Essay

“As for me, most days I make an effort to do good.”

MyDarling

“Thanks, for the trouble you took from her eyes, I thought it was there for good, so I never tried.”

 

My daughter and I always squabble about which music to play during the drive to school. I made her suffer Jeff Buckley’s Hallelujah this morning, tired of repeats of the Hill Top Hoods’ Nosebleed Section. Waving me goodbye, I watched her move off, thinking of friends, swaying from side to side as she walked. I studied her, as I often do. How she looks at me. How she negotiates a sharp curve. Her clinging to me at the shopping centre. Two years ago, we discovered that she is losing her eyesight. She can no longer read, resorting to audio texts to get her through class lessons. To put herself to sleep at night. Like me. But her peripheral vision is still strong enough for her to navigate the familiar grounds of school.

My daughter turned twelve this week, and her enjoyment of the attention lavished upon her has been unexpected. My sisters and brother started their families at the same time, six years after my son was born. My children’s seven cousins are aged from 9 months to 3 years. For the last year or so, whenever our families gathered together, my daughter would disappear into another room or space, lost and confused, unable to speak and interact. At her birthday picnic on Sunday, one of those perfect Brisbane August days, her laughter tinkled out over the river. She lay on her stomach in the grass, eyes closed, enjoying the sun on her hair. She horsed around as her cousins climbed on her back, doing their best to squash her, toppling off.

Driving home this morning, inspired by Buckley, I played Famous Blue Raincoat, realising that, after the two most difficult years of my life, my emotions have settled enough for me to contemplate the future. I have spent so many moments at the steering wheel crying. Eagle-eyeing my daughter through the day, trying to comfort her late at night, swallowed by the immensity of her loss. I could only take it in in pieces. It’s the reflection, the acceptance and regret in Cohen’s song that gets me.

And what can I tell you my brother, my killer
What can I possibly say?
I guess that I miss you, I guess I forgive you
I’m glad you stood in my way

Cohen’s song made me order a novel from overseas, several years ago, by Samantha Harvey. Dear Thief. It was, by far, the best book of that reading year. A story of betrayal inspired by Famous Blue Raincoat.

“I suppose the world is constantly producing things of wonderment, every moment, at every scale, and one time in every million or so our minds will be such that we are open to seeing it. To see the silver effervescing of the dust was as beautiful a sight as any mountain or waterfall; but then, when I saw it, I was in love and as happy as a human being can be. Or course this helped. The world is heavily changed by the way we perceive it; in all my reticence and doubt, this is one thing even I haven’t been able to dispute.”

Samantha Harvey, Dear Thief

Each morning, directed by my psychologist, I am supposed to record my mood, to help gauge if I have to intervene with a bath, meditation, a call to a friend, a walk by the river, it’s a brace to hold me back from falling. My relationship broke down too. It was a long one, and, although I was proud that I could keep going, underneath I was deeply shocked. All I had known and thought secured, had suffered a terrible shift. My son’s home from school today, sick with a hacking cough and high temperature. He needs me. And that’s okay. I can be there for him. I haven’t been anywhere for so long that the return is extraordinary.

 

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