‘You both share as one corded together through the pain of experience.’
Extract taken from Mother: A Human Love Story
By Matt Hopwood
Published by Birlinn
Matt Hopwood: We sit by the fire in the evening. Warm hospitality and gentleness. You both share as one corded together through the pain of experience. Outside, the wind blurs the sounds, and time seems to fluctuate. In the morning, you both walk me out along the paths north to the borders and leave me wandering onwards with your voices and memories still rolling around in my head amongst the silence of the hills. I want to cry, but no tears come.
S: My eldest son died about four years ago, four years tomorrow actually. It’s the anniversary tomorrow. And we were in Australia when it happened. When the notice came through, Eddy was the one who got told to go to the police station to get some news, because my son was in America at the time. And Eddy had to come back and tell me that he had died, and I’d never seen him cry like that. From that moment and over the next few weeks and months, I didn’t eat very much and I wasn’t sleeping very well. And he completely took over functioning in every sense, getting us to America from Australia and dealing with everything that needed doing. And he completely took over everything and dealt with it and assumed that role and I just handed it over. He took over everything, even though he was grieving. He looked after and he cared for me and I’d never felt so vulnerable or as needy, and that’s quite scary, because I don’t think I’ve ever felt so vulnerable before. Needing someone in such a raw way and for him to be there and do it without any complaint. And, as the first couple of years passed, when I found it wasn’t just about grieving, it was about dealing with not having joy in myself, and how to function for the rest of my life and me feeling quite low, he just quietly got on and looked after me but didn’t make a big deal of it and didn’t expect anything in return.
I think that’s when I realised how much I love you and how much you love me, and that there could be a vulnerability in loving each other, rather than coming at it both with strength. And that’s been a huge learning curve for me, to have such implicit trust, and it’s made me love you even more.
E: For me, you were this kind of crumpled person. I so remember going to this Australian police station. And they came out and told me and I completely broke down. All I could think of was you and I thought, ‘This is going to destroy her! I remember saying to the policeman, ‘God, why did it have to be Patrick, of all the people in the world?’ I said, ‘It’s going to destroy her.’ I said,’I’d put myself in his place a hundred times.’ I remember saying all this to the coppers and they must have thought I was mad. But I remember thinking, ‘How is she ever going to get over this? How are we ever going to move forward from this point? It’s just a complete disaster.’ I suppose that is my love for you, because it was probably two, three years of you really struggling but I never thought, ‘For frick’s sake, I can’t be with her any more’, I just thought, ‘Well, this is where we’re at and I’m just going to be with you, just be with you. Do what I can and just be there for you!
S: I think I never imagined I could feel love like that for someone who wasn’t my child. I panicked a few times about whether you could still love me. It felt much like it was for any of the children. In fact, in some ways, almost greater because the need for you to love me and be there unconditionally was so strong. I needed it. I couldn’t have functioned without it. And I think particularly with Patrick’s death. He was my son but I had him when I was very young. I was seventeen and I was a single mother. So all my adult life, I’d been with Patrick – he was my one constant. From being a very silly, giddy little teenage girl doing too many drugs and drinking too much to suddenly realising and understanding a purpose in the world, which was love for this child. And then loss, but maybe then discovering my love for you. I mean, I knew it was there, without a shadow of a doubt, but it deepened or solidified from that implicit trust and faith in you.
E: ‘Cause I didn’t know you thought that really.
S: Didn’t you?
E: Not like you’ve just said it.We just managed to do it, didn’t we really.
S: We did, you did and you took me with you. I was committed to loving you but I never let myself feel vulnerable in that love. I always felt I could function completely well on my own because that was how I felt strong. So, to discover I could feel vulnerable in love and that it was safe was a huge learning lesson for me.
Mother: A Human Love Story by Matt Hopwood is published by Birlinn, priced £9.99