BREAKING A SPINE WAS EASIER

Today marks twelve weeks since our son Blake took his life.

There are few, if any, physical signs of our ongoing pain. My weight has ballooned again. Luscious wears a tiny urn, filled with perhaps 1/16th of a teaspoon of Blake’s ashes, on a chain. Connor’s attitude, work, and marks at school have plummeted. Erin has become focussed on her approaching move away from home to an obsessive extent. As a family, as individuals, we are… fractious. If you glance, you might think we’re coping quite well, actually.

But nobody else in our town, outside of our family unit of four, is counting our time for us. Nobody else compares what is to what was. For them, time blurs and smudges. The cause is easily forgotten, or overlooked. Only the symptoms remain. From past experience, I know the phase of “Oh, how terrible” is passing. The phase of “Still?”will soon begin.

I suffered a serious car accident in 2001, as a result of which, I fractured several vertebrae in my spine, along with several injuries that still affect me to this day. If they flare up, they alter the way I walk; my capacity to lift, carry, stand and sit; my mood; and even my ability to hold a decent conversation. If anyone asks, I can simply tell them– car accident, cracked spine, flaring up, bad day.

Oh, dear. Poor thing. So sorry.

We don’t get that with grief. There’s an expectation that, at some time — always unspecified, but always soon or by now — you will get over it, move past it, move on. As if a broken place in the Universe is a simpler fix than a broken bone. I took four months away from work when my first wife died, and even then, it wasn’t enough to cope with the stress of returning. It was several years before I was even fully functional, never mind coping and ready to turn my thoughts to being a completely rational member of my community. There are still members of the Australian SF world who will leave a room when I enter, because I was in no fit state to interact properly when they last saw me, and that gulf between the way I was and the way I ‘should’ have been resulted in too much bad karma and too great a hit to their perception of me. I have destroyed entire blocs of relationships through nothing more than the effortless feat of helplessly drowning in public.

Blake killed himself in the last week of the school term. We had one week away from work, and then the two weeks of the holidays. We were back on the job shortly after term four started. That was as much time as the Education Department could give us, and even then, we were ‘lucky’ to have the holidays in there as well.

It’s not enough. Nothing could, realistically, be enough. We won’t be whole again for an uncountable period of time, and even when we are, we won’t be the people you knew. The shape of us will have changed, forever. It will affect the way we walk; our capacity to lift, carry, stand and sit; our mood; our ability to hold a decent conversation.

And, still, we will be subject to “Still?”, as if a broken place in the Universe should be healed by time and some sort of psychic cast. Like a broken bone.

A broken back was easier.

It’s only been twelve weeks.