Everyday more red bursts through to bring life to Yorkshire In Autumn. No creative license required here. Last night son asked to watched the Mel Gibson movie Braveheart. He quietly watched the movie in one sitting. When it had finished he had one of those looks. The Paddington Hard Stare.
“Where do I start. I gave up making a note of the historical inaccuracies when I got past 30. I think they were averaging one a minute. I hope people don’t think it happened like that. As a piece of pure make believe it was ok. As an accurate record of real history I’d rather trust the new Dumbo movie”
I have to say the new Dumbo is great. But it’s one of the THOSE movies which would have been much easier to watch if it had come out before our world changed. Movies with the death of a mum are still very raw. For both of us.
Dumbo also touched on the idea that sometimes we are not prepared for what may face us a parent and as a human. Don’t want to give any real spoilers away so I can’t say too much about the movie.
I wasn’t prepared in the slightest way for being a single parent. For being a widow. For having that awful conversation with your son. For picking up the pieces of a life which had been based purely on three of us. But to be fair as a couple we were not prepared for the loss of one of us. Our lifestyle was based on two parents. Financially it only worked with two of us. After we became a family our careers only continued to work because we could share the load. We only continued to have a bit of a social life because the other partner was there.
So when you suddenly take one partner away …. it all comes tumbling down. Three years later we are still trying to rebuild our life’s. Watching another autumn and another set of red leaves makes you appreciate life goes on – even after a death.
One of my Running trail runs is tough. It’s a muddy slog through increasingly thick woods. It’s a slow claggy run climbing through undergrowth that sees only glimpses of the sun. It’s very claustrophobic. Your on your own. A little voice keeps telling you to just stop. Why am I doing this. One step forward, two back.
But with patience and effort the going becomes easier. The ground levels out. The cover starts to thin and the distant view begins to reveal itself.
Then your out. The openness is initially disorientating but it’s been so worth the struggle.
Then a reluctance. A moment of doubt. Need to turn your back on the openness and head back into the dark. The way is back through the woods.
This trail run reminds me of our life these days. I head into the working week with trepidation. Too much to do and not enough time. Self doubt is king. Often so little direction and so much frustration. It feels like you are against the world. Battling uphill through mud. Our Son heads into 5 days of mainstream school. So little help. Fighting on his own. Not sure why he is doing this. It’s an alien world. You just have to keep plodding on but then Friday comes. Our hopes and spirits build. Then you arrive at the weekend. For two sweet days life improves. The week’s slog and struggles are forgotten. But so quickly it’s late Sunday and you face the trepidation of the upcoming week and the return to the darkness.
So we move on. The week calls and maybe so does the woodland trail. That’s our life cycle.
Must cut my grass…..
One of those days where you line up a full day of work and then son wakes up with a temperature…. One too many coughs and he’s off sick. One too many sneezes and he’s contaminated me. Deep joy.
Still a day off from school will delay yet another bust up with the teachers. Maybe get my stress levels down to just below meltdown level.
In one subject last year he had a great teacher who seemed to get dyslexia. At the Parent Evenings she would tell us that in her opinion our son was as good as anyone in the subject in the school. She would say ok he struggles to write the knowledge down on paper – but we can find ways round that to suit him. It was refreshing to hear a teacher say that the key thing is the actual subject matter not the written English – that’s got its own subject anyway.
Unfortunately that teacher left. The replacement teacher seems to follow the school line. Neat handwriting and spelling come first, subject matter second. So now son is seen as low attainment in the subject. This terms homework project requires many pages of handwritten essay work. Points will be given for the quality of the presentation and points lost for things like spelling mistakes. So kids with dyslexia who struggle to write are being set up to fail. The school must know what a huge disadvantage this places on some kids. Oh I forgot – those kids are low attainment so it just proves the point. That’s modern education in England.
So once again I go through the finances to see if I can find a way to homeschool. Once again I fail. It’s at times like this that I feel so frustrated as a parent. It’s like constantly wading through treacle. Every step forward is such an effort. I’m so knackered – lord only knows what our son feels like. Everything seems to be stacked up against us. But sadly I bet if you asked virtually every parent and child dealing with a learning disability then they will say the same thing. It’s a never ending slog. And like all these wonderful parents and kids – we fight on. We love a quote which is maybe from Einstein, but if it isn’t, then it’s still a belter.
“Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish by it’s ability to climb a tree, it will live it’s whole life believing that it is stupid”
Or the other belter which comes from Spongebob.
“Patrick, you’re a genius!”
“Yeah, I get called that a lot.”
“What? A genius?”
Talking about genius. Then there is our sons Dad. I’ve been struggling with a Rhomboid injury. I had the bright idea of strapping it up with kinesiology tape. First of all – what a stupid place to put a muscle group. When you don’t have a partner – how in all that is holly am I supposed to get my hands back there… Then having dislocated my shoulders just enough to get my hands next to the Rhomboid I somehow need to attach this super sticky tape neatly across my shoulder blades. With a physio it’s a piece of cake. In my case think disaster. So several strips went on in the wrong place, creased or just badly twisted. But here’s the final insult. Now these useless attempts need to come off. Where in the instructions does it say in big letters – whatever you do if you have a back as hairy as a Silverback Gorilla on no account buy this tape. And if you are stupid enough to apply it to hair then change your name to Mr Stupid from Stupidville.
That’s me and my postal address.
Every 40 seconds someone loses their life to suicide.
Too many die in silence. We need to continue to change our society. Progress is being made but not enough. A stigma still exists about Mental Health and Suicide. In my country you die of a heart attack but you commit suicide. Commit is associated with crime. That’s just wrong.
It’s time for change. It’s time to make it ok to talk. The more we talk the more acceptable it becomes.
I suffer from depression. It comes in waves. When I was young I hated being me. That’s still with me today. Two big things have stopped me becoming a suicide statistic. HOPE and LOVE. Both give you the strength to keep walking through the dark times. Just a fraction of either is all it takes for many.
So today and everyday let’s try to give that love and that hope to others.
A few years back I played in the same team as an Ex Royal Marine. A huge bear of a man. He left the Marines early. He would never talk about the service much. But occasionally he would drop the occasional line into the pub conversations. I know he had a really bad time in Afghanistan. I remember him telling me once that he might be a huge intimidating figure but he was not prepared for what he experienced. He then said but your not supposed to talk about it. He on more than one occasion said that he was not the hero he set out to be. He certainly struggled big time with his mental health since he left the service. One day he without warning just moved out of his house. Disappeared off the radar and no one from the team saw him again. I often think about him and I really hope he found a better place.
Similarly my Dad never wanted to really talk about his time in the army and the fighting. In his eyes talking about it just opened old wounds. He needed to bury the pain and loss.
Recently I came across this music video on a similar theme. It’s called He Died at Home. The lyrics from this Neal Morse song resonate because they are based on real events.
William always wanted to be a soldier
“Army men were his favorite toys,” tells his mother
He was going to be the hero of the story
Live with honor or die in a blaze of glory
So he joined when he was seventeen
Kissed his mom goodbye
She wept as she packed his duffel bag
With notes of love and pride
She’d never guess six years from then
Tortured and alone
William wouldn’t die in fields unknown
He died at home
He loved the army, it’s all he ever wanted
To serve his country and look death in the face undaunted
But after a couple of tours, the fire in him died
You can’t watch friends be killed and stay the same inside
He told his mom “you’d hate me
If you knew the things I’ve done”
“I will never hate you
You are my beloved son”
He said, “no mom, the son you loved
Died somewhere over there”
But William didn’t die in the combat zone
He died at home
He came back ill at ease with civilians
His mother woke to screaming – it was William’s
The army shrugged and gave him more prescriptions
As William’s mind grew more and more distant
Before he died he told his mom
“Don’t bury me in my uniform
No military funeral
That’s for some who gave their all”
One night he shot the soldier dead
To kill the voices in his head
They gathered at the weekly wake
They have at every army base
‘Cause more will die by their own hand
Than fall in any foreign land
They covered William in the flag
But there was not a boast or brag
When asked how soldier William died
No one mentions suicide
The cause of death is hard to say out loud
The soldier who once stood so strong and proud
His mother looks away and simply moans
He died at home
Song by Neal Morse
Lyrics from songmeanings
It’s been a seriously grey day. Heavy rain due within a few hours. When it’s like this you can’t see where the road ends up. You end of questioning your judgement. On your own it can be deeply unsettling.
Unsettling is a term I’ve become used to over the last 3 years. When my partner left this world it was a massive shock to my system (understatement of the year). For years I had got used to that wise voice guiding me through the world. The wise guide on life, on parenting, on everything. Suddenly life was uncertain. Now I was map reading on my own. Trying to navigate life and Aspergers felt like walking an increasingly thin tight rope without a safety net. Initially my approach was trying to make decisions that I thought my partner would make. Never going to work. We were different people with different takes on life. It was down to me to own this. Take responsibility. But it’s easier said that done.
Three years later it’s still easier said that done. Grief tries to rob you of your confidence and self esteem at a time when you are your lowest ebb. You have probably just lost your guiding light. Everything is stacked against you.
So again this weekend another crisis of confidence. Been many of these. Am I handling the school situation correctly. Should I be more forceful? An I being to pushy? Am I getting this badly wrong like most things. How can I be trusted with this when I can’t sort my own life out. Basically I’m out of my depth here. It’s a deeply unsettling feeling which sadly is not restricted to me. Too many live with this. In my case this leads to an initial overthinking of the situation, then the mind keeps focusing on the negatives (the possible ways I could mess this up), next comes the crisis of confidence which leads to a spell of depression. Well at least I’m predictable.
But the bottom line is that it IS DOWN TO ME. No one else is here. So I might think that I’m the wrong person to do this but I am the ONLY person available to do this. So it’s time to just try to keep moving forward. Move forward even though the path has disappeared. Hoping that one day the fog will clear. Then is the time to judge who bad my judgement has been.
Three years ago I was trying to get my head round organising my partners funeral. At the same time I was trying to empty my mums house and wrap up her loose ends. My head was completely spinning. I was in full zombie grief mode.
One family personal trauma doesn’t stop the world from spinning. It carries on regardless. So I was immediately faced with continuing the application for our sons Education Health Care Plan. Sat bewildered at my partners desk trying to find on my own the words for the final application form. The words came so easy when it was two minds. Now the one failed me. Then the black pen stopped working. Couldn’t find another and the form had to be completed in black on the pain of ……
So I set off to the shops to buy a pen. But quickly I was lost in a sea of grief and unanswered questions. An hour later I found myself at a random garden centre. Clearly a good choice for stocking up on pens. I wandered around aimlessly looking at plant after plant. The cctv must have been focusing on me as I was clearly not acting like your ordinary shopper. Then I came across a sad looking tree. Actually more like a snapped twig. The label said ‘discounted Pear Tree due to damage’. I felt sorry for this broken life form pushed to a dark corner of the store. Now no more that an afterthought. It felt like me.
So I went in looking for pens and came out with Groot (Marvel Universe).
Over the next three years Groot has grown and is now about 5 feet tall. Looks surprisingly healthy. AND this year for the first time it’s produced pears. Just FOUR pears. But it’s not the fruit crop which is important here. It’s something completely different. It’s HOPE. When personal tragedy strikes your whole world is turned upside down. It will never be the same again. You move from creating memories together to replaying memories in isolation. But you can’t live your life in those memories. Life has to go on. In my case life did go on. Yes I miss her dearly. Yes sadness always feels just round the corner. Yes I’ve become increasingly isolated from society. But life has gone on. Sons Education Health Care Plan was approved. I’ve changed careers. Progress has been made with Dyslexia. The house no longer feels like a funeral parlour largely down to the addition of a barking mad dog. I’ve increased the range of foods I can destroy. And Groot is thriving. That gives me hope.
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.
Autumn is coming I can feel it.
That anniversary is coming I can feel it.
Coming up to three years on the grief train.
The world flies past the window with no slowing down.
Unclear where I am heading or the purpose of the journey .
Captive Passenger on this locomotive with absolutely no sign of a conductor.
Who would have thought that after 3 years I would still feel so completely confused . Don’t get me wrong I am so lucky. I have a purpose to focus on. Give son the best childhood he can possibly have under the circumstances. Be there for him when he needs me for as long as that may be. My life is completely focused on our son.
I realise that as son becomes increasingly independent (that has to be the goal) then I will need to start finding my own life again. My own self purpose. Will need the pesky grief train to stop at a new destination. But here is the conundrum. I’m driving the train, I’m the passenger, I’m the conductor. It’s down to me. I have to want that new destination to arrive and then I need to open the train door – and then decide to leave the train.
I’m using up valuable air. I owe it to the world to start living again. Eventually.
As a kid I’m sure I thought the phrase was
Red sky at night fisherman loves angel delight.
Red sky in the morning the angel delight has gone.
I’ve not had Angel Delight since a time when my parents thought it was cool to dress up the youngest child in a brown cardigan and Joe 90 glasses. Joe 90 is really showing my age. Just in case your not 945 years old:
Angel Delight is a powdered dessert which depending on the stirring technique either had the texture of liquid silk or cheap lumpy wallpaper paste.
Joe 90 was a ten year old super brain of a kid – a Gerry Anderson creation
I thought it would a good idea to let son try a bit of Angel Delight
What on earth is this
Strawberry Angel Delight
Is it supposed to be lumpy
Not really. But you don’t have to eat the lumpy bits.
No Dad, just No.
So yet another parenting disaster. Even the dog showed no interest in the potential for leftovers. I suppose the aim was never to get son hooked on all those E numbers. It was more distraction. Distraction from the previous days meltdown and from the upcoming anniversaries. His grannies leaving us anniversary is in a couple of days closely followed by his mums anniversary. Sandwiched between the two is a return to school. Yikes.
I am reminded of Angel Delight by a recurring memory of my partner making herself a milky rice pudding most nights. It’s often the little things which produce the most vivid memories. The glass bowl she made the puddings in has remained unused since she left us. It’s kept in exactly the same place on the worktop – it is occasionally dusted down. I could probably do with a good dusting down these days.
This afternoon we are taking the distractions to a whole new level. The biggest bottle of sugary coke and a bag of mentos. Wish us luck as we try to split the atom…..