Bagman

What’s that behind you. It’s that pesky grief sneaking up on you again.

Lost in a world of spreadsheets and work while listening to the radio. It’s a rock station so plenty of Aerosmith , Foo Fighters and Pink Floyd. Playing a game of which bands I’ve seen and which I might still see. Then an innocuous advert. NEXT sale starts at 7am.

Nothing wrong with that surely.

Suddenly taken back to a now closed off world. In the immediate aftermath of the funeral I took bag after bag of NEXT clothes to the charity shop. NEXT was her favourite shop. It’s just not right that I’m here and she is not. Tears. A few minutes later the mood has changed. More memories.

My partners ears would always prick up if she heard the two words NEXT and SALE. The alarm would be set 6am. For the big New Years sale it would be set for 5am.

Come on bag man get up.

That was my role. Trudge down to the store. Try to look vaguely interested. Then don’t get in the way and hold the potential purchase items. Occasionally chipping in with a helpful thats nice. Then the bagman carries the laden bags home. For the next couple of hours while our partner tries on the truck load of clothes I replenish all the lost calories with coffee and biscuits. Then bagman sets off back to NEXT again to take back the unwanted items. On the return visit I would briefly look at the Men’s section. A few muttered are you sure these are sales prices and its off to the coffee shop to reflect on the joy which is knowing that’s the sales are finished for 6 months. Not sure how she put up with me….

It’s smiles and tears now.

Spending money on clothes has been replaced with spending money on school.

Dad have you paid for the school reward trip?

Yes I have but like the NEXT sales I’m struggling to get my head round it. All the kids at the school who didn’t get a detention or didn’t pick up too many negatives qualify for a reward. The reward is a trip to a cool destination. As it was a school reward I assumed school would pay for it. NO. Parents have to pay. So the parents of kids who behaved badly don’t have to fork out this wedge of cash. Life was easier when I was the bagman.

Autumn

Autumn is upon us. Everywhere you look the signs are clear.

The hedgerows are brimming with fruit. Intricate cobwebs everywhere.

Most of the swallows have now departed starting their six week trek to Africa.

Yellows, browns and reds are starting to dominate the foliage. Trees letting go as sad leaves fall to the ground. Soon the fruit in the hedgerows will be gone.

It was the time of year my partner loved the best. She loved the colours and the reflective atmosphere. A time she could walk quietly and just think. Now I walk the same paths. Today I was struck by one thought. My partner would have been looking at these same autumnal sights. Countless generations will have been looking at these sights. As much as you think the world has stopped because of your personal tragedy it never does. Life continues. The never ending cycle of life. The empty branches show the fleeting nature of life. Leaves fall but they will be reborn again. So should you – in your own time. When the time is right – it’s time to live again. It’s time to find a new way of blooming.

For me I’m still in the existing stage. I don’t tend to have personal dreams anymore. For years we had shared dreams. When my partner left us those dreams died. Now my dreams are my sons dreams. I exist because of my son. I live life through my son.

At some stage I will transition into the next stage. When I start to live for me. When I start to dream again. It’s strange how Autumn which is a time of life coming to the end of its cycle has sparked these thoughts. But maybe a better way to look at Autumn is that it’s a time of letting go before you start again. Rebirth. Yes that works better for me. It’s a time just before you live again.

Dark Day

“Death ends a life not a relationship” – Mitch Albom

“If there ever comes a day where we can’t be together, keep me in your heart. I will stay there forever.” – A A Milne

It’s been a dark day for many people today. A dark day here. No more words today let some photographs say the rest.

Did it work

We were in the hunt for a distraction. Why? A grisly return to school providing a harsh reminder of how badly the system lets down kids who do not fit the expected mould. The anniversary of losing my soulmate and our sons beloved mum steaming toward us. So distraction needed.

After much searching we found the only option we could find which was affordable and which was just about in the required timeframe.

Off we went to see a Rugby Union match. England playing Italy.

Normally these internationals are played hundreds of miles away in London, are heavily oversubscribed and are far too expensive. But they decided to play this last warmup game before the World Cup in North. The game was just a few days from the anniversary. It had the added advantage that some of the tickets were heavily discounted as the seats were high up in the stadium amongst the clouds.

So it ticked a lot of boxes. Just two problems. It was a night game and our son is not too confident outside in the dark. The other problem is it was going to be a 50000 crowd – that’s a lot for a kid with Aspergers.

The night actually went quite well. The outside stadium entertainment and fan park was too much for son. Just a sea of humanity. Too many people moving in all directions. No pattern. So we quickly got to the seats. Once he was sat down and the world started to become ordered again he began to enjoy the experience. Interestingly he quickly switched allegiances to the Italian Team. He put it down to a combination of them playing in blue and “coming from York we were part of the Roman Empire”. Have to say it’s gone downhill for us since the Romans left. We did play the Monty Python game of what have the Romans ever done for us game. Lots.

The walk back to the car had to be handled carefully as a busy city at night can be so daunting. At least the walk across the bridge made him forget the anxieties.

So today our spirits have been lifted by the distraction. I think we are in a better place to face the anniversary. And I’ve got my first Christmas idea for our son – an Italian Rugby Shirt.

Presence

Somedays I can feel your presence all around me. When I can feel you it makes the world just a bit less scary. Then you get days when your not there. As hard as I look you are simply just not there. That beautiful sunset just could not warm my heart today. Too much emptiness. When I can’t feel you maybe it’s a message that I need to take more ownership of my life. Maybe I’m just not looking hard enough. Probably too busy trying to get my head round parenting.

Over the last 3 years (is it really 3 years) I have frequently revisited one of the first single parent decisions I had to make. One with no right answer but equally one I probably got badly wrong.

How long to keep our son off school immediately after his mum left us.

In 2015 our caring Education Minister said

The rules say you can’t take leave from school during term time except in exceptional circumstances. If it’s something like a funeral or something, then the head teacher would be able to give permission to attend the funeral, but not to have an extended holiday on the back of that funeral or other compassionate circumstances.

AN EXTENDED HOLIDAY….. what planet is this heartless Pillock from. Guess what – he is still in his job. Sums up why our country has fallen apart. The best approach is to ignore the Government as it’s filled with self centred over promoted numpties like him.

To be fair to the school they completely ignored Government recommendations and just said ” let us know when you want him to return – Completely up to you. “

My partner died on a Saturday night so on Sunday I’m faced with a call – what to do with school. I was barely functioning. I agreed with son to play it on a daily basis. My mind was thinking at least a couple of weeks off. But we came to Tuesday night and for some reason my mind shifted.

Maybe it’s better to get him back into the swing of life earlier than I had initially imagined. Maybe it will distract him. It will certainly get him out of a house which feels like a morgue. Might be easier this way in the long run.

My heart was saying one thing my head something different. My head won. The decision was made to give school a go on Thursday. That’s just over 4 days since he lost his mum. AND he’s only 9. Looking back I am not sure what I was thinking. I phoned a couple of his classmates mums up and we agreed to meet up at the local playground after school on Wednesday. Maybe just meeting a few of his friends initially would help. Great plan unfortunately within a few minutes most of the other school kids turned up as it was a nice day. Not really the quiet reintroduction I was hoping for. Too many faces so it didn’t go well.

He still returned to school the next day. That walk from the school car park was a nightmare. It seemed like every eye was on him. But he survived and then the only other day he had off was for the funeral. He was just about ok at school. I’m now think more time off would have allowed him to better process the new world. But we will never know. The kids his age were great with him. Some of the younger kids understandably not so tactful. Understandably some tears were shed. The common young questions being

What’s it like to not have a mum

How did she die

Will you have to move

I keep going back to that decision. I had him facing those questions far too soon. I am sure I got it so wrong but I can’t decide on what the decision should have been. More days off yes but not sure how many. My fear is that I was just as heartless as that Government Minister. In my defence if it was wrong then at least it was unintentional. But I did learn two important lessons. Firstly there is no rule book for parenting with nice clean set answers. It’s really just about a series of best guesses. The second is that on big split decisions – go with the heart. Even if it goes wrong at least you will feel better about yourself in the long run.

Eevee

Happily having a morning constitutional when the bathroom door exploded open.

Sorry Dad you have company. Need a photograph of the Shiny Eevee.

Another thing not in the glossy adverts about parenting. But the same applies to Dog owning. Our bungalow has a design issue.

For some reason the architect who designed the building thought it would be funny to put the toilet basically in full sight of the front door. The bathroom door takes on the same importance as the Wall in a Game of Thrones. It is the only defence against chaos. It doesn’t help that for some reason the bathroom door has decided to expand just enough that it doesn’t fully shut.

So when you are happily sat on the throne it’s not perfect timing for the postman to arrive at the very same time as the dog barges open the bathroom door. The postman’s horror would make a great Stephen King novel. At least a short novel. It could be the short version of IT.

S*IT. Which is probably the words the postman issued. Definitely the words I said.

It’s also the perfect description of my current mood. I won’t bore you with the long story yet again. But over the last 3 years the period from July 23 to early September is when we lost my mum, my partners mum and my partner. It should be a great time. The period exactly covers the long school break. Before the world changed it rivalled Christmas for the best part of the year. Now it’s an ordeal. But holiday periods are often like that. Even after 3 years it’s still an ordeal. Maybe it will get better over time. Maybe it never will.

Grief is such a difficult feeling to describe. I’m still trying to capture it on this blog. I’m still not that close I suspect but I will keep plugging away. Have a look at the blog Party of One, or Life after Death. Malia writes about losing her husband so beautifully. Look at The Grief Reality. Another beautifully written blog about coping with the loss of a beloved mum at a far too early age in life. These show what can be achieved.

In those three years since the world changed I often fall back on silliness to release the pressure. I strongly suspect that it’s really a ploy to just to stop the grieving process for a few moments. Maybe if I laugh the problems will just go away. Sadly they don’t.

Son often copes by trying to fill his head with information. Today it’s been Egyptian Football, Agrippina and Pokemon Go. Thankfully the distraction seems to be working for him.

Tonight we will both forget about life by watching Red Dwarf. So very funny. Hopefully we will have more luck than the previous night. We watched an episode which featured unusually for the show a sad segment where the shipmates talked about not having a mum. The Kryten line everyone should have a mum really did hit home. You are so right Kryten. It’s not easy at my age but at son’s age….

So hopefully after a lot of laughs tonight we go again tomorrow. Let’s see how many Pokemon I can traumatise in the bathroom. No wonder it went shiny.

Real

There is a scene at the end of the third Hobbit movie where Tauriel pleads after the death of her love

Why does it hurt so much?

With the telling response from Thranduil

Because it was real.

This is a bit of movie padding as it’s not from the book. Tauriel is not even in the book. So it’s not canon. But frankly I don’t care. It’s a rather fine movie and the sentiment can’t be faulted. It is hauntingly true.

Before 2016 I never noticed this movie exchange. Now it never fails to get to me. How often do you experience real love and yet it passes you by. You seem to miss living in the moment. Take things for granted. Assume you have time. Plenty of time to get round to the important stuff after you have ticked off the mundane tasks. The tasks expected of you. In reality you may have little time. Putting love off proves to be little more than a foolish role of the dice. A gamble where the debt can never be paid off. Suddenly when it’s ripped away from your grasp love becomes so vivid, so obvious ,so painful. Yes it’s real but now it’s not just a memory. Your moment has gone.

It’s a stabbing pain. A pain etched in memories. I have a few particular memories which are like the most vivid photographs ever. All real and all so painful. Yes painful but they are about love. Real love. One is from a Swiss trip before our son was born. We were on a boat on Lake Thun. I had gone outside to take a photo. The image is me looking through the window and seeing my partner smiling back at me. Every time I see that memory a bit more of my soul dies.

Why does it hurt so much.

Because it was real.

Lonely

Two days ago it was 34C and cloudless. Today we are back to jumpers, rain and mist. Again the weather matches my mood.

Today I am missing my partner more than usual. Maybe it’s because we are starting to approach the fateful anniversary. Maybe it’s the weather. Maybe it’s 2 hours sleep last night. One thing it is most definitely not to do with is our son. As ever he is the shining light. The only thing that keeps me going.

So as he is watching ScoobyDoo and the Witch’s Ghost my mind is wandering. Not only am I missing her so much there is something else. I am still enjoying parenting today but I’m not enjoying being a single parent today. Does that make sense?

  • Nobody is there to tell you that are doing some parenting thing right or wrong.
  • Nobody is there to give you a hug.
  • Nobody is there to give you that knowing smile.
  • After son goes to bed nobody to snuggle up with to watch a movie.
  • Nobody is there to share a quiet moment with.
  • Nobody is there is ever to make you a cup of coffee.
  • Nobody to cover while you pop out for that bottle of milk or a bag of flour which you have just run out of.
  • Nobody to calm me down when I am about to throttle the hoover as the belt snaps again.
  • No more holding hands.
  • Nobody to share that special moment together when our son does something magical.

Don’t get me wrong parenting is still the most rewarding thing I will ever do. Maybe I need to write a post about the upside. It is the best gig in the world. Just somedays it’s a bit tougher than usual and certainly more lonely than I envisioned all those years ago.

A hill

It may look picturesque and relaxing but….

Looks can be deceiving. The lane bends to the left and then suddenly drops. And wow does it drop. One hundred yards of hell. Having had the pleasure of running up this slope I can officially call it a ‘ball breaker’.

Life is like that. Contentedly tottering along the paths that take you through life then suddenly you face an unexpected uphill struggle. Suddenly life becomes tough, it saps your energy, it tests you. The argument goes that when you get to the top of the hill you are a better person. Or your hot, sweaty and distinctly limping.

Three years ago mum went into hospital on my brothers birthday and left us a few days later on my birthday. Days after the funeral I found out the my partner was dying and had no more than a couple of weeks to live. Happily walking down the country lane and suddenly dealing with this and trying to get our young son through the shitstorm (sorry for the language but it’s the most apt word I can think of). It feels like the mother of all hills to climb and we are still climbing. Maybe the slope has eased a bit but the brow of the hill is still not in sight. Maybe it never will.

The meaning of my birthday has now changed forever. It’s not a day to be enjoyed anymore. I suspect if it was just me climbing this pesky hill then I would have sat down by now. But it’s not. That’s why everyday we start charging up that hill again. Son deserves that.

Sunday night Kissing

Kissing is something which died when the world changed. Well anyway for me. But Sunday Night Kissing is still just about possible.

Last night we went to see Kiss perform their last ever English concert.

It was loud. It was cartoon like. It was larger than life. It was ridiculously full of explosions. It was Rock and Entertainment at its best.

Unbelievably I noticed a young chap stand up without prompting, start dancing, shouting, singing and clapping. That’s a first. Thankfully he has more rhythm than his Dad.

I have to say music has been a lifesaver. It’s always been the one constant. It wasn’t embarrassed when I struggled with depression. It didn’t turn its back on me when death came calling in 2016. And it didn’t batter an eyelid when Autism came a calling.

Yes Kissing is a memory. No more Kiss concerts for us. But we have precious memories.

Music is an unwavering friend who has embraced our son. Thank you Kiss. Thank you Rock. Thank you Music.