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.

The tree of hope

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.

Live

Yesterday was suitably grim but another day dawns and we move on. Life needs to be lived. As son puts it

Even you Dad are allowed to have some fun.

I’ve scheduled that in my diary for an afternoon in March 2024. The same can’t be said of our dog. His diary is overbooked with the joys of life. We could all learn from that approach.

Not sure his cuddly toy cat is enjoying life so much at this precise moment. It’s a sign of affection – honest.

A public service announcement has started on the radio which comes from our so called Government. It is telling people and businesses to prepare for Brexit on the 31st October. That’s a laugh as our Monty Python Gumby Leaders couldn’t even prepare a cup of tea. I suspect prepare means stockpile water, food and medicines. Our dog has started stockpiling toys.

So faced with a mountain of work, a misfiring laptop and more helpful advice from the Government I did the only sensible thing. Go for a run. Yes I know I’m not supposed to run for another few months but bugger it. A few minutes later I’m running over the autumnal fields. Coming in the other direction was a group of ramblers. Must have been about 20 of them. I wasn’t planning on saying hello to each one of them so I opted for one shouted hello. Unfortunately at the very moment I slipped and shouted s**t. After that faux pas I ended up saying sorry and hello twenty times.

A bit later I came to a fence. Do I climb it or do I be a pillock and jump it. Mr Pillock it is then. Amazingly the body cleared the fence unfortunately the shorts didn’t. Ripped asunder. Suddenly the run became very air conditioned. Better head back down the back lane – bound to be empty. Can you imagine how thrilled I was to reintroduce myself to the party of 20 ramblers coming in the other direction. It was chilly so they wouldn’t have seen much. Wouldn’t have seen much at the best of times really. Anyway I ran past them with a running gait best described as a duck waddle.

So life continues. We move on. Somedays we will be sad but we owe it to those not here to live.

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.

The important stuff

Dad can we go somewhere tomorrow.

Where do you fancy?

How about the New Forest.

Sorry too far for day trip it’s a 6 hours to just get there.

How about Skye.

I so would love to son but it’s a full days drive.

How about Stonehenge.

Sorry that’s a 5 hour trip.

Ok let’s go for the Lake District.

It’s going to be busy.

How busy.

Busy.

Ok let’s go when it’s bad weather. Much quieter then. Let’s go to the coast. I know that will be busy but let’s avoid the beaches. Let’s try the bird reserve. Sadly it will be quiet as people for some reason prefer sitting on a bit of sand to than watching nature.

So it looks like a 1 hour drive to the coast then. We will set off early morning just in case of unexpected crowds. That’s the price you pay for trying to find quiet locations during the summer school break. Must admit I’m a little gutted that it’s not a trip to the Lake District. Not been in ages. Thoughts of mountains and lakes.

Then a bit of a grief wobble. We are now within 2 weeks of the dreaded anniversary so I am a bit all over the place. We both loved the Lakes. Maybe it’s because it feels a bit like Switzerland. Not massively but just enough. The grief wobble was about how few times we made it across there. Definitely twice maybe three times. That’s not enough times in the 18 years we spent together. We never found the time. What a waste.

But then just a picking minute. Let’s turn this thing around. The important thing is not the limited number of times we made it there. The really important thing is that WE DID GO THERE. The great times. The beautiful memories. The picnic with stunning mountain views. The stunning mountain walk. Waking up to the smell of freshly baked bread in the little hotel. Laughing hysterically as we got lost in a forest. The bottle of wine next to the Lake. The romantic meals…..

That’s the important stuff. Yes the anniversary marks the end of our journey but it was some journey. It really was.

So tomorrow it’s birds. Another memory. Arriving at the reserve and realising I might have been a bit of a numpty. My job was to bring the binoculars. Unfortunately I remembered our sons toy ones but the proper ones were really helpfully still sat on the kitchen table. Ops. My partner needed the patience of a saint. The most organised person in the world meets chaos.

What’s the odds on the same thing happening again. Suspect son will be less forgiving.

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.

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.

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.