Sunday, 23 November 2008

The nine toes of Jill Dennis

I didn’t tell many people (in real life) about this last cycle. A change that has occurred gradually in me since the death of my daughter. I used to be a confessor, and relied on the support and intimacy that confessions generate. I have found lately however, that, save for cyberspace and professionals, I prefer to go it alone. More accurately, for us to go it alone. The challenges remain pure in this way. They are not complicated by the needs and reactions of others. I can’t resent the hopeless responses of friends or family, or have  my energy diverted by their need to help, their desire to “do something”. I know that others in my life will never understand my  journey, and have stopped seeking that from them. It has been freeing to do this, and I feel strong, but there is a nagging tug. Dare I say it? At this moment, I feel like I don’t need friends anymore.

I got through the week, not much more than that. At least the waves of grief are familiar and I am not so overwhelmed that I cannot see, when I surface for air, the direction of the shore. I know I will be OK.

I returned to “my healer” (can’t say that without inverted comma, too much like my own personal Jesus). I told him i needed to re-inhabit my body, being a person that copes with the invasiveness of IVF by dissociating. He did footwork, to ground me. It wasn’t a vision exactly, but memory that has the quality of a dream, something comes back to you and you live that time again.

I used to do care work for people with disability. Jill had a spinal injury in a diving accident when she was a teenager. She was in her 60’s when I knew her. She had been sitting on her bum (literally) for decades, and her bum was rather over being sat upon. She had terrible trouble with complications -pressure wounds, skin break down, broken bones and  poor circulation – which resulted in hospital stays for months at a time. To relieve some pressure and assist with circulation her feet were elevated so they stuck straight out in front of her when she got around in her chair. Due to the circulation problems, she had, at some point, had a toe amputation. It was a toe on her right foot although I can’t decipher if it is the second or third toe missing when I see it in my mind.

Jill was another woman ambitious for her own happiness, and knew how to find it in places most of us forget to look. She had a friend sew her up these way-out tops, floral print cotton, a tube shape with elastic and a frill around the top. A roomy boob tube. The particular joy of these tops was that you could sit outside and feel the sun on your shoulders. On blue clear days, like we had on Friday, I would shower her, wash her hair and dress her in one of these tops. We would go out in the back yard and I would brush her long silver hair, while she sat with her eyes closed and face to the sun, her wrinkled skin and head absorbing the warmth until they too began to radiate it. Sometimes I would pick a flower and put it in her hair.

Jill had a brother, Harold, who she was close too. I can’t remember if he was her big or little brother. We wouldn’t see him for months as he lived half the year in Bali doing god knows what. When he came back he had the skin of a white person too long in the tropics. Handbagged, as my friend Vicky would say. Brown and deeply wrinkled. Sandals on his feet, shirt buttoned low with a (greying) hairy chest and gold chain. He did look a bit like a dealer except for the kind smiley lines on his face.

Harold always came over with a big bag full of nail polish. He had every colour you could imagine and then some. Not only polish, but brushes, toothpicks, sticks. His wife would come out and chat to us carers or the others in the house, or help out with lunch while Harold and Jill hung out together. And their hanging out meant Harold setting out his toenail paints, and slowly and carefully, painting the nails of each one of Jill’s ten fingers and nine toes. It wasn’t just a matter of 2 coats of a chosen colour. He would paint tiny, finely detailed pictures on each nail - flowers with coloured petals and fine stalks, patterns of lines and colours, or little dot paintings. At Christmas he would paint holly or Christmas trees, bells and snowmen. It took him hours to complete and we would all rush to see when it was done.

The image of Harold and Jill in the sun, big sister little brother, painting and being painted is what came to me as my feet were being worked. It got me thinking about intimacy and friendship, giving and receiving. It provided a counterweight to my utilitarian dismissal of the gift of friends. And the image will go with me as I go back to the drawing board to figure out again, what friendship is about.

12 comments:

luna said...

what a wonderful story, B.

I feel much like you wrote in the 1st para. that reaching out to those who aren't capable of supporting me just further complicates everything. I've been disappointed by others so often before, at some point I realized I didn't have the energy for it anymore.

funny, I was reading this post while you were just commenting on mine. how's that for giving and receiving, from halfway around the globe.

B said...

Hey how cool is that luna - I'm not normally online at the same time as you Northerners.

mlg- believe N miracles said...

Friendship can be complicated and it is always changing however as you know there are always a chosen few who will stand beside you no matter what, even when you might not want them around, but they will wait patiently until you are ready.

Emily (Apron Strings) said...

Ah B. This is a beautiful story. And I so understand about going at it alone.

Lori said...

I didn't want anything from fertyls, especially. I shut everyone out.

I love your story of Jill and Harold, and your insightfulness with your "healer" about what you need.

May you reclaim soon.

Tricia said...

Oh God B, I'm so sorry this last cycle didn't work. IKWYM about removing yourself from those around you - its such a protective mechanism. Love the story about Jill, its just so very beautiful and human!

CLC said...

What a touching story. I have thought the same thing many times that I don't need friends. But then at odd moments it occurs to me that I do. Maybe it's my expectations that need to be reigned in.

jodie38 said...

Gorgeous story. Thanks for sharing that. And I'm right there with you on the friendships. Very, very tough to maintain through the IF journey.

Thinking of you....

Kami said...

A beautiful story. Peace and friendship to you, B

Michele said...

It's horrible when grief becomes wrote, isn't it? That's how I feel right now. Things have to get better... For all of us.

Pamela Jeanne said...

after being hurt and misunderstood more times than i can't count -- i now see friendship as the simple act of accepting each other without judgment...not trying to "fix" or advise but rather just be with someone who needs understanding and care.

Me said...

Wow. I didn't expect such a powerful little story there. Totally knocked me over.