1. I spent a week in Cape Town for Mom’s funeral, and to sort out her stuff, and so on. It was a very unusual trip home – quite apart from the funeral – because I was travelling alone. No kids to distract me. No husband to do husband things with. I was hanging out in the southern suburbs, ie my patch. Armin is a City Bowl boy, and to Capetonians, these distinctions matter. City Bowl/Atlantic Seaboard (the tourist bits) have a very different vibe to southern suburbs, and we won’t even talk about the northern suburbs. So there I was, driving (well, being driven) around the roads I grew up on, seeing the mountain from my side. (Which is the best side. Yes yes, famous table is famous, but nothing compares with the view from Newlands. Those deep wooded crevices! Come on.) And talking to my friends without interruption from bored small people. And soaking up Cape Town’s amazing stillness. It gave me a chance to be more me than I’ve had in years. Which, under the circumstances, was helpful.
2. There were a lot of memories and a lot of feelings. Especially in my grandparents’ house, where Mom had been living. That may be the last time I see that house – my Grampa will almost certainly need to go into a home now. Which is painful, since he has always hated the idea, but necessary. It’s a beautiful place, right under the mountain, with a large garden and full of beautiful things (and dozens of my grandmother’s paintings). It’s also absolutely full of complicated and fairly toxic family history.
3. Mostly I’ve been feeling peaceful. Cape Town is a deeply peaceful place. (For the privileged, at least. But that’s a whole nother post.) I had space for my thoughts, and I had some very healing conversations. Conversations that probably should have happened years ago. But they happened now. Sharing experiences gave me perspective. Reminded me that it wasn’t just me who couldn’t deal with her. That she had (probably multiple) mental illnesses. In conversations about Mom, you use words like paranoid, delusions, narcissistic, bipolar, depressive. You remember that she actually needed treatment. She spent her entire life refusing treatment, refusing to accept her problems. So we all put our heads down and got on with things, and only now are we able to look up and see the big picture again. It wasn’t just me. It wasn’t just us.
4. Still, though. The anger and frustration I used to feel every time I thought of Mom have mostly just slid away. Because now, it’s safe. I don’t have to deal with her. I don’t have to brace myself. So it’s okay to let go of that, and remember that I used to love her so much, and enjoy the wonderful things about her that everyone who knew her a little bit kept talking about. Or… it should be okay. Right? It should be. It almost is.
5. But when I let go of the anger and… whatever it was… then what’s left? Love and compassion? Where were those when she was alive? Shouldn’t I have felt more compassion for her illness? If I knew she couldn’t help the way she was, why couldn’t I accept her? So then guilt rushes in where the anger used to be. But I don’t accept that. I’m not going to be angry with myself instead of angry with her. I’m not ready to love her, yet.