I WAKE and feel the fell of dark, not day.
What hours, O what black hoürs we have spent
This night! what sights you, heart, saw; ways you went!
And more must, in yet longer light’s delay.
With witness I speak this. But where I say
Hours I mean years, mean life. And my lament
Is cries countless, cries like dead letters sent
To dearest him that lives alas! away.
I am gall, I am heartburn. God’s most deep decree
Bitter would have me taste: my taste was me;
Bones built in me, flesh filled, blood brimmed the curse.
Selfyeast of spirit a dull dough sours. I see
The lost are like this, and their scourge to be
As I am mine, their sweating selves; but worse.
The first line of this Gerard Manley Hopkins poem has been very much on my mind the past few weeks, ever since I found a paper I had written about it in college. Sometimes it seems incredible to me that I could have ever conceived a paper’s worth of insight about fourteen lines of poetry, but then I read a poem like this and am blown away by how much can be said in fourteen lines. Today though, my main concern is that first one.
It is about four in the morning. I am awake for who-knows-what reason, and I am up because my bestie was also online (that is a feat at present–her schedule is six hours later than mine, as she lives in the GMT block [Correction: BST. Who knew?]). And I have work to do, work which has been put off while I have been much tried of late. Regardless, I am fully awake, yet all I see is darkness. And all I feel is darkness.
For those who don’t know, I am going through a very difficult struggle that concerns a close family member with Alzheimer’s (not my parentals–they are all too young yet). I don’t want to say too much because, as an anonymous source pointed out, this person’s struggle is not necessarily mine to tell. My struggle, however, is mine to tell, and that is what I will share today.
You see, Alzheimer’s isn’t fair. Now, I’m one of those people who grew up with parents whose constant refrain was, “Life’s not fair.” I get that, and I’ve been pretty okay with it for some time. I still rebel a little against the principle, stamping my foot and shaking my fist at circumstance (don’t ever literally stamp your foot–it hurts), but I usually quail under that mental voice. It is, after all, true. Not one thing I have witnessed in this world has led me to believe that life will ever be fair to any person.
But Alzheimer’s is really unfair.
A week ago, my family had to enact a tough decision we had already made. And I didn’t cry. I felt bad (I felt terrible), but I didn’t really cry–not the way my other family members cried. I had short bursts of tears talking to a couple of people, but it wasn’t so bad.
Two days later, I lovingly burned and hand-printed nearly twenty copies of my Summer 2013 mix for various friends and family (I have extras–lmk if you want one). I was so excited to share my playlist, which has taken an inordinate amount of time to compile. But the CD wouldn’t play in my aunt’s car. I was so angry about this that I snapped the disc, scattering shards of plastic all over the car. Then I lost it.
I cried. I cried so hard. Nay, I sobbed. I was hysterical. I was so deeply angry. I felt guilt I did not necessarily deserve. I was just so freaking frustrated with everything. And once I had started, I couldn’t stop. I cried the next day and the next. I am barely holding off tears in any given moment. Right now I may start crying.
That’s where the poem comes in. I am awake, but I don’t feel awake under such darkness. And when I am asleep, my dreams all turn to nightmares. I can’t tell the difference between the dark and the day because there is often no reprieve–no separation between the stress and the fun. My good times are colored by a weight that has settled on me. Everything is anger and stress, that I am going through the most difficult period in my life so far, and that I have no one on whom to lay blame.
I think Alzheimer’s must be like this. Every day a person wakes up, and the world has dimmed a little bit. There is a little less of the day and a little more of the night clinging to every morning–until a person does not wake at all, but lingers in some shadow of dusk until the body gives out. And I think that that is one of the most depressing things I have ever heard. And I think I do not know yet how to cope with it.
Um, that’s all I’ve got.