17 years

These two beauties have been with us for 17 years now. My sister gave them to us as a house warming present. Along with two garden gnomes!!! My partner loved the plants but she hated with a passion the idea of garden gnomes. To save them I had to hide the two chaps under the hedge. I was supposed to have taken the sledgehammer to them. As the hedge grew the gnomes got increasingly buried within the branches. Now they are completely lost. Must have an expedition to find them one day.

The two plants have been stars. All those years ago I dumped them in two large plant pots and that’s it. Never touched them again and every year they deliver. It’s really poignant that they are still here and yet my partner….

I remember having a long chat with my partner all those years ago. Sat outside with a bottle of wine looking at these two small plants. Do we plant them or put them in containers. If we put them in containers we can bring them with us when we move. Our small bungalow was not going to be big enough for the family we were about to hopefully start. Stay here until the second was on its way and then move. However even back then my partner was always reading the property pages to find that dream family house.

17 years later I am again outside looking at the two plants. How times change. The wine is replaced with a herbal tea. A large part of the lawn has disappeared under a trampoline. The hedge is much bigger. The same two chairs we sat on 17 years ago are much more weather beaten now. The garden which was filled with conversation and laughter back then now feels a very lonely place this afternoon.

Soon the school bus will be heard and family life with recommence. The rest of the day will hopefully be filled with questions, dreams and smiles. It’s family life but certainly not the one we dreamt of 17 years ago.

The view

Looking out into the distance.

Dad that’s a top View. Unbeatable.”

It is. Completely fogged out. Can’t see more than 5 yards in front of us. See kids with Aspergers can do irony.

The garden could be beautifully cut and looking like a football pitch before a major cup final. Wonderfully straight stripes.”

Now he is in full irony mode. It’s more like a cow field at present.

Since we don’t have a view to look at we have license to make our own one up. I’m seeing Whitby Habour on a stormy day.

Dad I’m seeing one image. Do you remember that day when I stood on top of the world. I loved that.”

I so do. He was about 5 and we ventured onto his first mountain. A beautiful Swiss one. Glorious blue skies. Fresh alpine air. Surrounded by dream like peaks. The two of us having a crazy snowball fight. My partner and her mum happily sat in the mountain top restaurant having hot chocolate.

A beautiful moment.

This can be such a wonderful life if we only just give it a chance.

When I dreamed

It seems a very long time ago. Days when I dreamed of being a parent. I really had not the first idea of what parenting was. No thoughts of tiredness, frustrations, sacrifices, battles, diagnosis, isolation, heartbreaks, bemusement and an empty wallet. Just visions of

  • The moment of excitement when you find out that you are to be a parent
  • The first gentle embrace with your little one
  • Happy family holidays
  • Fun packed Christmas mornings
  • Those first steps
  • A child doing so well and happy at school
  • Frequent kiddies parties, playing with loads of friends and sleepovers
  • Trips to the cinema with the kids sandwiched between two loving parents
  • Your life continuing unabated as you perfectly share the small workload with your beloved partner.

This morning sat in my battered clothes fuelled on black coffee. Feeling knackered. Looking like crap. Battle worn. Thinking ‘what a prize naive numpty I was’. I might not be the finest example of a parent but at least I look like one now.

I really didn’t have the first idea about life and parenting. Would I have been so keen if I had been more switched on to reality….

“Dad can we have a movie marathon today”

Thoughts of Marvel, Tolkien, DC, Indiana, Bond, Mission Impossible. Losing myself in another world for a while.

Great I’ve got the 4 DVDs ready”

Deep Joy. Alvin and the Chipmunks.

In all the wonderful parenting dreams that super annoying out of tune rodent never made an appearance. The little bushy tailed sod kept quiet until it was too late.

But although I resemble a badly worn zombie this morning. Even after all the bad things that have happened. All the sleepless nights. The worries. Regardless of the lost dreams.

Without a doubt – Parenting is the single best thing that will ever happen to me. That makes me smile.

Now it’s time drag my body out of this chair and take the dog for a walk. Talk about Alvin (sounding like he’s one of my favourite characters ever) while bracing myself against the wind and rain. Imagining the view over the Vale of York as it won’t be making an appearance anytime soon. AND Dream of tomorrow – preferably without Alvin.

Mothers Day

Three wonderful mums have set off towards the light over the last 3 years.

My Partners Mum. A wonderful Quaker who always looked for the potential good in everybody.

My Mum. Gave her whole life for her family. The most resilient person I will ever meet. All she wanted in return was to watch a good movie with a cup of tea and a cream bun.

My Partner. The perfect parent to our son. She was just the most beautiful person.

While trying to sort out our son’s school iPad I came across this few words which made me cry. Not sure what the school lesson was about but the message he conveyed was abundantly clear.

I miss you so much you are the best mum you can have. You gave me life and I owe you everything because you gave everything to me and all your love. You are the best. I miss you so much but I would do it all again. I miss you so much Mum but I know that you will be with me forever.

Thank you to all the mums out there. Thank you for being brilliant everyday of the year. Sending you hugs.

Sneaky Grief

Grief sneaks up on you. It often doesn’t attack head on – when you can brace yourself for impact. The big hits are the attacks from behind – the ones you don’t see coming. That song on the radio, an unexpected find, a hidden photograph, a surprise film scene.

In the U.K. Mothers Day is fast approaching. It’s not an easy day to get through but it’s no surprise. You have weeks to prepare. It won’t be fun but I guess it won’t be a complete meltdown. I suspect I will blog further on this again.

Taking the dog for a walk in the local Arboretum. It’s a lovely relaxing place. I was using the walk to get my head round a work problem. The mad dog was happy – a dog and an Arboretum full of thousands of trees …. Pup Heaven.

So I was in autopilot. Just following Captain Chaos from tree to tree. Starting to form a viable fix to the work problem. Then I stopped dead in my tracks. A sudden realisation of location. A sudden sinking heart. Suddenly hit by a sneaky grief attack.

In autopilot mode I had drifted into one particularly beautiful area. During autumn a place glowing with silver leaves. A place my partner would repeatedly visit. I can see her face smiling at the view. A place where she wants part of her ashes scattered. A flood of tears and complete despair. I feel very old and so very alone.

But thankfully for my sanity I have designated role. Our Son needs me. He deserves the best childhood possible. So I let the dog pull me away from the area to a particularly exciting unmarked giant Tree.

Put away the tissue. Breathe. Refocus. That wave of grief has passed but I know that the tide will return.

This funny book is going to make me cry…

Every Christmas my mum would always check to see if Terry Pratchett had a new book out. It was always her go to present for me. It became a tradition. Looking back she bought me every book in the series since the first one came out in 1985. I have read all of his books except the last one. He is without doubt my favourite author. Funny, clever, inspirational and with a boundless imagination. The last book was written as his Alzheimer’s took hold. He wasn’t able to finish the planned final scene as his heath rapidly deteriorated.

Sadly both my mum and Terry have now left us.

I miss those Christmas evenings. Sat by the fire. The new Pratchett book in one hand and a box of miniature Cadbury chocolate bars in the other (mums second go to present).

After mum left us I had one final discworld novel to read. But I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. It just didn’t seem right. The tradition was broken. I think part of me also realised that it would be a deeply emotional process as well. Memories of two stunningly beautiful people flooding the pages of the final novel.

But now the we have crossed the line. The Shepherds Crown has arrived by post. The 41st and final discworld novel. Tonight I will start this cathartic experience. It won’t be easy but as it’s a Pratchett novel, it will also be brilliantly funny. The mini chocolate bars will be replaced with copious amounts of black coffee. I don’t think I am ever going to have such a book reading experience again – it feels like a once in a lifetime event.

The process has started I read the first couple of lines. Even those brought a tear to my eye. This one is for you Mum and Terry.

It was born in the darkness of the Circle Sea; at first just a soft floating thing, washed back and forth by tide after tide. It grew a shell , but in its rolling tumbling world there were huge creatures which could have cracked it open in an instant.”

Happy Days – Spiez

Looking out at the rain and the trees bending in the wind. It’s all just a bit too grey. Sometimes you soul needs more. For us that was a holiday in Switzerland. We probably couldn’t afford it but was it worth it – you bet.

We always used the small town of Spiez as our base. A stunning and friendly place sitting by the banks of Lake Thun. A transport fanatics dream. On one side you can take the regular boat service (sometimes an old steamer) to explore the lake from Thun to Interlaken. On the other side a brilliant train station offering precision perfect links to the rest of Switzerland, Germany and Milan.

After a hours of exploring we always ended the day with a walk up through the vineyards to a small hill top with stunning views across the lake to the Alps.

Memories and views like that are worth so much more than money. It’s why my beloved partner indicated that she wanted some of her ashes scattering here. A perfect choice. One day hopefully I will do the same. So our souls can wander here forever…..

Changes is good just not that early

Today started off in the usual manner. Early morning exercise session listening to rock on the radio. Things going fine apart from the usual creaking body. Put me down for the a full body transplant, I’ve used this one up.

Then things started to change.

I hate doing the plank but apparently it’s good for me. This morning it became even more a form of modern day torture. Two cats decided to sit on my arched back while a dog attempted to lick my face off. Apparently this was one of the Spanish Inquisitions favourite tortures. But I survived.

Then almost immediately the radio signal disappeared. The sound of silence. So I quickly grabbed the first cd I could find. Black Sabbath Vol 4 and tried to complete the session.

Vol 4 is a fine album and features a rarity for Sabbath, a slow reflective song. CHANGES. This song finished off my exercises for the day. Normally at the end of a routine it’s an immediate mad sprint for the warmth of the shower. But not today. I just sat on the cold floor. Lost in thoughts.

A line from Changes had shaken me.

And I can still hear her last goodbyes

I can’t. As hard as I try I can’t remember hearing my partners last goodbye to me – blank. I can vividly remember her peacefully sleeping at the hospice as if it was yesterday. I can remember talking to her gently and holding her hand but as hard as I try I can’t remember her last goodbye. I can remember driving her to the hospital with our son but the conversations are gone. Why would I remember them at the time as she was only going in for a couple of tests and would be out by the weekend. I just can’t remember that last goodbye. That haunts me. Probably will always haunt me.