean how can waking up on the 21 September, be any different from any other day over the past four and a half years. Well believe you me, there is such a huge difference and I am surprised myself that it can bring out such raw pain and agony. Of course it will, we are supposed to be celebrating his birthday with him and even though every day is hard and sad, on his birthday it is just insurmountable and infinite. Maybe I tell myself that, because I don’t know what to expect or I can’t bear all that pain. Clinton’s birthdays are even more painful than the day he died, the anniversary of his death us more painful than the day he died and the funeral.

I don’t think many people can understand how I can say that, people who have not experienced their child dying can never and will never understand that or what it feels like. The day Clint died it was not real, it was a severe shock, I was in severe shock and also on the day your child dies, you have no idea what it is like to live everyday without your child. It is impossible to know and it is something that you cannot imagine ever. I know this, because when I heard or read stories of children dying, I would, like most people, think of what it was like if one of my children died, I would try and imagine what it was like and believe me imagining it is nothing like living with it. So on the day it happened, I had no real idea of what it was like. It is sad, traumatic, a shock, but it is not a reality. It was as if he was at a friend and he would walk through the door any moment and as the days and weeks and months go on, the numbness goes away and reality starts to set. It makes me so angry when I read about tragic deaths of children and parents say that now at least their children are now with god and in a good place and god picked his angel and stuff like that, having other people say it to you is bad enough, but for a parent to say that is just something I cannot and will not ever understand.

There are other things I hate to, like I lost my son, I never lost my son, he is not wandering around somewhere, unable to find us, he is dead, he was taken away from me against his will and is dead, there is nothing nice about death, there is no way to make it seem better, so don’t try and make it sound better by saying he is lost, he is dead. Another word I hate is he passed away. What is passed away, how do you pass away? Do you disappear, evaporate into thin air? No he never disappeared into thin air, he died. It is horrible, tragic and terrible, that is what death is. And the worst is referring to Clint as my late son, you just have no idea how I hate that expression or word or reference. Once this man who was doing our security needed to connect stuff in Clint’s room and asked me if I could move the stuff in my late son’s room. The extreme anger I felt was indescribable. Clinton is not late, he is my child, my son and will always be my son nothing else. How people can and I know people who refer to their dead children as their late son or daughter. It is just something that really gets at me. I know many black African people say someone is late, if they are dead, I don’t know if it is a translation issue or what or if it is the same as people saying my late whoever. It is just something that makes me cringe and I will never refer to Clint as my late child. He is my angel, my son, my child, my Clint. He died and that is so unfair, so cruel, so terrible and so tragic.

Now I know exactly what it is like to live after your child has died, it does not get easier, time does not heal and you don’t learn to live with it. Well I won’t learn to live with it. I am forced to live everyday knowing he is dead. I live for Chad, but I don’t mean I am forced to live, because of Chad, he is my happiness and life. I mean I am forced to carry on with a life where you have to smile and do so called normal things. Get on with life, but I will never learn to live with it and time does not heal. You learn to live with your heartache and tears and sadness, some days you can control them other days you can’t, but no one knows how you are dying inside all the time. I have different characters to deal with different aspects in my life and I don’t even think I know who the real me is anymore, because those different characters  sometimes cross over and blend in with each other, but what I do know is that the real me is broken, destroyed and dead.

So Clinton’s birthday is extremely difficult to live through, as is the anniversary of his death, but that is on a different level. On Clint’s birthday I feel we have to celebrate his life and his birthday, it is extremely difficult, but we have to honour that day and celebrating and being happy is impossible without him being here with us. The anniversary of his death is not a celebration at all it is a reminder of what was.

The days and weeks leading up to Clint’s birthday, in fact as we go into the start of Spring, before the 1 September, in August when it starts to get lighter in the mornings and warmer and that early kind of spring feeling starts, well that is when the anxiousness and anxiety and emotions start, knowing it will soon be Clint’s birthday and the closer it gets the more difficult it becomes and the more emotional I get.  I get kind of excited feeling, I have something to look forward to and bam it hits me that there is no excitement, there is nothing to look forwards to and that is how every day goes, every hour , an up and down emotional nightmare.

On Tuesday, Mark phoned to tell me that Hypermarket was having a special on their cut flowers and that they had loads and loads. Some years I battle to get flowers, especially if it is a Monday or Tuesday, so I went to buy flowers straight away and I put them in a big plastic wash basin in the bathroom, ready for Wednesday morning, Clint’s birthday. Again I went to bed thinking, I woke up today, yesterday, last week , last month not crying so why would I tomorrow. I think I do that to prepare myself or protect myself, I don’t know why I even think about how I am going to react, I just do it, I guess the part of me that is always analysing, is coming back.

Well I woke up with such a heavy heart, so emotional and before I even got out of bed the tears just flooded out, all the tears building up over the weeks just came flooding out, knowing it was Clint’s birthday and it was the saddest day ever. I went and sat in his room for a while, saying happy birthday, crying quietly, sobbing and sitting there talking to him. It was a school day, so I had to get on with the morning, get on with life and oh yes, I would love to just curl up in a ball and never have to get up, never have to just get on with life, just curl up and die. While I was getting ready for the day after my normal routine in the kitchen and showering, Mark got up showered and then brought me a gift. He said he had something for me that might make me smile on this very sad day. He had enlarged a photo of Chad and Miss Piggy that I really love and had it framed. This photo here.  

It made me cry even more.  Partly, because the night before he said that he had a surprise for me, but I would have to wait for the morning. I was expecting something of Clint, being his birthday and it is very wrong to tell someone that they are getting a surprise on a very sad day like that. My traumatized, hurt and vulnerable brain was expecting Clint to be the surprise.  Yes I know it is impossible and my logical brain knew that, but the other brain was expecting the only surprise that would put a smile on my face. So to say I wasn’t disappointed would be a lie. I never told Mark that, he can read it here. I loved and appreciated the gesture, I love the photo and frame and have wanted to frame it and of course I love Chad and the photo of him means a lot to me, but and maybe there is always a but, but being Clint’s birthday, Mark could have had a photo of him framed too. That would have been really doing something special for me on that very sad day.

I carried on getting dressed and ready to take Chad to school. I woke him up and by then I actually had no energy to actually get in the car and take him to school. I was already emotionally drained for the day and asked if he wanted to stay home. Naturally, he jumped at the chance to stay at home, but I also knew from previous years, going to school on Clint's birthday and anniversary was disastrous. He was always sad and upset, but in normal Chad style kept it all in and ended up being angry and awful to everyone around him and ended up getting into trouble at school. So keeping him at home this year was partly for me and partly for his own sake. He spent the day watching TV, playing with the dogs and helped me light candles in Clint's garden.

This year, we struggled with candles burning, because every time we lit the candles a gust of wind would come up. Some years on both Clint's birthday and anniversary, the candles would burn for hours, until I blew them out before going to bed or the smaller ones would burn down completely. I spent the morning arranging the flowers, tidying up his garden, pulling out the odd weed that had sprung up recently and taking out all the leaves. I received a couple of emails and text messages, but what I have learnt is that people move on with their lives and forget. It is usually the ones who insist that they are there for you, who you can call on at any time if you need anything, who move on the quickest and forget.

My parents came around in the afternoon, with a bunch of roses for Clint's garden. I honestly do not know why my father bothered to come. He came with such attitude towards Chad and I. There is one thing being sad and upset, but he just came with his normal attitude. Rude and belligerent, his normal self and attitude towards me. Clint would not have liked it when he was alive and certainly not now that he is dead and his memory being ruined by his grandfather's attitude. They left and I made a special supper for us. I usually make lasagna, Clint's favourite meal, but this year, I just could not bare the thought of making it, for us and he was not there to share it with us.

Mark came home with two little shooters he bought for us. You get these ready mixed shooters from the bottle store. We have never toasted Clint on his birthday. I usually have a couple of whiskeys. They calm me down and I see it as medicinal and not as drinking. It just numbs the pain and helps after a day of tears and sadness. That is how easy it is to become an alcoholic and I fully understand why some mothers do turn to alcohol to survive the death of their child. I don't judge and will never judge them, because it is so easy. I was friends with a woman whose daughter was in Chad's class at his first primary school, her brother died of cancer at the age of 18, she was 12. Lets call her T, for the sake of anonymity.  Her mom became an alcoholic a few years after her brother died. She is a functional alcoholic and goes to work everyday, but then drinks herself into a stupor on weekends and on her days off. T could not understand how her mother could turn to alcohol, when she had her and her four grandchildren. Her mom lived in a granny flat on their property and T looked after her financially, as in her salary was for herself and she did not pay rent and ate with them etc. T's dad had died, but he and her mom had divorced a few years after her brother died, he left her mom for a young girl and all of that added to her mom not coping and turning to alcohol for comfort. T also became an only child, just like Chad did, her brother was also much older than her and she looked up to him, just like Chad did to Clint. So her and Chad have a lot of similarities, although she is an adult. As I said I will never judge her mom for being an alcoholic, it is far too easy to use alcohol to get through each day, some people live on anti-depressants or tranquilisers, I don't see the difference between prescription pills and alcohol. I just can't do that to Chad, he has been through enough and Clint would not be happy about his mom turning into an alcoholic, so I make an effort not to drink alcohol when I am very down, but do have on certain days, like Clint's birthday and anniversary to get through the day. Well not from the morning, but in the late afternoon.

So we each had a shooter and had a drink for Clint, for his memory, for his birthday. To acknowledge the day he was born, the day that was meant to be a happy celebration, the day he turned 22, but was no longer with us to share that happy occasion, which is now a very very sad day.

I have finally finished this post, it has taken a long time to get it done, but it is now finished and reading through what I wrote a few weeks ago and adding the rest has taken quite a toll on me, but it is something that I felt I had to do.

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