Sometimes I think he wants to drown me in his misery, to pull me down under the watery blackness with him. I think that is the only thing that will satisfy him, for it will show the hugeness of it, the terror of it, the fatality of it. It takes all my strength these days to resist such a submersion. I try to keep buoyant, taking on a kind of brusque, practical demeanour that I do not feel. I too am bleak. I too am floundering but someone has to keep steady, to deal with the details, to keep this life of ours turning over, ticking, breathing. I come into his room in the morning and I know even before my hand is on the door handle how he is. That quiet voice, that whisper of a hello, or sometimes not even that. This is not judgement, believe me, I know that he feels it, is terrified, no, it is an observation. I need to pay attention, to keep a close eye on what is happening, so that I know my own responses. I walked my whole walk again. I want to get my back strong again. It is tired after the three miles, wanting rest and to not have to hold itself ramrod straight. I encourage him to eat. He probably wouldn’t if I wasn’t here. I try to tempt an appetite in him that has almost gone. No appetite for life for the struggle of it. For the challenge of it. He is powerful in his misery, much more so than when he is joyous. A rare thing. He keeps strong emotion tight in. Either end of the spectrum unsettles him. There is love. Always. But frustration too. I want help. I want to be helped and there is nothing. Nothing. As it was when I tried to pull him up off the floor. There is no help. He is helpless. Will not, can not help himself. I was brought up to be tenacious. She, god rest her soul, was always so. Almost to the last. My darling love. So bitter, so sharp, so unloving. I write to understand her, for by understanding her I understand myself. We were locked into each other. It was always so. Will the grief ever pass? I dreamt of my little one. She was putting her finger in my mouth, and smiling gleefully at the possibility of it. And she spoke my name. She knew me. What a joy that was. To be known by her.

Work was nicer yesterday. I was spoken to. I engaged. They listened. I was part of something. It was because she was there. That ray of sunshine. How are you? She asks. She asks about my work. Wants to know, to share. And then the others take note. I exist. They forgot. She didn’t. It was enough. For now. A shadow of comfort in a dark, dark time. So be it. I can manage. Always.  

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.