That’s what it is

Hindsight and regret is so easy to fall back into. We all do it. Especially when you suffer bereavement. I do it. I could fill a War and Peace size book with all the missed opportunities.

  • The deterioration came so quickly that we never had that last proper conversation. The last goodbye. I guess the last chat was about sorting out her laptop for when she came out after the tests.
  • We never got to New Zealand.
  • We didn’t have that family Santa trip to Lapland.
  • We never got to Chile.
  • We never got round to trying for a second child.
  • The trip to Tibet and Nepal eluded us.
  • I never did get round to putting those shelves up which she really wanted.
  • Looking at the Northern Lights together remained unfulfilled.
  • I never got round to getting the clip of our sons first steps off the broken camera and on to the video so my partner could see them.

Plenty of time to do these. So no rush. WRONG.

But as that line goes. That’s what it is. Until someone invents time travel I just can’t change the past. Maybe occasionally in dreams but when you wake up it’s back to the reality. But this misses the big issue. Yes stuff got missed. I occasionally unintentionally messed up (maybe more than occasionally). We didn’t complete our bucket list. BUT just wait a picking moment. Look at the stuff we did.

  • Switzerland lots of times.
  • That first romantic trip to the Lakes.
  • The two mad cats and a savage Hamster.
  • The three trips to Disneyland Paris.
  • Buying our first house.
  • Those trips to France.
  • All those walks on the North Yorkshire Moors.
  • That trip to the Newcastle match when you almost got run over by the Juventus Team Bus and the Police Horse ate my Mars Bar.
  • That winter we got snowed in with 18 inches of snow. Days of snow fun.
  • The trips to the Peak District.
  • That stay in one of Britain’s most haunted buildings.
  • Skinny Dipping in the freezing sea at Anglesey.
  • That week in the Scottish Highlands and that cottage next to the grave yard.
  • That walk up Snowdon.
  • That mad evening at a Blues Brothers New Years Eve Dance.
  • The trip to the French Grand Prix
  • That week in the Gypsy Cottage In Northumberland.
  • The concerts. Even Ronan Keating – twice.
  • Getting to see some of the Olympics events.
  • Producing our beautiful son. The single most perfect we both ever did.

Too many great memories to mention here. That’s the stuff I should be focusing on. The memories which should be on permanent replay. You know what – we had a hell of a ride. That’s what it is. Thank you.

Swiss Sunday

It’s time for another little bit of that wonderful country called Switzerland. For us it has so many memory gems. Every photo seems to yield another beautiful memory.

The damp Sunday morning boat trip across a Lake. All the passengers are outside in the drizzle just enjoying rainbows across the water.

The Gorge walk with the milky river.

The walk round a vineyard with views to die for.

The late evening stroll around the Lake and as the sun starts to set the mountains come alive.

The early morning coffee sat watching the sun rise above the Alps.

And we can’t leave out the cows and the hypnotic sound of the bells. Switzerland is one of the most precious gems of them all.

Crazy dreams

Dreams and memories are a vital part of life. After my partner died memories became my essential comfort blanket – something which kept me going. Three years later they are just as important to my soul. The occasional forgotten photograph find rekindle long forgotten life snapshots.

Dreams come in three forms for me. Those dreams of a future life, memories and those dreams which come during those all too brief periods of sleep. My future life dreams died when my partner left us. All I see is darkness. My job is to give our son the best possible childhood. After that nothing. It’s something I’ve heard from others in a similar position to me – I live through my son.

After the world changed my night dreams became a weird bizarre place. Reality completely warped. But increasingly the dreams became memory driven. Accurate replays of precious moments. This brought great solace with a few tearful mornings. But recently things have changed. Suddenly the night dreams are actual memory based but morphed in some important and strange way.

A lovely visit family trip to Edinburgh Zoo to see the Pandas. But in the dream the family trip becomes a trip round Jurassic Park world. All the actual incidents but with a dinosaur flavour.

A trip to the Royal Ascot Racing Festival held for one year at York. The Queen riding past us. 2005. Yet in the dreams it’s not Horse Racing. Sometimes it’s Dragster Racing. Sometimes it’s donkey racing. YES I get these strange morphed dreams repeatedly.

A family trip to the beach. It’s cold so it’s double jumpers. Ice cream and hot doughnuts. Yet on the first sandcastle we strike oil. Oil gushes out of the beach.

A romantic meal. Days filled of love and smiles. Yet the fine food is replaced with bugs and slugs and grubs.

A hand in hand walk round York’s Roman Walls. But instead of lovely views of York and it’s stunning Minster we see Paris on side and Nepal on the other side.

A New Years Eve Blues Brothers Themed Night replaced with a WWE wrestling night.

I could go on. So many odd dreams. I’m not a clever man so I’m not going to venture into Descartes territory. I suspect the reasons may not be that fundamental. But the bottom line is that I want my precious original sleep dreams back. Often they are all that remain of a better place. I like a bit of craziness but not here please.

2000 years

If you keep your head down and have blinkered vision it is staggering what you might just miss.

How many thousands of pairs of eyes have just not registered this little sign at the edge of the path. 2000 years.

The thousands of times I have been in the front room desk draw. Looking for postal stamps, envelopes, address books, paper clips. I never registered the little blue notebook. Well after all this time it registered. What is this. It’s a piece of family history. Not from 2000 years ago. In fact it’s probably only 4 and 5 years old.

It’s a notebook which my partner wrote things in. Important stuff.

  • Christmas Food shopping list,
  • Thank you lists,
  • Present ideas,
  • Christmas Card lists,
  • Christmas Lunch cooking timings.

Initially I panicked. She might catch me looking. Yes for a brief moment I did actually think that. Then I became concerned that this unplanned find would bring on a grief storm. But no. It was an entirely different feeling. Being a typical sad numpty I was fascinated to find out what my present list might have been. Some great rock cd ideas. A U2 cd – clearly the joke present. Pointless but fun little toy gadgets. A little cricket dice game called HOWZAT (I would have had hours of fun with that). A book on bushcraft – was she going to kick me out into the garden. A grumpy old man T-shirt (why would she get me that…). Another Trivia Pursuits game so she could embarrass me again – why can’t I just win the game by answering only sport questions. A Toolkit – yes I never did get round to putting those shelves up (sorry dear).

It’s strange how things change. Since the world changed I don’t really get presents now and the interest has gone. Just want son to have the fun so any presents must be his. But you know what – just maybe I might by myself a couple of items from the notebooks list. Hell will freeze over before I get a U2 cd. So just maybe on Christmas Evening I will be sat in my Grumpy Old man T-shirt playing my silly little cricket dice game. This all came about from opening my eyes. Must try it more often.

Voice

It’s been one of those Yorkshire days. Long periods of rain punctuated with spells of stair rod duck weather. It’s the perfect weather for a leaking back door. If we had ducks then they would be happily swimming about in the utility room. I know what the rich must feel like now – an indoor pool. Looking at ours I really don’t see what all the fuss is about.

It’s was similar weather three years ago when I had to go and see the solicitor about my partners will. I was in such a daze that I hadn’t realised that I had forgot to put a coat on when I got out of the car. Within minutes I was a drowned rat but I only realised when I saw my disheveled reflection in a shop window. Previously I would have had an angelic voice quietly whisper – why don’t you put a coat on dear. It’s the one thing I have never adjusted to. Not having that caring soul help guide this bumbling fool through the twist and turns of life. That’s probably why I still tend to avoid social gatherings. Not sure I trust myself.

I’m so blessed to have been with that caring soul for a wonderful 17 years. It’s created so many memories. Fortunately years of over using the camera has created multiple photo albums filled with these memories. Those photographs tell our story perfectly. But one thing is missing and it’s so haunting. I just can’t seem to remember her voice. After all those years we spent together how can I forget something so important. I just can’t get it right in my memories.

So I have been trying to find a video with my partner talking. So many videos taken but they all focus on our son. Then I came across our old video camera. The one we bought during the pregnancy. The one which has been gathering dust since mobile phones became the memory recorder of choice. No luck so far but I did come across something which completely floored me. A mini video disc marked up as sons first walk.

When it happened I had picked our son up from nursery. My partner was still at work. Son was sat on the floor singing away so I started filming him. Within seconds he managed to pull himself up and waddled across to me. All captured on film. Unfortunately our dvd was broken at the time so we couldn’t replay it. So I said I would go into the city and get it transferred to video. I kept putting it off. I never got round to it. Over time the disc was forgotten about. I never did share that moment with my partner.

You assume you have all the time in the world but in reality you never know how much sand is left in the egg timer.

It so important that we remember to seize the day. Don’t assume you will get another chance tomorrow.

So the voice hunt will continue. I know somewhere I will find it. Then my memories will be complete. And again I will hear my angelic angel.

Art

Dad I hate art at school. It’s so strict. I always thought art would be fun.

Art is not like that very often. It should be about just letting your imagination roam wild. It should be great fun.

Dad did you enjoy art at school then.

No hated it. We had a strict art teacher. But to be fair to her our school was a war zone. A 2B pencil or fine tip paint brush would be seen as a legitimate weapon by most of the idiots in my class.

My class is ok. It’s got some very nice kids in. Even the ones who cause all the trouble mainly get into trouble for really petty things. Like last week half the kids in the drama lesson got a negative because they forgot to bring a black T-shirt. The teacher said we needed one in the first lesson but didn’t talk about other lessons.

That’s too harsh. In my day you had to do something properly bad to get something like that.

Tell me about your mad class again.

We had someone who burnt the church hall down. Another boy was appalled when he found out someone else had been put on report for something he had done. He went off to sort it out. We assumed he was going to own up. That must have been plan B as he was caught trying to set fire to the headteachers desk. We ended up with two boys who went to borstal for robbery. Another boy who went to prison for attempted murder.

Are the two robbers those muppets.

Yep. While one of them broke into an off licence the other went to get a getaway vehicle. Unfortunately all he could find was an electric milk float. So a few minutes later they were trying to escape with the float engine burning up at 10mph with police cars in very slow pursuit. One of the muppets was on the back of the float throwing milk at the police. They didn’t get very far.

Shall I draw a picture about those two for Art. I still need to do my homework. Don’t won’t to get a negative.

No why don’t you pick something else. Something more arty. Why not a drawing of the farm. Or a flower. Something nice.

Ok, something nice it is then.

**So he disappeared in his room for an hour to do his nice masterpiece**

Dad I’ve finished. Nice. Is a bit of Tim Burton ok.

Bagman

What’s that behind you. It’s that pesky grief sneaking up on you again.

Lost in a world of spreadsheets and work while listening to the radio. It’s a rock station so plenty of Aerosmith , Foo Fighters and Pink Floyd. Playing a game of which bands I’ve seen and which I might still see. Then an innocuous advert. NEXT sale starts at 7am.

Nothing wrong with that surely.

Suddenly taken back to a now closed off world. In the immediate aftermath of the funeral I took bag after bag of NEXT clothes to the charity shop. NEXT was her favourite shop. It’s just not right that I’m here and she is not. Tears. A few minutes later the mood has changed. More memories.

My partners ears would always prick up if she heard the two words NEXT and SALE. The alarm would be set 6am. For the big New Years sale it would be set for 5am.

Come on bag man get up.

That was my role. Trudge down to the store. Try to look vaguely interested. Then don’t get in the way and hold the potential purchase items. Occasionally chipping in with a helpful thats nice. Then the bagman carries the laden bags home. For the next couple of hours while our partner tries on the truck load of clothes I replenish all the lost calories with coffee and biscuits. Then bagman sets off back to NEXT again to take back the unwanted items. On the return visit I would briefly look at the Men’s section. A few muttered are you sure these are sales prices and its off to the coffee shop to reflect on the joy which is knowing that’s the sales are finished for 6 months. Not sure how she put up with me….

It’s smiles and tears now.

Spending money on clothes has been replaced with spending money on school.

Dad have you paid for the school reward trip?

Yes I have but like the NEXT sales I’m struggling to get my head round it. All the kids at the school who didn’t get a detention or didn’t pick up too many negatives qualify for a reward. The reward is a trip to a cool destination. As it was a school reward I assumed school would pay for it. NO. Parents have to pay. So the parents of kids who behaved badly don’t have to fork out this wedge of cash. Life was easier when I was the bagman.

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.