What is to be done? The frozen moment, messing around on social media–when I feel reminded that that is what I was doing instead of paying attention to social relationships. Oh, to turn back time.
She came to the condo within the last year or so, “Hi Mum,” from the doorway, and I was watching a show on Netflix that Sam introduced me to. I don’t watch TV. I was aware she was here for a visit, but I was binging, the only time in my life I can say I did that. I was a few episodes in, “Hi,” thinking she would come into the living room to join me, see what this was about (2 women at a bus stop had witnessed a crime and now they were on the run). She said hi to Dad and Ian and lay on the bed in our room and had a nap. Said goodbye and I jumped up only to drive her home. What kind of relationship is that?
I am heart sick. I am sick and my core is a weight of lead. There are huge chunks of people’s lives spent trying to find their loved ones, or save them. And I squandered hundreds of chances. Given a frail gift, I don’t know where my brain was. Was I depressed? Must have been. “I don’t understand, I don’t understand!” was the last drive we took. As was our habit I took a big circle of the city, towards UBC or Southlands, then back to Cambie and north towards her place. Why didn’t I pull over, “Tell me what you are thinking?” I have done it before, asking one of them, “What’s it like to be you?” in a teasing sort of manner, not expecting to learn anything, just for fun.
I figure I talked about other people, Uncle Alex probably, and other things. I thought she was frail, but I thought she would get better. I think maybe I thought it was a form of tough-love, to think she needed to hear that the family, community, and world are just going along, and trying to have her join in. She had her great big secret. Why did I believe she had been in hospital for treatment when physical evidence said she had not? What was going on for me that I could be so callous? Was I callous or just that ignorant? When the psychiatrist called with condolence and I was so cold, “We were sorry to hear …”, “No you weren’t,” and she had to figure out what it was I was mad about. She told us on the phone, “Her last admission was 2017,” more than a year ago, and not last month–I was stunned. Gemma could have told me that. She was afraid of the lie. She was afraid we would be mad. She wanted to do things on her own terms. She probably thought we were smart enough to know, to guess.
There is no getting away from the times I had a chance to alter the course of things. Wednesday I texted her, “Hi. A lot cooler. Ian and I are going to shut off outdoor water, seasonal strata maintenance, then BCAA to see if Dad can drive my car for his road trip, then go Superstore for a turkey! What you been up to?”
She texted, “Banfield thanksgiving was classic. I had to puree a lot of squash. Then I came home and completed a practice test for ethical dilemmas that I have to take officially tomorrow. It was pretty cool actually! Have a good outing with Ian”
“Wow, sounds like a neat test?, interesting. I’d cheat on the test.” “Ian is making turkey Sunday.” “You in?”
“On Sunday I’m going to a play at Langara with Sherry. It’s dinner theatre murder mystery called “Can we fix it”
“That’ll be great! Sounds super! Ian will cook, but there are always other meals ☺”
The next day, Thursday, I sent her 4 more texts but she was already gone. Sam jumped up at 5 to midnight and said in his sleep, “I’m worried about Gemma.” I got my socks on but he said he was asleep when he talked. That he would go see her in the morning. I said, She’s probably in the hospital. Because that would be logical. She had only just been released from the hospital so if she was troubled she would return there.
At some point this spring or summer she said maybe she could stay at our place. But the condo was for sale and Gemma had volunteering and I had temp work. I think the idea just disappeared. I should have grabbed it, I could have. It was not humane. After Sam and I got back from three days camping at Clinton Labour Day or maybe it was the Monday I got back from girls weekend at Whistler, October 7. She said maybe I would stay at hers. But I think I had the leaky air mattress in mind. I said something about, Do you remember? When you moved in you wouldn’t let me bring you an air mattress for overnight guests. She had said then that it was her place and she wanted no guests. Though she had Meghan Stewart stay a couple times when Meghan asked her if she could. What was I trying to accomplish? Was I crazy?
I was looking backwards instead. I couldn’t see five minutes in front of my face. I never thought, not once, “Where are we going with this? What will happen next?”