Tomatoes

Sometimes it’s the little things….

I’ve just started my fifth year on my grief journey. A journey I would must definitely would rather had not started but now I’m on it, well I might as well make the best of it. And that’s what I am trying to do. For several years it was a nightmare. Just awful. But over time things have slowly moved on. Now it’s definitely good weeks and bad days.

I still get so many reminders of the process I am going through. Many of those are repeated experiences but every so often I still find new reminders.

I was checking the garden for things I could harvest for tonight’s meal and I came across these small tomatoes. Then a thought struck me. There was a time when this was not something I would do. Yes I would grow the tomato plants but that was it. My partner loved tomatoes. She would go out every day I see what could be picked and eaten right there and then. Those days have gone and now the ripe fruit sits and waits for me. That thought made me sad. But life has to go on. Hawklad would like a few fresh tomatoes on his plate. He currently doesn’t feel comfortable touching items outside so it’s down to me. Life goes on. Pick some tomatoes, think of my partner then it’s time to get on with living. Time to focus on the here and now. Find happiness in the world around me. It is most definitely there.

Cool

It’s hot in Yorkshire. Very hot for us. 🥵 86F (30C). That’s officially beyond Yorkshire’s Safe Operating Temperature. Law and Order will break down. The Ferrets will start to get unusually frisky. The Rhubard will go on strike. Cricketers might even have to unbutton their top shirt buttons. Those rather fetching knitted handkerchief hats will need to be donned….

In Yorkshire we have two expressions for this type of unusual weather.

It’s Mafting…….

It’s crackin’ t flags ……. translates to – it’s so hot the the paving stones are starting to crack.

It was too hot for my outside weights and kettlebell session. I definitely left a water trail marking out where my exercises took me. A nice run through a cool forest would have been ever so nice. The photo was from August 2019. Seems like a lifetime ago. Almost seems like a different world. A lot of things have changed for the worse. Some new really bad things have hit. Yes some life stuff has remained unchanged. And here is the crucial thing. A few things, some new stuff have definitely been an absolute blessing. It’s so easy to focus on the bad stuff but actually some wonderful things have happened. My Life is better because of those things.

So in 2020 when some days life seems unduly bad, I need to remember the good stuff. Yes life can and still will be tough. BUT it can also still be exceptionally beautiful. It can be a wonderful life.

Ebb

Sunsets just happen. Nothing we can do to influence them. Maybe move to a better position to saviour them.

Loss can come from a range of sources. External factors. From within. The loss of someone special. The loss of something so vital to us. So many potential causes. And so many different roads to travel. Each grief journey is unique.

I’m on my own unique road which I must travel. I’ve come to realise three vital things about my own journey

  • It is possible for me to LIVE AGAIN,
  • It’s just as ok to LAUGH AND LOVE as it is to WEEP AND BE SAD,
  • I’m not alone on this journey.

And one more inevitable fact. Grief is like the tides and the passing of the day. I can’t fight them, I can’t stop them. When they happen I’ve just got to let them wash over me. Experience them. Knowing that they will eventually ebb away.

Take care.

No Rose Show yet

No jokes today. No script. Let’s just see where this takes me.

It’s the very early hours. It’s my partners birthday. Once I’ve finished I will close the iPad for today and hopefully I will see you tomorrow.

These are strange times for all of us. But to be fair it’s been a strange time for our little family since 2016. That’s the year the world stopped and changed for us forever. Those six weeks from hell. We lost my mum and our Son’s beloved little nan on the first day of that period. That day started as a fun birthday for me and finished in heartache. Almost straight after the funeral my partner wasn’t feeling great and went into hospital overnight for routine tests. The next day having come to pick her up, I was taken to one side by the Doctor to tell me that things where bleak. She only had a 5% chance of surviving the month. Zero chance of making it to Christmas. She was deteriorating rapidly and she wasn’t really conscious. The following conversation with an 8 year old will haunt me forever.

She never fully regained consciousness. We had no more conversations. I can’t even remember the last one we had. Three weeks later I was telling the 8 year old his mum was dead. 2016 and those six weeks from hell.

This day in 2016 I had just given my partner a plant, a Yorkshire White Rose. She had always wanted one. I wish I had bought it so many years earlier so she could have enjoyed it. Since then it has always bloomed in time for her birthday. Not this year. The bad winter has set things back. It’s a few weeks behind schedule. But it will get there. It’s a hardy soul. It feels like one of the few life bridges which didn’t break in 2016. A link to a world now gone but certainly not forgotten.

So now I will focus on our Son. Yes there might be a few tears but hopefully if I do my job right then there will also be smiles. Let’s be thankful for those wonderful times. Let’s remember those other times when the world changed. Changed for the better. Our first date. Our first night in the new house. Finding out those pregnancy results. Holding our baby. Our first family family holiday.

Wonderful, loving times.

So that’s it. Take care and remember that this is still a wonderful world. No more words today. See you tomorrow.

The forecast

The weather forecast is saying it’s clear blue sky and no rain today.

The clouds and the showers would beg to differ.

Another inaccurate weather forecast. It’s clearly the forecasters fault that it’s raining …. It always is. I remember going to a Test Match (Cricket) between England and India. It had been a good weather forecast. But it was chucking it down and play was suspended. With perfect timing the main TV weatherman came onto the pitch to do a weather forecast. I’ve never heard anyone get so many boo’s. It was his fault that it was raining.

To be honest we get many incorrect predictions. Leaders saying a pandemic will just go away. Those pension salespeople saying that you will be able to retire at 50. Being told that Betamax and V2000 would be the best video recording formats. No one would be daft enough to vote for Trump or Boris. My Dad saying Status Quo wouldn’t last as they can’t sing or play. Brexit was easy and could be sorted in days. The Sinclair C5 was the vehicle of the future…..

Basically life is to unpredictable. You just never know what will happen. What’s round the corner.

I know this all too well. One day your talking about the next family trip to Switzerland. Discussing trying for a second child or adopting. Then 3 weeks later I’m leaving the crematorium with my partners ashes. A broken single parent. That wasn’t in the forecast or the plans.

We often learn this lesson far too late. I did. Don’t assume there will be a tomorrow. Remember to hug those you love today. Start ticking off those bucket list items, right now. If something special to you is broken, then try and fix it today. Today, speak to those you care for. Make sure you live today.

Lecture over…. And yes it’s still raining here. I blame it on the weather forecaster.

New Style

Some objects look spectacular and then you have me……

“Dad the lockdown means that it doesn’t matter what you look like. We have seen one person in 7 weeks. No one is going to see you. Which in your case today is a real bonus.”

Last night was spent listening to songs from the Stranglers and Bad Company. On Tuesday the music world lost Dave Greenfield the brilliant Stranglers keyboard player to this dreadful virus. Only a few months back we had seen him so full of life and at the height of his form playing in Leeds.

Then yesterday Brian Howe the wonderful Bad Company vocalist was lost to a heart attack. I only got the chance to see him once. A night I will never forget. It was the night my dad died. So yes I listened to some music. Music with mixed emotions. But thankfully most of my thoughts stayed on legacy. Focusing on what those two fine musicians had contributed to my musical journey.

As we all know – life has to go on. The world keeps turning. Got to keep listening to the music. Often music and life are intertwined.

So why was I looking so beautiful this morning, so deserving of that comment from our Son. I had been sneakily trying to regrow my beard. Hoping Son wouldn’t notice. Well it was spotted and I was ordered to shave. I did a beautiful job shaving the left side of my face. Then abruptly the electric razor stopped working. It went bang. So now I’m left with half a beard and half a moustache until a new shaver arrives on Monday. Strangely I can’t remember that look ever catching on.

Well if someone comes to the door you will just have to stand side on Dad. You can decide if you go for the beard look or the shaved look. It’s your call. You could even try and confuse them. Every time they look away, turn to the other side.”

Never thought I would be such a trend setter….

Bush and Time

Every year around August I think about either digging this plant out or really cutting it back. But I always decide not to. Basically too much like hard work. So it stays and has slowly taken over a corner of the garden.

And every April I’m so thankful I left it alone as the mass of yellow is just stunning.

So yes some decisions have unintended wonderful consequences. But not all.

Putting off getting married for a few more years so we could focus on Son was done for the right reasons but then time ran out…. Time wasn’t supposed to run out.

Putting off trying for another child …… Time wasn’t supposed to run out.

Putting off going as a family to New Zealand, Canada and Chile ……. Time wasn’t supposed to run out.

Leaving for another month fixing the hand held video camera and transferring those films of our Son’s first steps to video so my partner could properly see them ……… Time wasn’t supposed to run out.

Leaving to next week (and the week after) those really important questions I always wanted to ask my mum …….. Time wasn’t supposed to run out.

I can see a bit of a theme developing here. I’ve probably filled my time with too much unimportant stuff. Spent too much time worrying and overthinking issues – many of those I could actually do nothing about. Not focused on the important stuff. Not appreciated how precious and unpredictable TIME is. I have not seized the moment.

Hopefully I have learnt this lesson but I suspect that won’t apply to chopping down the beautiful bush.

Stages

One of my first records I purchased was ‘All the worlds a stage’ by the rock legends, Rush. Shakespeare wrote that ‘All the worlds a stage’. Don’t worry I’m not going all thespian on you. But I must admit I fancy my chances these days of doing a mighty fine Richard III stage performance. Why is the Stagecoach Bus always two hours late when I try to catch it. Just watched wrestling on the TV which is staged. So many stages.

Then you get stages in grief. A couple of years ago someone asked me what stage I was at in my bereavement process. I just looked on blankly. All I could think of was two stages. Your life before the death and the life after the death. So I answered – in the second stage and I always will be. I guess that’s not the answer they were looking for.

Last night I was reading an online article about bereavement counselling. It talked about every bereaved person going through the same 6 stage process. I wasn’t convinced. Surely every person’s grief journey is unique. Why force people to follow a predetermined text book bereavement route which doesn’t suit them. So I gave up with the online article and scribbled down my own staged journey so far. It’s my interpretation of MY journey and in no way is it supposed to fit other people. Remember I’m not a Doctor or Psychologist. I moved a potted plant into my bedroom to raise the rooms overall IQ score. The height of my powers these days is to get the cling film wrapper off food without slicing off a finger…. So here goes with my journey.

The SHOCK STAGE. Within a period of 6 weeks I’ve just buried my mum and then my partner. I’m a complete mess. Barely able to function and yet I’m supposed to be a Dad. It’s like living in a prolonged nightmare. Trying to sort out the practicalities and legal side of death, but actually got no idea what I’m doing. Basically doing stuff I’m told to do.

The FRUSTRATION STAGE. The cards, flowers and phone calls have dried up. I’m becoming more aware of the reality of the situation. Trying to get my head round how to be a single parent and at the same time keep some money coming in. I need to find an alternative to my career as it just isn’t doable anymore. The frustration comes from realising that what worked in the past just isn’t going to work now. It’s also so frustrating that the world is still spinning without seemingly even blinking after my partner exited stage left. It feels like I’m fighting this new normality.

The ACCEPTANCE STAGE. Eventually I began to accept the new reality. This is how it is and I just have to deal with it. I came up with a mental picture which I still use today. A door on my former life has locked shut. It’s never going to open again. I can look through the door window and see memories but I can’t touch them. I could stand here forever but this door isn’t opening. So I have a choice. Continue to stand by the door or set off and find other doors which are still open.

The IT’S LOVE STAGE. Linked with the Acceptance Stage. I opened a mental dictionary and found a better definition of grief. It defined grief as another word for LOVE. That sounded so reassuring to me.

The IT’S OK TO GRIEVE STAGE. Up to now I would hide my grief. As if it’s something unhealthy, something deeply embarrassing to others. People might ask how I was doing but they appeared to rapidly change the subject if the answer I provided was not – I’m fine…..But suddenly as grief was another way of saying LOVE, suddenly it became ok to grieve. Yes it could still be so painful but it’s something I shouldn’t be hiding. It’s nothing to be ashamed about. It really is OK to be sad.

The IT’S OK TO LAUGH STAGE. Up to now I felt bad about smiling and laughing. It was just not right. I would focus entirely on making our Son happy but shunned doing it for myself. It took well over a year but the penny finally dropped. Yes it’s ok to be sad AND YES it’s just as OK to be HAPPY.

The IT’S OK TO LIVE AGAIN STAGE. After the funeral all my dreams died. When I looked at life I saw it entirely through our sons eyes. When I tried to see it through my eyes all I saw was blackness. Absolutely no future. However over time it became OK to live again. Remarkably I can still be happy. I can find new doors that will open and create new memories. Life can still be at times sad and painful BUT IT CAN also be fun. Just starting to dream again.

That’s the stage I am at now. Embracing the happiness as much as I respect the sadness. Maybe, just maybe tipping the life balance in favour of fun. Yes it still can be a wonderful life.

Sitting here

It’s early morning and I’ve just finished my workout outside in the breezy Yorkshire air. Son is still asleep safe inside. I’m looking out into the distance and seeing no sign of human life. In the far distance you can just about see the main road leading to the coast. At this time of year it should be nose to tail with caravans and cars packed with excited families. Today it is completely deserted. I patiently waited for five minutes. Not one vehicle. Then I fall backwards and look at the heavens. An empty sky. Yes clouds and fleeting glimpses of lukewarm sun, but not one single aeroplane. To the East we can see one of the main air corridors. We often excitedly get the Flightradar24 app out and check where the many planes are heading. America, Canada, Europe, Asia. Today nothing. Not one single vapour trail.

Has the world stopped turning?

Three years ago our little home stopped dead yet the world kept turning. It was a harsh lesson. Even when good people leave us the vast majority of the world is oblivious. In the days after the funeral I would question

Why has the world not stopped…..

Well it appears to have stopped now. Yet does it help. NO.

Later I am inside listening to music on the radio. It’s a sobering experience. Usually listeners are requesting celebratory songs for weddings, anniversaries and birthdays. Today the airwaves are frequently filled with songs dedicated to rock lovers who have lost a fight with an unseen new enemy. My heart goes out to you all. It was only a matter of time before someone requested Alter Bridge and Godspeed. The finest song I’ve come across about loss. My bereavement go to track.

Test me once again
You know I didn’t do anything
Set my life on low
You know I could have had it all
Drifting out of place
With no direction and no escape
Set out all alone
Oh to a place I don’t belong
Without you
I know that I must change
Without you
I’ll never be the same
No
Farewell
Godspeed
And goodbye
You have lived
And you have changed
All our lives
Test me all the way
Surely you know
I’m not afraid
Prove now once again
That I will never see the end
Without you
I know that I must change
Without you
I’ll never be the same
Farewell
Godspeed
And goodbye
You have lived
And you have changed
All our lives
Cast away
Our regrets and all our fears
Just like
Like you did when you were here
And then the days
They ran out
And then the days
They ran out
Farewell
Godspeed
And goodbye
You have lived
And you have changed
All our lives
Cast away
Our regrets and all our fears
Just like
Like you did when you were here
And then the days
They ran out
And then the days
They ran out

Lyrics by Tremonti/Kennedy (source Musixmatch)

Even after a few hours the cars and aeroplanes are still missing. The world may still have stopped. But son is finally rousing himself. Our little world cannot permanently stop. He has a childhood to live and enjoy. So one more sip of my hot drink and find that happy face. Reach for that bag of tricks we all have and find a way to shut this horrible situation out for a while. Start having as much fun as we can. Let’s keep living and hope the world starts turning again real soon.

Stay safe my friends and I really hope you find your own way to smile. Maybe if enough of us do this then we might just be able to start the world turning again.

Friday I guess

Some random daffodils blooming next to our front window. These always make me smile as they just seemed to appear one year. I can’t remember planting them. Having said that, this is me…..

My mobile phone rang this morning. I could hear it somewhere really close but I just couldn’t find it before it rang off. A few minutes later I found me phone when I sat down. It was in my back pocket.

This morning it took me one hour to work out that it was Friday.

Sometimes there are no answers.

A few months back I was asked if I had found a magic bullet, a cure for it.

Sometimes there are no answers.

No it wasn’t the W.H.O. approaching me as a world expert on the search for a vaccine for the pesky virus. No don’t worry, I am still the same old dim witted goofball. No it was a parent from my sons last school. She had recently lost someone close and was really low with grief. She was desperate for the pain to go away.

Sometimes there are no answers.

Unfortunately I’ve not found a magic bullet, no cure or no vaccine that works with bereavement. It still hits me. It still hurts me. The days became weeks, weeks became months, months became years. I’m still waiting to gain acquired immunity. The route cause remains and will always remain. But I do believe that I have started to understand myself better. I am also slowly finding things that help with the symptoms. That’s something to cling on to. Sadly the things which help me, may not work for others. There is also no guarantee that what works today, will work tomorrow for me. I guess that’s the case not only for bereavement but for many other areas of life.

So what works for me (sometimes…)

  • Exercise, weights and running
  • Music
  • Movies
  • Nature
  • Walking
  • Climbing (I haven’t been able to climb in 4 years but just reading about it helps)
  • AND above all focusing on making our son happy.

Today was one of those days when virtually everything on the list did not work. All I could do was throw myself into keeping son happy. That distracted me. It got me through the day. It numbed the symptoms but didn’t cure the route cause. Now it’s 2am and those dark soul symptoms are bubbling away again. Probably going to be a long sleepless night. Will watch some rubbish TV and will again ponder over the home finances spreadsheet. Don’t know why – it’s not going to look any better when I’m tired.

It’s a brand new day. A fresh start. The old problems and hurt will still be there. But maybe, just maybe it will be symptom free day and it will be a good one.

Stay safe my friends.