take one woman with low self esteem, but quite good hair
add one moronic illness
stir in some medication which causes hair to fall out
mix it all up and this is what you get...

Saturday, April 26, 2008

You were beautiful.

"Don't look at me!" you muttered to the staff outside the main room. But how could they not?

I heard the "ahhh" as the assembled guests in the room saw first the two little nieces, holding hands, dressed in pink, then you, luminous, arm in arm with our brother, in loco parentis. Then me, following behind, barely able to look up, only once to find Big with my eyes and return his smiling, gentle wink, but trembling, clutching the bouquet.

I remember only fragments of the ceremony, mostly being occupied with the effort it took to remain composed as poignant words were spoken with shaking voices. We in the front row independently and silently resolved not to look at each other, though we could sense the struggle in the others as we gulped back the tears. I heard your name - your full name, your middle name, our mother's name. A reminder of the gaping hole. I remember our brother-in-law delivering his reading with less gusto than is normal for him. His voice faltered, his eyes glistened - we sympathised.

The ceremony over with, we relaxed a little, but we knew there was more to come. Later, the heartfelt speech from your new husband and his toast to "absent friends" was another catalyst for our eyes to fill and our lips to tremble.

Because we'd been saying for some time that your wedding would be a "blub-fest". The first wedding in our family without mum. Yet another wedding without dad - the dad that you and I can barely remember. The three grandchildren they would never know, though perhaps they see them, perhaps they watch over them.

I wonder how many of your guests knew that just five days before your wedding, you had gone back to the clinic for the results of the biopsy. I wonder how many of them knew that a few weeks before that, you'd found that lump. I wonder how many of them knew that, although the biopsy had suggested that the lump was benign, the doctor was still concerned and booked you in to have it removed, a few days after you return from your honeymoon.

I suppose our bad genes were not content with giving you a rare, congenital heart condition, necessitating bypass surgery at the age of 21 and lifelong medication. I suppose they didn't think that the loss of both parents to cancer by the time you were 28 was sufficient. I guess they reckoned that a younger sister diagnosed with a rare, lifelong, auto-immune disease at the age of 34 and treated with chemotherapy wasn't quite enough for them.

Sometimes, I want to scream: "FOR FUCK'S SAKE, JUST LEAVE US ALONE!"

To whom, to what? I don't know. Whoever or whatever it is that has cursed the health of our family, please, just leave us alone.

Through it all, though, you smiled, you laughed, you danced.

You shone like a star, my sister.

You were beautiful.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Let's get persona-l 

She is a loudmouth. Her voice carries more than you'd think it would. She hiccoughs, sneezes, belches without stifling it, like a man. She cackles like a witch - deep and throaty. Dirty.

She swears. On a Gordon Ramsay scale, she's small fry, but she cusses and curses more than you'd think, from what little you know of her.

She is tall. She undoubtedly has a physical presence. She looks confident - almost intimidating - but there is an inner awkwardness perceptible to the more observant. She is incredibly clumsy - always flailing her arms as she walks and bashing them on walls, radiators, door handles, grazing her knuckles as she goes.

She is incredibly opinionated. In the privacy of her own home, she rants and raves and argues the toss about education, politics, the environment, society, claiming to have an answer to all the wrongs. Outside of her home, she is rarely drawn into any serious debate, doubting her ability to express her view articulately, stifling her thoughts, silently simmering.

She is an appalling gossip. Incredibly observant and intuitive, she can spot the seed of gossip almost before it happens. She can bitch for England (or for any other country that may require her services).

She is an inverted snob at times. A snob at others.

She is "a million different people from one day to the next".

Do you think you know her?

She is me. The me (most of) you don't see. The me who writes, presses publish, gets up, walks away from the screen and becomes a real, three-dimensional, multi-faceted, multi-talented and multi-flawed human being.

Not just anxious. Much, much more.

inspired by this

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Hair today 

I've had a few double-takes. A few lingering looks that say "hold on there, missus!". A few "amusing" comments. A few awkward silences, where you can feel the weight of the stares. But mostly raised eyebrows and surprised smiles.

I'd been waiting for this moment for months, putting up with things in that stoic way that I'd learned from my mother. Irritatingly, it was only when the situation became significantly more bearable that I was able to go ahead with the "cure" - or at least, the partial remedy. When I was most desperate for the change, it simply wasn't possible to effect it.

But last Friday, my time came.

It was rather more painful than I'd expected, not only during, but just after. At first, I found it hard to sleep at night and woke up sullen. The tearfulness would continue all day.

Tearfulness, because it wasn't everything I'd hoped for. My expectations were, I fear, a little too high. I'd wanted them to give me back everything I'd lost, but they could only work with what they had. And what they had was not a lot.

Tearfulness, too, because I wondered if this was all just too ungrateful, too vain. Shouldn't I be pleased that everything seems to be okay on the inside?

I suppose that partly, I did it for my sister. Had I not been asked to be her bridesmaid, I wonder whether I would have gone through with it. But with the assurance of photos that will be looked at for years to come, I just wanted to look a bit more like me.

Just a bit.

You see, I paid someone to painstakingly braid the lower sections of my hair into tight cornrows. I paid someone to sew, with an alarmingly large needle, woven sections of real, human hair onto the braids. Human hair so well matched to my own, that it even contains the same odds flecks of grey.

I got some new hair. And though it's so clearly a mullet, I am growing to like it.