Snowdrops in heaven

The first Snowdrops of the year have surfaced after a couple of days of sunshine.

On the 26th January 2019 I blogged

Was a bit worried that the pup had destroyed the gardens entire snowdrop population. But at last in one corner ….

My partner will be happy.

On the 25th February 2018

Walks in February would always involve my partner stopping frequently to admire the patches of snowdrops. I must admit I never really paid much attention to them. To busy looking at the hills, birds or passing planes. That was before the world changed.

Now I stop and get as close as I can to these delicate little flowers. I’ve started to realise what my partner used to see in them.

And just maybe she is enjoying them with me as well,

So what to write about my partner on the 23rd January 2020.

It’s always good to see them. Such delicate beauty. Hopefully a sign that warmer weather is not too far a way now. They are also a gateway back to memories of my partner. Today I could see her kneeling down to get a better look at them and smiling. Then she would phone her mum to tell her she must come over at the weekend to see the return of the old friends. Today I really hope Heaven has snowdrops. That would make my partners day.

Big Sky

Twenty years ago we came to look at our current home for the first time and we both immediately fell in love with it. Yes it was a bit small being a two bedroom bungalow. It needed a lot of work doing to it. Apart from a really small village store it was a long way from any other facilities. The garden was badly overgrown. It would have been so easy to drive onto the next house we were looking at. But then we saw the view from the back garden. That was it. We were sold. I remember saying – that’s a big sky.

It’s still a big sky.

Little did we know how important such an isolated garden would prove when we became parents. Apart from the occasional walker and farmer you don’t see any sign of human life. These days when a human is spotted son will scamper into the house until the all clear is given. I’m not sure he would ever surface if he lived in a busy city.

Today was a work from home day. In fact this is going to be a work from home week. So it’s one of those weeks which could go two ways. Bask in the splendid isolation or feel the intense loneliness. Well after a few hours today it was heading towards the latter. When that happens the house starts to feel very cold and very claustrophobic. So a few minutes later I had donned about 15 layers and was sat outside with the laptop. Sat under the big sky. Today it was particularly quiet. No walkers, no farmers, no farm animals. Just the occasional bird. Yes still lonely but now realising how extremely privileged I am to be sat under this big sky.

Then something struck me. Before the world changed we would always be sitting in the garden. Sat with a glass of wine relaxing talking about becoming parents. Then when son arrived we would sit and watch him play with his toy dinosaurs on the grass. The garden would become Jurassic World. Then after a few hours the big bad daddy ranger would have to locate all the dinosaurs. It’s amazing how camouflaged a raptor can be in a Yorkshire garden. Then the bad stuff happened. Yes I would go outside to play in the garden with our son. I would train and do exercises in the garden. But I didn’t /sit in the garden anymore. This was probably the first time I had sat in the garden since my partner had left us. I guess it just didn’t seem right. It was always our garden not my garden. Almost as if it had become fenced off. Today without thinking just maybe that fence has come down. If it’s sunny again tomorrow I will probably work outside again.

Time to work under the big sky again.

Sad Playlist

It’s been yet another wet, muddy and stormy day. This photo was taken during one of the slightly drier spells.

Grim dog walk.

Exceedingly grim run.

I wasn’t planning on running today but I just needed to get out of the house. I felt the house walls closing in on me. For times like this I often find a run is the most reliable way of clearing my head. It certainly worked. Not sure it worked for the skin. Came back looking like a Prune.

When I say running works I should add And listening to music on my MP3 player as well. I have a playlist for this type run. The music is either quite deep or somber. I blame my mum for this. If she was feeling down she would always listen to music. Always sad songs. As soon as you went through the front door you could tell if mum was trying to cheer herself up. Johnny Cash, Leonard Cohen, Runrig, Sinatra, Roger Whittaker or Andy Williams would be blasting out. She always said that sad songs cheered her up. I always thought it was very bizarre yet all these years later and I’m doing the same. So here goes. Here are some of the songs which have made the list. And no Roger Whittaker and Durham Town is not included.

Alter Bridge – Godspeed

Disturbed – Sound of Silence

Shinedown – Get Up

Five Finger Death Punch – Gone Away

Runrig – Somewhere

Avenged Sevenfold – So far away

Johnny Cash – Hurt

Anathema – One Last Goodbye

Leonard Cohen – You want it darker

Queen – Who wants to live forever

Neal Morse – He died at home

Pink Floyd – Coming Back to Life

Just in case Mum is expecting it, here’s one just for mum. This is certainly not on the playlist.

Roger Whittaker – Durham Town

And here’s one for my partner. This could make the playlist.

Madness – It must be love

Grief and muddy puddles

A brief respite before the next storm arrives. Grey, cold and very muddy. Soon to be grey, cold, very muddy, very wet and stormy. It’s been one of those winters. Constantly just trying to avoid deep muddy puddles. Today I failed. My old running shoes have hardly any tread left on them. As I tried to sidestep a large puddle my foot slipped and I ended up standing in 4 inches of dirty water. Lovely. I really should buy a good pair of trail shoes but money is a little tight. Expenditure is prioritised. They will have to wait their turn.

If you we’re like me then you tried not to think about death and grief. I knew it would strike at some stage (that’s life) but best not think about it too much. I could understand the emotions as I had experienced losing my Dad when I was quite young. But I was shielded from much of the fallout. I really didn’t have the faintest idea about the practicalities. Years passed and I avoided thinking about death again. Then my mum died. This time no shield. Suddenly I was grieving again but this time I was also dealing with practicalities. So when my partner then died 6 weeks later. I was doubling up on the emotions and doubling up on the practicalities.

That is what’s tough about losing someone so close to you. At your lowest emotional point you are saddled with practicalities. You can’t think but you are trying to organise

  • Registering the death
  • Informing people
  • Organising a funeral
  • Sorting out your job
  • Sorting out your partners job. Returning work assets and documents.
  • Trying to work out finances
  • Trying to find the will and wade your way through probate
  • Dealing with Government Departments, Banks, Utility Companies
  • Trying to change the deeds to the house
  • Going through personal items and enduring countless trips to charity shops
  • Trying to change car ownership so I can sell her car
  • Sorting out what to do with the ashes

Your not even warned that the ashes come back in a glorified giant sweet jar. I wasn’t expecting an Egyptian Sarcophagus but I certainly wasn’t expecting a sweet jar shaped thing.

Like grief the practicalities tend to stick with you. As we were not married probate was brutal and took 15 months to finally bottom out. I didn’t expect that. I never considered that my career would have to be ditched quickly as it became incompatible with the now number one priority – single parenting. Suddenly two steady incomes dropped to one zero based hours contract income. Where did that practicality come from. I should have realised really. The sudden loss of someone your intrinsically linked with is going to send seismic waves through the very foundations of your life. Stuff will fall down. Things will change. Seismic waves – guess whose been trying to help son with Wave Theory for school.

So here we are in 2020 and I’m still dealing with grief. Still dealing with practicalities. I have managed to kinda stabilise the new post death financial world. But things are tight. Very tight. Again something I would never have immediately associated with losing someone close to you. But it is what it is. You prioritise the essential stuff. Unfortunately brand shiny mud loving trail shoes are not essential. So I guess it won’t be the last muddy puddle I end up standing in.

I guess I can forgive myself for not seeing that particular connection. Grief and muddy puddles.

Ghost letters

We have some really nice postmen who work our mail route. Even down to our third reserve postie who is equally nice and conscientious. So rather than just post an unusual letter he knocked at the door.

“Sorry to bother you but I don’t recognise the name on this letter addressed to you”

After a quick scan I confirmed the letter was correctly addressed to us. You see this postie only occasionally covers our village and probably only for the last couple of years. He has no idea, nor should he. We often think the world stops when someone dies and grief hits. But you quickly realise that the wider world keeps spinning. Only you and maybe a handful of others experience a shuddering world halt. When finally your world does starts spinning again there is no guarantee that it will get back up to the speed of the wider world. Until the speeds harmonise you feel out of synch. Not quite part of this world anymore. For me everything seems to happen in slow motion while outside of my bubble the world flies by. Sometimes I drift into social settings and no one seems to see me. They certainly don’t see the grief baggage that I am am shouldering. My chains. When I do reach out to make contact with the outside world again I often fail. As if I just can’t grasp it anymore. Part of the world yet removed from it. Maybe this is what a ghost feels like.

So when a letter arrives addressed to my partner and only two people blink. An efficient but blissfully unaware postman and me. You realise then that grief is deeply personal. Incredibly localised. All this from one of those letters. A random invite to a furniture sale. A mass produced advert. But the computer generated name on the front of the envelope changes everything. It reminds me of what I have become. Someone going through a process. Transitioning. Currently in the ghost stage.

New couple in the village

How often do you overlook what is so close to you.

Today we ventured out into the mist and the rain. No car needed. A walk from the house. In just over an hour we were back home.

Son was convinced to go as it counts as a new place. That’s number 9 of the 12 new places he set himself for 2019. A place so close to home yet this was sons first trip here.

A time machine could take us back to early in the century. We had just moved into the house. Within a few days with a map in hand the new couple in the village set off to explore. Twenty minutes later we walked hand in hand through this very landscape. What a wonderful place. Splendid isolation – must come here often. My partner never went again. Now I’ve been twice.

It was an odd feeling. Not sadness. More puzzlement. Why did we not come here more often. A place the villagers label The Hag. Maybe it’s because it’s a bog fest. Maybe it’s because the local farmers come game shooting here sometimes. Maybe it’s because it’s just too close to home.

The place has an eerie feel. Beautiful yet very moody. Although that new couple in the village only came here once. I’m sure this place holds some hidden memories. For that reason it’s going to be put on my running routes list. Let’s see what memory gifts it yields in 2020.

The river

Plenty of water flowing under the bridge. The water seemingly never ending.

In the run up to Christmas I was worried that it would bring sadness and hurt. Anniversaries and big holidays do that. As it happened yes one or two wobbles but son seemed to enjoy himself. That’s the only thing that matters these days. So it’s late on Boxing Day and soon Christmas will have gone. Job done. I survived.

But the flow of grief never stops. It’s ebbs and flows. The calm often masks the arrival of a raging flood.

Unknowingly my attention for weeks has been focused on the goal. The goal of giving our son the best Christmas possible. A real focus. A real direction. Caught up in the growing excitement of a child looking forward to time off from school and still hooked on most things festive. That rubs off on the parent.

Now it’s the end of Boxing Day. Heralding the coming end of that special time. The end of the focus. Suddenly it hits me. A new year. A year of more school strife. Son spending so much time in a place, an institution (sadly seems a more apt term to use than school) which goes out of its way to constrain, belittle and make him feel without worth. Hence another year of soul destroying fights with the authorities. Trying to squeeze more work into those hated school hours. Failing to find a way to rebalance the books to allow for home schooling. Adjusting to a world of increasing isolation which currently is the path of our sons Aspergers journey. Sleepless nights and tired days. Living in a country which is becoming increasingly alien to me. All wrapped up in another year without my beloved partner.

Tonight that is a truly haunting feeling. Son is in bed so no distraction from these worries. Suddenly I feel low. Very low. Feeling so unprepared for 2020. For all my fears Christmas provided a much needed boost. Something positive to focus on. Something tangible which I could have an impact on.

This haunting feeling will pass. It must pass. No one to step in if I shut down. Like most parents I will do what ever it takes for our children. A few tears tonight I suspect but tomorrow let’s make some more laughter for our son. OUR SON as it’s still our son. Yes I’m carrying the baton but he’s still our son. I just can’t drop that baton now. So after January 1st I will find a way to go again. Maybe it will be the year of progress. Maybe I will end up reposting these words next year as nothing has changed. Like the river I’m sure the bouts of sadness and loneliness will keep flowing. Constant stream of perpetual tiredness. But the good times and smiles will also flow. Yes remember that river – it keeps flowing – I keep going.

Names on Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve has been very damp and exceptionally grey. No colour at all. So it called for some colour from a couple of weeks ago. Today this is as colourful as it gets. I can’t think of a name for this at the moment.

As I’ve got older I’ve become more used to dealing with the inevitable life curveballs. But not completely. The dreaded demon curveball still gets through.

Dad if I had been a girl what would you and mum have called me.

I couldn’t remember and that’s a great start to 24th December. My defence is that we found out very early on in the pregnancy that it was boy names only. But I still should remember that. Those fun brainstorming seasons for two unprepared newbie parents in waiting. But nothing. It felt like I had let down our son and lost another important link with my partner. It hurt. It hurt like mad. Yes you can hurt at this time of year. Sadly so many do. Sending everyone of you a hug.

To try and clear my head I went outside to do my odd outside thing. Push a wheelbarrow around the garden a few times. It’s hard work but that’s the point. In the middle of the garden was a stray Santa’s Hat – presumably courtesy of Captain Chaos. So as the effort started to do its job I donned the slightly soggy hat. Wheelbarrowing in the rain. Like to see Gene Kelly’s face if that was the song he was given all those years ago to dance to. Wheelbarrowing in the rain did its job. Mind reset. I have one job and that is to make our son happy. Make him happy this Christmas. Need to get back to my A Game.

“Son when was the last time you had whip cream direct from the canister into the mouth”

Never Dad.

“Well you are now”

So that’s what we did. Soon this was escalated to shaving foam covering my entire face. It kinda suited me. Still no George Clooney but a vast improvement. A look all the more better for the sound of laughter filling the house.

Dad do you fancy a first to hit the crossbar challenge.

Followed a few minutes later with

Dad you do know it’s first to kick the ball onto the goal crossbar not first to repeatedly kick the ball into next doors garden challenge

As I spent a quite a bit of time retrieving the football from next doors garden I got to spend a bit of time noticing how a garden should look like. Very neat and tidy with immaculate lawns. Well almost immaculate. A couple of ugly holes courtesy of an escaping Captain Chaos. That’s compared to our garden which is more akin to a ploughed farmers field courtesy of moles, son and CAPTAIN CHAOS. Maybe 2020 is the year of the NEAT GARDEN. More likely it’s the year of the NEED A NEW GARDEN. So as the ball sailed over the hedge again son shouted.

Dad what would you call me now if I was a girl.

This time the curve ball missed.

Laa Laa Po Dora the Explorer Elsa Tinkerbell”

Really Dad. All those names.

“No son Dads fibbing.

Good I was getting worried. It’s a joke then

“Yes

Maybe you could call me either Daphne Blake or Velma Dinkley

“Jinkies that’s a good idea”

So a day that threatened to be scuppered on a girls name ended with laughs about a girls name. Like many folks I operate on such fine margins. With so little separating happiness and sadness. I really hope this Christmas you find happiness.

So which view

Looks wonderful yet a couple of yours later stood 30 yards down the path and it’s looking not so hot. Two different views.

School argues that son is doing really well. His behaviour is excellent. He works really hard. His grades are good. Often best in the class. He has plenty of friends thanks to the actions of the teachers. Last year one teacher told us that in her subject he should really be in the top set. No additional help required. Yet when I ask why other kids are moved up but never our son the response is so different. Oh he’s low attainment, the bottom class is right for him. Other kids are better at reading. So which is the real view then.

One minor point. Just sitting son next to random kids doesn’t count as establishing real friends.

I had a chat with our sons doctor last week. We discussed how son was increasingly struggling with social interactions. How he tried to avoid them. His Doctor said that it was important that he wasn’t pushed into doing anything he wasn’t comfortable with. Make progress at his own speed and avoid being put in highly stressful situations. He also stressed that he had written to school asking for dyslexia support for son and also stressed that any support should not take place in the classroom (it needed to be undertaking in private). However. School are insisting that as part of English son has to regularly read out sections of text to the wider school audience. It will be good for his dyslexia and his personal confidence. They also argue that it will help him integrate. So which view is right.

I was reading a blog yesterday which talked about grief and Christmas. It talked about this time being the perfect for renewal and celebrating wonderful memories. It’s a wonderful time. Yet the next blog I looked at talked about the desolation of Christmas for the bereaved. How it was a time for trying to forget and just surviving. So which view is right.

An American Doctor was on the TV talking about Autism. He had been working on a cure. He was confident that in the coming years Autism would be completely treatable. A burden on society, parents and individuals would be removed. But many like our son have a different view. It is who he is. It’s his unique personality. He doesn’t want to be cured all he wants is society to be more understanding. So which view do you trust.

My partner was in coma for the last few days of her life. At her bedside I whispered to her that I would stay faithful to her for the rest of my life. Partners for life. It was the right thing to do. Now a few years down the line what happens if I meet someone else. Say yes or no. Two different views.

Some views can be questioned. Some views can be argued with. Some views can be agreed with. Sometimes there are no right or wrong views. Sometimes seemingly genuinely held views are seen by others as dangerous and downright wrong. I will let you make your own mind up. You probably can guess what I think on some of these. At least one of these I really can’t make my mind up on. Maybe I never will.

Long term project

Another grey day. Cheating a bit here. This photo was from yesterday. I never got that far today…

This morning the mist was much thicker. This time it was freezing fog. That awful stuff where all the dampness turns to ice as soon as it touches the ground. An invisible layer of sheet ice. Perfect running conditions. Not.

After two hundreds yards I had landed on my backside twice. The second including a beautiful slide into a road gutter. A third attempt ended 50 yards later as I went face first this time. Somehow I did a beautiful front somersault and landed on my feet again. Quickly looking round to see no one had witnessed my MVP sporting moment of 2019. That was it. An abandonment. A wise abandonment as I slipped over a couple of times on my short journey home.

It was so frustrating. With the Christmas School Holiday starting Friday I only had two more running opportunities left. After that the next run will be several days into 2020. But it is what it is. Hopefully a run tomorrow then I will make the best of home based exercises. At least for two weeks I won’t be running around like Bambi on ice. In my case that’s not a pleasant image. Especially as it’s from a time when Bambi has let himself go a bit….

While I was mind numbingly bored on the exercise plan b option. The exercise bike. I started thinking again about bereavement and grief. Looking back I recalled that for ages I was not able to talk about the circumstances surrounding my partners death. Every time it came up I broke down almost immediately. Now when I talk about it I’m almost very matter of fact. Almost devoid of emotion. In an hear a few cry so your over it now. Yet the other emotional triggers still set me off. Anniversaries. Special Days. A movie moment. A song line. Moments alone. Stressful times. An unexpected find.

It’s almost as if I have accepted her actual death but I haven’t accepted that she is no longer here. In reality I am so lucky. I have so many memories and her precious son – our son. I will gratefully run with them. Yes I’m going to fall. Going to fall often. But I need to pick myself up and treasure what is still left. This is a long term project.