Blog Archives

Telling Not Showing

Telling Not Showing

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/11/opinion/booze-revisited.html?_r=0

The above link is to an article on alcoholism written by Dick Cavett. I don’t agree with all Dick writes, e.g. Dick implies that he sees nothing wrong with some people taking a small drink as a means of coping with stage fright. In my opinion, using alcohol to self medicate for any reason is unhealthy. Addiction in all forms is a subject I have strong feelings about. Both stories in the link are compassionately written (there’s a link to a second story contained in the intro of this one, you just click on the word ‘here’.). They touched me deeply. My father was an alcoholic and I have battled various addictions during my life. Addiction and mental illness run like a winding river through my family.

I loved my dad and miss him very much. He had 10 years sober (bliss) when a chronic illness (not alcohol related) forced his early retirement from a job he loved, a job he’d held since he stopped drinking. He’d found his niche, took pride in his promotion to manager, I think he discovered his self respect in this job. Not long after his retirement he began drinking again, telling us (and himself) he could now be a social drinker. It only took a few months for my loving, gentle, delightful dad to once again become an alcohol obsessed, often morose stranger. He died just after his 67th birthday. We were all with him, and we all loved him.

My son adored his Poppa Thomas, and was devastated by his death. He wrote the poem, Thomas, after dad’s funeral. After years of battling depression then drug addiction, Ken , ‘followed’ his Thomas, 8 years after he wrote the poem. As many of you know, Ken died by his own hand.

I’m reposting Ken’s poem, Thomas, because I believe his words show far better than I can tell, what it’s like to love a person who suffers from any addiction. Ken’s words also show that it’s possible to see past the addiction to the heart of the person.

Tricia 1/2014

Thomas

A picture is all I have
To remind me of your life
This emotion runs so deep
Oh why can’t I follow you

Your wisdom and your heart
Greater than your legacy
Of the ones you left behind
Oh why can’t I follow you

I long for the time
When your smile meet mine
Tucked gently inside a bottle
Oh why can’t I follow you

I weep at the reflection
In the eyes of your wife
For since you said goodbye…
O why can’t I follow you

A soul so weightless
The wind took you from me
I never got to show you
Just who you were to me

This lid is sealed so tight
On your final kiss
Tasting death on your lips
Please wait for me

Kenneth Bertram

Afternoon In The Gallery

Tricia Bertram 1 Attachment
241.4KB

AFTERNOON IN THE GALLERY

They were wandering through the various rooms of the National Gallery of Victoria, trying to fill another sad Sunday afternoon. As they entered the final room she froze then sank slowly to her knees. ‘Oh God, it’s happening again’ she thought. It was just like the night in the car park when the policeman had said ‘I’m sorry to tell you there is the body of a young man in the flat’. Her energy, her life force, was leaving her body through the soles of her feet, and her breath was slowing as if it would stop forever.

‘What’s wrong?’ Asked her husband as he grabbed her, trying to keep her upright. ‘Can’t you see it?’ she whispered as tears began to course silently down her face. ‘See what?’ he asked, half supporting, half dragging her to one of the padded black benches that were placed randomly throughout the gallery, unaware he was sitting her directly in front of the painting that was now the epicentre of her world. It loomed huge and dark, threatening to engulf her. ‘The mother and her poor dead lamb’ she whispered, her hands making fluttering motions towards the large painting directly in front of them. The painting, titled Anguish, was painted by, August Friedrich Albrecht Schenck, in 1878.

Her husband looked at the painting for the first time then wrapped her in his arms, gently rocking her, murmuring ‘Shush, shush’ into her hair as she folded into him. As he held her he looked again at the large painting. It was a dark, dank wintry study of a ewe standing on snow covered ground, her left foreleg straddled protectively over the body of her dead lamb. They were surrounded by a hoard of large black menacing ravens. The painting seemed to become larger the longer he looked at it and he had to keep blinking to reassure himself the ravens were not slowly moving closer to the ewe and her lamb. He lifted the hand that had been rolling up and down his wife’s back and wiped the tears that were distorting his vision.

She turned slowly in the curve of his arm so she could again look at the painting that was causing everything inside her to twist and ache. She felt her long gone womb constantly contracting as if labour was drawing to the crescendo of birth. And just as there was no stopping the labour process once it had begun, she knew this wrenching, timeless moment was part of the inevitability of her grief. As she looked into the heart of the painting she noticed the puff of breath escaping from the mouth of the ewe and she could hear the mother bleating her terror and loss into the hovering sky. And there in the snow, where it had seeped from the mouth of the lamb, was the blood tinged mucous she call the death fluid, the fluid she had removed lovingly and reverently from the pale grey carpet on the floor of her son’s flat.

She longed for her son’s ephemeral presence standing beside her, wanting him to help her survive the visceral wrench no mother should know. She first experienced this longing on the day of his funeral, wanting him to walk beside her as she followed his coffin out of the funeral parlour to the hearse parked in the portico. Wanted him to sing with her, When Day Is Done, the Peter, Paul and Mary song she had chosen for their final walk together. ‘If you take my hand my son all will be well when day is done’ the words now a comforting mantra that linked them in some indefinable way.

‘You and your tree hugging hippy music’ he used to say, with the devilish grin that made his eyes sparkle, whenever she had the music blasting around the house while she cleaned or cooked. Back when a ringing phone was just a ringing phone, not something that filled her with fear and ignited her overwhelming sense of impending catastrophe. After his death she’d thought ‘At least there is now an end to the fear’ but grief had a way of rearing up and replaying her worst fears. Fears made flesh by his death, a death she had spent ten tangled, exhausting years trying to prevent. Loving, crying, keening, at times blaming both herself and her son, even making banal bargains with the Catholic God of her childhood.

In the end he made the decision himself and ended a life that had become intolerable for him. Just two weeks before his death they had spoken about his now constant depression and his battle to overcome his addiction to heroin. He had said with gut wrenching hopelessness ‘Mum I can’t live with it and it appears I can’t live without it.’ She had clutched him to her as they sat on the soft pink couch warmed by the winter son streaming into the family room, then pushed back to hold his face in her hands, looking into his eyes as the words spilt out of her ‘Don’t you ever think you would be doing your father and I a favour by taking your life’. ‘Hold me Ma’ said this 26 year old man with soft golden hair and eyes that no longer sparkled. Her son who she had loved and conversed with from the moment she knew of his existence, growing slowly inside the protective folds of her body.

She turned to her husband, hand shaking she wiped a stray tear from his chin. He took her hand and folded it over his arm as they sat quietly together continuing to absorb the impact of the painting. One of the gallery guards walked over and stood quietly beside them. After looking for a time at the painting the guard said ‘It takes some people this way, not many just a few’ then walked to the other end of the room. They sat for a little longer then dragged themselves off the bench and walked slowly towards the door where the guard was standing. ‘Take care now’ he said, as they made their way out of the gallery.

Tricia

Link to Painting
http://www.ngv.vic.gov.au/learn/schools-resources/art-start/image-bank/schenk

I Care

I Care

“I pray your hope returns

and your depression lifts”

she wrote.
Yes I’d written the word depression
but
it wasn’t my depression.
The poem was titled
Night Vision
even wrote the word dream
and yet…
I wonder if others
read my words thinking
‘Poor soul
depressed
without hope’.
Why  do I care?
I care so much
my fingers barely kept pace
as my response clamoured
onto the screen.
My words of sorrow
are often woven
with nature’s beauty.
As I write the roads of grief
I discover culs-de-sac
carpeted  with fallen petals,
vibrant dawns,
precious memories.
These things are an intricate
integral part of my journey.
Somedays my words are sorrowful,
but
must there be a moratorium on mentioning
life’s sad truths?
Then there’s
Love
Joy
Gratitude
Many poems resonate
with these precious gifts.
Why do I care?
I care because too often
Sorrow is misdiagnosed as depression,
I care because depression is an illness
and sorrow is a sometimes thing
a  natural state of being.
I care because both sorrow and depression
need to be discussed but not confused
I care because
hopelessness and depression killed my son.
We all have a story
mine’s pretty much out there
I’m more than any one poem,
I’m a compilation
variations on a theme.
You read my words
through your personal filter,
I respond through mine.
I write because I must
I write because I care.
Tricia 01/2013

Night Vision

 
Night Vision 
 
Dark shadows
Flash of steel
Illuminating 
Your man-child face
 
One eye sparkling
The other streaming tears
Cleaved by depression’s Damoclean sword
One hand reaching 
The other pushing away
 
Terror grips my guts
As I realise
It’s not my chasm to cross 
Long gone 
Days of encompassing womb love
 
And yet….
 

In my dreams

Fighting still to save you
Even though
You are 13 years dead
 
Tricia 01/2013

Too Soon Dead

Too Soon Dead
 
A young man died the other day,
only a drug addict some would say,
no comprehension of the battle that rages
lives destroyed in agonising stages.
Picture this man as a little tyke
taking his first steps, riding his first bike,
a wealth of potential beginning to bud
yet the seed of addiction may already flow in his blood.
There are smokers and alcoholics in his family tree,
a history of depression, to name only three
genetic components that may warn of the danger,
a loving young man could become a glassy eyed stranger.
Glimpses of sorrow buried deep in his soul
with the death of a loved one become a gaping black hole.
What began as experimentation becomes a means to escape
the pain and turmoil of his bottomless lake.
Chasing the dragon becomes the focus of each day
but the dragon isn’t chased – he is leading the way
to destruction and death with his nectar for need,
humanity assists with their judgement and greed.
“Drug addicts are weak”  a common refrain,
no problem is solved by apportioning blame.
Addiction doesn’t discriminate, sidles up to any door
insidious epidemic, miss-diagnosed as war.
Erroneous perceptions keep the beast fed,
some addicts break away, others  too soon dead.
Yes a young man died the other day
I loved him, he was my son I’m proud to say.
 
Tricia  2000