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.

Christmas Diaries 1

It’s been a grey moody day. It never once looked like clearing. At least it didn’t rain for a change.

The zero based hours contract gave me me three hours work today. For the next couple of weeks any work demands will be minimal. Not great for the bank account but it allows me to now focus on our son. So with a couple of days before the school breaks up – Christmas is about to start in earnest. So an early warning. You may get a few Christmas Parent Diary entries coming your way. Hopefully most will focus on the happy side of life. It almost certainly will feature a few cooking disasters. In fact let’s sort the first diary entry out right now.

So after the work dried up it and the grey run was completed it was time for a bit of baking. Time to make a stunning gluten free stollen cake. A few chaotic shopping trips had stocked up the larder with all the ingredients. This time it’s going to be baking heaven. Hang on a minute where’s the marzipan. As I love the stuff I bought 4 slabs worth. But where are they. Absolutely no sign. Don’t you just hate it when that happens. No problem I will just pop to the local store. Don’t stock it but they did have infeasible amounts of glazed cherries. So off to the supermarket. How can a supermarket run out of marzipan. How can the only other store reasonably close by also have none in stock. I gave up so let’s just make a Christmas cake. Three hours later I’m looking at a baking abomination. Crispy on the outside, undercooked on the inside and a ginormous sinkhole at its centre. The birds will eat well tomorrow.

So ends the first Christmas diary entry. But let’s do the diary preface now.

Christmas can be lovely and fun but wow can it hurt. It’s one of those times which naturally draws you to what you have lost. I was reading a blog which talked about this in such a haunting way.

All aboard! The holiday struggle-bus is pulling into the station, and I’ve got a ticket to ride.

That bus hit me yesterday. I was simply wrapping our sons presents up. Instantly I’m taken back a few years. Christmas music on. A couple of glasses of wine. My partner a ninja master at unwinding the cellotape and securing the edges of the wrapping paper. Unbelievably I was an expert at finding the best way to wrap the presents up. The perfect production line. So effective and so loving.

Now I sit on the floor with a tea and whatever is on the radio. To be honest I’m not listening. The presents are still being wrapped well but the cellotape has won the battle royal. It’s wrapped around my fingers, on my clothes, stuck to furniture and yet refusing to go anywhere near the wrapping paper. Love and happiness replaced with frustration and sadness. It’s never going to be like it was. That love is not going to be replaced. Those shared dreams are binned. It’s a truly sickening feeling.

It’s so easy to forget that this can be such a tough time for so many you are bereaved. For so many in pain. For so many without anything. For so many who are lonely. My heart goes out to you. You have a soulmate here.

Yes over the next few weeks this blog might get a bit silly. I really hope it does because it shows that I’m doing my only important job. Trying to make Christmas as fun as possible for our son. But underlying it will be someone still grieving what has been lost. My hope is that some of that Christmas magic which hopefully is enveloping our son will rub off on me. Showing that you can grieve but it’s still possible to have fun. If it works for me I really prey it’s rubs off on you as well.

Best thing

Some days life needs lots of words and some days it just needs a few.

I was going to reflect on how difficult the school bus journey can be for so many kids. I will leave that for another day. I picked our son up from school the other day and he came up with this gem.

“Dad that’s some sky. It’s a sky show. That’s why life is the best thing”.

A little bit of France

A largely sleepless night. Too much time to think. World seeming particularly cold this morning. In need of a lift. For some reason the run didn’t work today. Just a freezing slog. A slow 30 minutes and then the motivation battery completely drained. So back home even colder and still in need of a lift.

But then salvation. Old photographs. Memories. Great Memories.

Back to 2001 which finds us in the Loire.

Chateau de Chenonceau was built over the River Cher in 1576. It’s French Renaissance Architecture at at finest. The chateau has a fine collection of masterpieces, tapestries and renaissance furniture. The long Grand Gallery stretches over the bridge and across the river. It’s a stunning place. Inside and outside.

As much as the chateau brings back great memories one photograph lifted my spirits. It reminds me how truly blessed I was to spend time with this special person. Always in love. That makes me smile.

Ratings

It’s December. Its still sunny and its that time of year when you watch those movies you wouldn’t dream of watching during the rest of the year. It was like that before the world changed. It’s like that after the world changed.

But one teeny weeny request.

Please filmmakers and TV schedulers can we try not to do Christmas movies that at some stage involves death. Death of a parent, death of a lover, death of a pet, death of a main character. Last year we watched festive movies which without warning introduced the mum dying (3x), the dad dying (x1), grandparent dying (x1) and the family pet dying (x2). Really it’s CHRISTMAS. I know it’s hard to believe but many of us out here in viewing land will be going through grief. But it doesn’t stop there. I remember our son saying this during one particularly happy start to a film.

Why is it that so many films have a single dad whose either bad tempered, drinking and gambling. And the child who is behaving badly, has no friends and is being bullied. It’s never just a nice dad and child who are doing ok just a bit sad.

So what’s the answer apart from watch Guardians of the Galaxy on loop. Oh hang on that’s got a mum death. Ok apart from watching Big Hero 6 on loop. Oh hang on the robot dies. Ok part from watching Muppets Christmas Carol on loop.

Well the answer is a new movie classification system. One which actually tells you what the movie is really about. So for example if a PG movie contains a parent death you could label it PG-PD. Or if a pet dies it could be labelled PG-PED. Or if a loveable main character dies PG-LMCD. So as a parent I would be pre informed of the upcoming sadness. That way I can make an informed decision on if we should find another film.

So Big Hero 6 would be classified in the UK as PG-LMCD. Guardians of the Galaxy would be 12-PD.

But the new movie classification system could go further. Suddenly the movie watcher could be truly enlightened.

-JWTT all the best bits are in the movie trailer (Just Watch The Trailer)

-F movie contains super delicious looking Food (helpful for those trying to stick to a diet)

-A movie contains alcohol drinking (for those trying to give up)

-K movie contains Kissing (this ones for our Son, he doesn’t like kissing)

-ET movie contains Expensive Toys which kids may start wanting

-S movie contains Snakes and Spiders (useful for Ophidiophobia and Arachnophobia)

-L movie is Long so you had better go on the toilet before hand

-I movie is so boring that it’s a cure for Insomnia

-TD movie contains a Transport accident or Disaster (for those travelling tomorrow)

-AC movie contains Alvin and The Chipmunks

-NPCS this ones really important to stop wasting 10 minutes waiting for the Credits to finish at the end of the movie. It’s always a bit awkward being the only ones left in the cinema. No Post Credit Scene.

-W movie contains a Wrestler trying to act (think Hulk Hogan)

-WR movie contains The Rock acting (we like him)

-ANS movie has Action but No Story so you can safely fast forward between the action scenes

-HD movie claims to be true but is Historically Dodgie (think Braveheart)

-Q movie is very Quiet so probably not a good idea to get a mega sized popcorn tub

-U2 movie contains a grotesque playing of a Bono song.

The Huddle

Now that’s how you do a huddle.

HU DD LE

Spelling has never been one of my specialities. So not a lot of help to a dyslexic son trying to memorise 15 words in the hope of getting at least 10 correct to avoid a school punishment. Now that’s a way to spend a Sunday. The approach Son has gone for is to break the words up into little words and the try to do a memory photograph of each little word in order.

Alliteration – ALL IT ERA TI ON

Advertisement – AD VER TI SEM ENT

Exaggeration – EX AG GE RAT I ON

It’s not the way I would try but his brain is wired up differently to mine. It delivered 11 out of 15 correct spellings last week. Which is fantastic. What’s frustrating is that it’s such a waste of energy. He can’t read or write any of the ones he got right just 7 days ago. Its achieving nothing. In a couple of weeks he is unlikely to remember any of these spellings. It’s not specifically tailored to help him read or to improve his writing or develop his knowledge or add to his independence or boost his confidence. It’s just about ticking a Government tick box. It’s the Government mantra. Even this week the PMs Dad callee the public illiterate as they probably even couldn’t spell Pinocchio.

GO VE RN ME NT

It’s times like this I really miss my partner. Maybe she would come up with a better solution. A way out of this educational quagmire. She certainly would be lifting all our spirits. She was brilliant at that. Making the world seem so much brighter than it should be. More hopeful. Making sure everyone is feels secure and warm inside. That’s what love is.

LO VE

It’s a new world now and you just have to make the best of it. Face up to the challenges which come your way. Learn to appreciate the small things in life again. Don’t be afraid to smile again.

SM I LE

Like watching the massed ranks of birds coming for their morning breakfast. How the larger birds wait until the little birds have had first crack. Must be some particularly fearsome little chaps..

Thankfully the Birds are happy to get stuck into another failed bread making venture. The humans in the house certainly wouldn’t risk it.

UN DE RB AK ED

Or smiling at the thought of that Amazon Delivery Mans face as he stood at the door waiting for us to answer. Looking at the pair of my underpants – frozen solid discarded on the path. Yes the dog still has a thing about socks and pants.

Or laughing at what the Delivery Man has brought us. A parcel containing a plate and cutlery set. Thinking this is much smaller and lighter than expected. Only to discover that bargain kitchen set was in fact a Kids Kitchen Dishes Playset. Thankfully we are not entertaining anytime soon. Dad is definitely a

MU PP ET.

Or even the sight of a really happy dog ripping apart a newly delivered election pamphlet from the Conservative Party. I’m sure it was full of lots of truthful facts and had absolutely stunning photos of our esteemed leader. To be fair our PM permanently looks well chewed.

BO RIS JO HN SON IS A LY ING TW AT

A very long time

I believe Marygate Landing was built in 1324. In all though years it’s seen many many things. So many passing boats. So many passing souls. And I understand as many as 4 sunny days in 785 years. Another day and another drenching.

So in the end it’s been a complete weekend lockdown. An attempt to soothe the raging anxiety which school and modern life creates in someone so young. Someone with Aspergers and Dyslexia who doesn’t in to the current factory schooling regime. A regime which will only get much worse if the current Government with its elitist dogma wins the election.

Last night we were due at a concert. One of my favourite bands. A chance to see them for the first time. But it wasn’t to be and in the grand scheme of things – it doesn’t really matter. When you experience grief. When you enter the world of parenting. When you become a single parent. It changes you. It changes your outlook on life. It changes your life opportunities.

Ten years ago I would have been really annoyed at the sudden change of plan. Frustrated at missing that concert. Not now. It is what it is. With little support you learn to appreciate even the smallest win. An hour reading. A good movie. A nice walk. A good run. Yes a night out with friends or a days climbing would be wonderful. But it’s probably not going to happen. It’s now over 4 years since either of these occurred. But you get attuned to the new life. Yes one day it would be nice but there are other more attainable wins to build your life around. The main one is blocking the system out so you get to see your son smile and be relaxed.

Yes because of circumstances you make countless plans. You try to create stability and repeatability. But in our world life happens. You might hope for the perfect day. But in reality how many perfect days come your way. Not many. So Plans change. Son was watching a video about Prussia and the famous quote from Helmuth van Moltke (Military Commander) came up

No plan survives first contact with the enemy

Today maybe this can be changed to

No parenting plan survives first contact with the outside world.

You learn to be flexible and pragmatic. A well thought out plan for a concert did not survive first contact with an Aspergers Meltdown. So we lockdown. So when the concert was due to start I asked the question “here’s the popcorn, what movie shall I put on”. Expecting something like Marvel End Game or Paddington and not expecting this response.

I fancy something a bit different. This movie has had great reviews and apparently is historically very interesting.

Oh he’s going for Apollo 13. I like that movie.

Can you see if you can find Victoria and Abdul. It’s about a friendship between Queen Victoria and an Indian Muslim Servant. It supposed to be very good and it shows how racist Victorian Society was.

Ok. Never saw that one coming. After much searching and after paying the £3 online rental we watched the movie. And it was really good. Son enjoyed it. I enjoyed it. It was a win. So the original plan failed but it worked out ok in the end. If we can keep doing that then we will be ok. If I keep remembering that actually I have a lot to be thankful for. Yes life will be a struggle but every so often wins come along. Just need to see them and grab them. Make the most of the many imperfect days. In the end it’s not worth relying on that perfect Yorkshire sunny day to arrive as you might be waiting a very long time.