It’s been an interesting and difficult year so far. Words have occasionally felt irrelevant. But here’s an attempt to explain a little of what’s going on.
Kelley took full-time employment for the first time in 19 years and it’s meant a huge change to our everyday lives.
Way too many people I love have died. A year ago, I had four aunts and a father. As of yesterday, I have one aunt; I am perilously close to being the oldest generation of my family. This feels surreal. There again, grief itself is surreal. Each hit—and that’s how so many griefs in a row feel: like being hit on a bruise, over and over—renders the world a little less solid, a little less real. Yet one of my sharpest griefs was not for a relative but for a good friend, Vonda McIntyre. When my father died I had to make the agonising decision to leave for his funeral when I knew Vonda only had a few days left (and in fact she died on April 1). I will write about what Vonda means to me another time; right now, I can’t.
This time last year I wrote about my wheelchair-accessible van, and my plans to learn to drive it with hand controls. Life got in the way of focusing on that until earlier this year. And it turned out that my driving test was 36 hours after my father died—and, for Reasons, in a small Western Washington town called North Bend. I don’t know how many of you are familiar with the mind-wrenching grief of parental loss, but for the first two or three days it feels like someone sticks a blender in your brain and blitzes. For a while, I can’t make sense of the simplest things, and I don’t remember what people say from one moment to the next. That’s how I was when I was sitting in the driver’s seat for my test. The examiner spoke, and obviously I made some sort of response, but it felt like sitting in a whirling storm of static. I think if the examiner had given me a cognitive test before I turned the engine on she would have refused to get in the car with me, and fled.
However, I did the test, and did the worst job of driving I think I’ve ever done in that van; I didn’t know right from left. When I turned the engine off and waited for her to finish totting up my mistakes, I knew I’d failed. So I was not just surprised but shocked when she told me I’d passed. (I came *this* close to saying, You have got to be fucking kidding me.)1 But I had just enough sense to not do that, and instead plucked the signed form from her hands, thanked her, and drove back to Seattle (well, okay, Kelley drove us back to Seattle; at that point I was toast). In Seattle, we had a celebratory beer, packed, then got on a plane for the UK.
So I might be an orphan but at least I’m now a fully qualified driving orphan.2
Within a week, the blender in my brain has turned it into a thick slurry—and a week or two after that, it pours that slurry into a bucket of thrashing eels. (Ha! If I though I couldn’t think before…)
We got back from the kind of transatlantic trip no one should ever have to make,3 had time to do a quick load of laundry, then turned around and head for Vancouver. We were inVancouver for five days at an academic conference where I was giving a plenary speech. I loved it—Vancouver, the conference, the people, giving the speech— but it was hard. There was only one person there I’d met before. And the series of seminars I attended started at 8:30 three morning in a row (you try being smart at 8:30 when you’re jet-lagged and your slurry brain is in a bucket of eels). Plus, for two days, the hotel bar was closed. (But it was Gastown, so there were plenty of options.)
When I got back from Vancouver, I’d planned to get right back into writing Menewood but, yeah, slurry brain, and those eels. Plus some health stuff I’ve got going on. (Weird blood pressure spikes and crashes; lots of testing; lots of Huh, well that’s odd. I wonder if it’s this. Or, Hmm, how about this. No? Okay, then we’ll investigate this…) Oh, and also the delicious kind of migraine called basilar migraine that makes me go blind and turns words to rubbish. (The blindness and ataxia is only temporary, usually less than hour for me, but it’s a terrifyingly long time to be absolutely blind and unable to communicate.) But I’m gradually picking it back up, re-immersing myself in seventh-century Britain.
My plan is for Menewood to be published in time for the next IONA in London in November 2021. With luck, there may also be another couple of books available at the same time—but I won’t say more about those until/unless they come to fruition.
But, hey, the sun is shining, and now it’s time to replant annuals in our deck pots (and see if I can revive the jasmine that more or less died of neglect the last six weeks). As/when I do, I’ll post pics. Meanwhile, enjoy your spring-becoming-summer.
1 The funny thing is, the examiner added up the points wrong. I actually passed with 2 more points than she thought. So, yay me?
2The thought that you can drive so badly and still qualify to drive around on city streets with other people makes me fret about every other driver in charge of a two-ton death machine.
3Grief + MS + 26 hrs travel time each way = hell; not to mention having to go through security twice on the way back, mutter mutter. Then add in funeral directors, lawyers, flat-clearing, hospital visits—my sister is ill, but that’s a whole other story—and meeting cousins and aunts I hadn’t seen for years; not to mention writing and giving my father’s eulogy when all I wanted to do was curl into a ball and check the fuck out…