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.

Sausage Roll

Castle Howard is only a few minutes drive from our house. The photo is Castle Howard not our house. Sadly we don’t go that often now as it’s so expensive. Which is a shame as it’s truly stunning stately home.

Work came to a premature end at 10am this morning. That’s the deal with zero based contracts. Yes they are flexible and can fit round being a single parent but absolutely no guarantee of work. So a deep blue sky beckoned a first run in ages. The plan was to drive home and just run from the bungalow. But without really thinking I pulled over at the next village when I saw an enticing path sign. I thought ‘well lets see where this takes me’. The answer was stunning run which skirted the edge of the Castle Howard estate. All for free.

My trail shoes don’t have much tread left on them so I was taking a bit of a risk running down a steep muddy bank. I lost….. A sudden grip failure resulted in a crunching fall followed by several rolls down the steep slope. All sides completed covered in mud. After a few minutes the mud began to dry in the sun. I now know what it feels like to be a sausage in a sausage roll…..

After the painful and slightly embarrassing slog the run flattened out. The reward was glorious views of Castle Howard and the Estate. I had the trail to myself which gave me time to think. Probably too much time. It’s at times like this that my mind wanders to what has been lost. At least with running I do have a release valve. Just run quicker. It works but wow I’m knackered when I finish.

It was a wonderful run around a stunning track. My partner would have loved it. She would be definitely walking rather than running. I was sad that she never got to see these views. I will just have to look for the both of us. I really hope that works for her.

Valentines Day Boycott

Went for a run today. My body didn’t feel like one but I needed to get out of the house. It’s been a week largely home based working on mind numbingly boring spreadsheets. To keep me sane the radio has been blasting out. Problem is that increasingly the airwaves are filled with adverts. The dreaded Valentines Day ones. Apparently it’s next Friday. Would never have guessed that one. You know the adverts

  • Your special one deserves the best so buy them this special…..
  • What better way to spend Valentines Day than to have that special candle lit meal….
  • Looking for that gift that shows how much your loved one means to you….

I really understand Valentines Day. To many people it’s a great romantic day. Before the world changed I would have lapped up those adverts. But now it’s a very different world for me. Now it’s cheap commercial marketing. You can only be in true love if you spend lots of money. Sometimes I think advertisers forget about the real world. True love doesn’t rest on money. It’s also a world which isn’t perfect. People are lonely. People are grieving. People are abused. People are in relationships where love has died. Some people are loners. So to many Valentines Day is a nightmare. An unwanted reminder of life. It is to me. Every advert reminds me of a life now gone. It’s like a dagger through my heart. So eventually one too many adverts forced me to hit the trail. As ever a run often delivers a lightbulb moment. Let’s turn this into a little game.

When I get back I will become the Valentines Day Advert Referee. Every time I hear a company doing an overtly romantic advert then I will give them a red card. The red card comes with an automatic one month ban. I will boycott that company for a month. The first red card was awarded to a local Flower Shop chain. Unlikely that I would use them but anyway they are on the banned list. Suddenly I’m not the one hiding behind the chair. I’m in charge. The banned list started to fill up. Rather annoyingly my local supermarket made the list. That’s me shopping at the next towns rival shop. Then M&S became a repeat offender. Clearly a one month ban was not a sufficient deterrent. For the second offence it’s a three month boycott. Twenty minutes later they offended again. Now it became a 6 month shopping boycott. I warned the radio the fourth advert would bring a lifetime boycott of the shop. Clearly that threat worked. The annoying M&S special meal for two advert stopped.

Suddenly it was time to do the school run. Again more Valentine adverts on the radio. More boycotts handed out. Tempted to increase the punishments as many kids are likely to be listening now. Many kids suffer Valentines blues as well. Then the red line was crossed. Another M&S advert. That’s it. It’s a lifetime shopping ban. That’s a new shop needed for the school uniform and shirts then.

The banning game helped distract me today. But the bottom line is the 14th February is a difficult time for many. The last thing we need is week upon week of adverts rubbing salt into the wound. Maybe we need a new rule. Valentines Day adverts can only start on the 13th. At least then we just need to avoid the world for two days. But at the current rate I will be boycotting thousands of shops by next Friday.

Godspeed ….

Sometimes a song catches a mood perfectly. Recently for me that song has been Alter Bridge’s Godspeed.

Godspeed official video

The band wrote the song following the death of a close friend. The words are just perfect for how I feel.

Some of the lines from this song are so on point. And then the days, they ran out. Without you I’ll never be the same. Without you I know I must change. You have lived and you have changed all our lives.

Yes my love your days ran out far too soon. I know that I have to change without you. Life will never be the same. You really did change my life.

Godspeed is about love and it’s about loss. It’s the best song I’ve come across which actually talks about my grief. It’s about sadness, it’s about change but it’s also about wonderful memories and hope. Life goes on. Yes it’s a different life but it’s a life which is still enriched by that bright shining star. Now it’s over to those who are left to shine.

**********

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
On to a place I don’t belong

Without you I know 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

***********

Big Sky

Twenty years ago we came to look at our current home for the first time and we both immediately fell in love with it. Yes it was a bit small being a two bedroom bungalow. It needed a lot of work doing to it. Apart from a really small village store it was a long way from any other facilities. The garden was badly overgrown. It would have been so easy to drive onto the next house we were looking at. But then we saw the view from the back garden. That was it. We were sold. I remember saying – that’s a big sky.

It’s still a big sky.

Little did we know how important such an isolated garden would prove when we became parents. Apart from the occasional walker and farmer you don’t see any sign of human life. These days when a human is spotted son will scamper into the house until the all clear is given. I’m not sure he would ever surface if he lived in a busy city.

Today was a work from home day. In fact this is going to be a work from home week. So it’s one of those weeks which could go two ways. Bask in the splendid isolation or feel the intense loneliness. Well after a few hours today it was heading towards the latter. When that happens the house starts to feel very cold and very claustrophobic. So a few minutes later I had donned about 15 layers and was sat outside with the laptop. Sat under the big sky. Today it was particularly quiet. No walkers, no farmers, no farm animals. Just the occasional bird. Yes still lonely but now realising how extremely privileged I am to be sat under this big sky.

Then something struck me. Before the world changed we would always be sitting in the garden. Sat with a glass of wine relaxing talking about becoming parents. Then when son arrived we would sit and watch him play with his toy dinosaurs on the grass. The garden would become Jurassic World. Then after a few hours the big bad daddy ranger would have to locate all the dinosaurs. It’s amazing how camouflaged a raptor can be in a Yorkshire garden. Then the bad stuff happened. Yes I would go outside to play in the garden with our son. I would train and do exercises in the garden. But I didn’t /sit in the garden anymore. This was probably the first time I had sat in the garden since my partner had left us. I guess it just didn’t seem right. It was always our garden not my garden. Almost as if it had become fenced off. Today without thinking just maybe that fence has come down. If it’s sunny again tomorrow I will probably work outside again.

Time to work under the big sky again.

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.

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.

Just like that Tree

A couple of photos of a favourite tree of mine. And Captain Chaos – saves an extra special cock of the leg for this one.

It’s sits on the edge of a forest. It’s in a field all by itself. Is it part of the forest or does that 50 yards of separation make it a loner – in its own forest of 1 tree. I guess it once was part of the main forest but over years the trees around it have died or been felled.

There’s a photograph from our sons old nursery which comes to mind. I can’t share it as it has other kids on it and I don’t think it’s right to show it without their agreement. It was taken when our son had just turned four. He was a kid which every other kid wanted to play with. Up to that stage no real indication of Aspergers. In fact I really didn’t know what Aspergers was. The photo has all the nursery kids and nursery staff stood in a group. The Nursery Team photo. All huddled together except one small boy. Our son was stood by himself about 2 yards in front of everyone. Giving the camera a real Paddington Stare. They tried to get him into the group but he just kept saying ‘NO I’m fine here’. Unusual for him as he was normally the one hiding at the back with a hood over his head as soon as a camera was produced.

Was he part of the group or was he becoming a loner.

Maybe he thought he was the leader. Maybe he thought it was his moment to shine. Maybe he just took a dislike to the photographer. We will never know.

A note was shoved through our letter box yesterday. The Village Committee are holding a village Christmas party at the little Village Hall. Children can come so WE could go. But I’m not sure I feel part of the village these days. The friends we had have all left now or passed away. The few I still know are elderly Residents and they will either be off to spend time with family over Christmas or are not interested in socialising anymore. So if we did go WE wouldn’t know anyone there. Part of me is saying WE should go as it’s a chance to meet new people. But WE won’t in the end. Son is adamant that he would rather do a spelling test than go to that party. A large part of me shares his view. Stood in a cold village hall with people who either have no idea who I am or with people who I share nothing in common with. They live in a different world. A world of dinner parties, bridge Clubs, Conservative Party Socials and going pheasant shooting at the weekend. You see the problem is that although I am living within yards of these good people – I am not really part of them. I once was but those close to me have either left or died. Slowly isolating me from the village. Just like that TREE. Hopefully the dog doesn’t cock his leg on me.