Unsettling

It’s been a seriously grey day. Heavy rain due within a few hours. When it’s like this you can’t see where the road ends up. You end of questioning your judgement. On your own it can be deeply unsettling.

Unsettling is a term I’ve become used to over the last 3 years. When my partner left this world it was a massive shock to my system (understatement of the year). For years I had got used to that wise voice guiding me through the world. The wise guide on life, on parenting, on everything. Suddenly life was uncertain. Now I was map reading on my own. Trying to navigate life and Aspergers felt like walking an increasingly thin tight rope without a safety net. Initially my approach was trying to make decisions that I thought my partner would make. Never going to work. We were different people with different takes on life. It was down to me to own this. Take responsibility. But it’s easier said that done.

Three years later it’s still easier said that done. Grief tries to rob you of your confidence and self esteem at a time when you are your lowest ebb. You have probably just lost your guiding light. Everything is stacked against you.

So again this weekend another crisis of confidence. Been many of these. Am I handling the school situation correctly. Should I be more forceful? An I being to pushy? Am I getting this badly wrong like most things. How can I be trusted with this when I can’t sort my own life out. Basically I’m out of my depth here. It’s a deeply unsettling feeling which sadly is not restricted to me. Too many live with this. In my case this leads to an initial overthinking of the situation, then the mind keeps focusing on the negatives (the possible ways I could mess this up), next comes the crisis of confidence which leads to a spell of depression. Well at least I’m predictable.

But the bottom line is that it IS DOWN TO ME. No one else is here. So I might think that I’m the wrong person to do this but I am the ONLY person available to do this. So it’s time to just try to keep moving forward. Move forward even though the path has disappeared. Hoping that one day the fog will clear. Then is the time to judge who bad my judgement has been.

Sherlock’s Yorkshire Canon

Last night we sat down to watch a couple of episodes from the wonderful Sherlock TV series. One of which was the Hound of The Baskervilles. Or as my helpful word checker wants to autocorrect to – the Hound of the Basketballs – that would be a slam dunker of a book. It is the episode where Holmes and Aspergers are specifically referenced. When Lestrade talks about the great detectives awful people skills Watson specifically mentions Aspergers. I could see no apparent reaction from our son.

However later the following was said

I know it helps explain Sherlock’s character and his abruptness with others. And it’s kinda nice that the we get a hero with autism. But people will start to think that we are all brilliant, unfeeling and very very odd. Definitely psychotic. One day we will get a character who is just in the middle.”

He is so right. It’s called a spectrum for a reason. Labels just don’t fit. The media focus on the extreme ends but hardly ever look at the middle. But that’s the media and entertainment for you. It’s like when we crashed into the world of single parenting, single father parenting. I remember having a similar conversation

Why do so many movies and TV shows depict the single dad as a suicidal drinker obsessed with dating sites and clearly unable to cope with at least one wild child who has gone bad and needs saving.

Currently sat here with a herbal tea and listening to classical music. That’s not going to make for an interesting movie. Anyway back to Sherlock. We sat enjoying the episode when two thoughts struck me.

ONE: Sherlock was one of my partners favourite TV shows. We are watching her DVDs. She should be sat next to our son enjoying the experience. Life is not fair.

TWO: Looking round at the room. It’s a mess. She would kill me.

So this morning before the dog walk into the strangely blue skied Yorkshire countryside I had a major cleanup. Even put the Sherlock DVDs neatly back in the box. Then on the walk I almost could here her voice saying ‘stop taking so many photos’ so I only took the one this morning. Rather than snap away I looked at the view, imagined a demon hound stalking Dartmoor and I wondered what a Yorkshire themed Sherlock would sound like.

Ferret of the Baskervilles

A study in rhubarb

A scandal in Barnsley

The adventure of the missing Yorkshire Pudding

The adventures of the crooked Lancashire man

The adventures of the Yorkshire Terriers Main.

As much as I love Yorkshire thank god Sherlock was based in London.

More Hair Disasters

In the long line of parenting skills I’m sadly lacking, hairdressing is near the top. This week witnessed another hair disaster. My son spoke the dreaded words a few days ago. “Can you help me sort out a fancy dress costume…..”. All went surprisingly well until it came to the hair.

A change of hair colour was required.

A can of temporary hair dye was purchased, and carefully applied. Bingo it’s the right colour, job done.

Unfortunately I missed the small print on the can, in particular the lines “apply sparingly” and “apply in short bursts, with only a few seconds application required to successfully dye hair”.

Maybe using the whole can up in one application was a bit overkill…

Well a few days later, multiple hair washes have failed to remove the temporary hair colour from my son. The hair spray also does a really good job of permanently changing the colour of pillows and bed sheets.

I’m betting that the temporary hair colour will outlast the first garden flowers of the year.

Haircuts

I remember many years ago my mum would always cut my hair. I think it wasn’t until I left home that I ever visited a hairdresser for the first time. Looking at the old photographs, my mum did a pretty decent job – always a bowl cut. I also remember my dad always telling me not to worry about my cut hair as “it grows back in a day and a passing man on a horse couldn’t tell the difference between a good cut and a shocker”. That was a dad who was follicly challenged, with really poor eyesight and certainly someone who had never been on a horse.

Now wind on the years and scissor duties have been passed onto me. It’s another parenting duty I can’t remember signing up for and certainly something I’ve never been shown how to do.

It was my son’s idea, he didn’t fancy the 17 mile trip to the nearest hairdresser. He also had great confidence in me!

“Dad how difficult can it be, even for you”

“You can always close your eyes and use the force like Luke and Yoda”

………

It only took me 10 minutes and the results were truely shocking. It does look like I’ve closed my eyes and certainly that the force has deserted me. The poor lad has walked about in a woolly hat for the last 7 hours. I’m clinging onto my dads words of wisdom and just hoping as my son is back at school in two days. It’s yet another example of how bad I am at this single parenting stuff.

My son has now decided that as punishment for my failings today that I will have to cut my own hair tomorrow. So tonight I’m watching some YouTube videos on hair cutting and then practicing on the dog.

Hope

Christmas is a time like all times when these days I just feel broken. Disconnected from the world. Missing a key part of me.

But I’m lucky, I still have a purpose. I’ve got to try and give our son the best possible childhood. A wonderful Christmas.

As a byproduct, just maybe, I may become just a little less broken.

At the very end of an Aerosmith song, you get the line “Remember, the light at the end of the tunnel may be you”.

Life goes on

Over a year now since the world changed and I am still trying to come to terms with the new reality. I still feel a disconnection with the outside world (I can’t find an answer to this). The dark times don’t seem to come as frequently now, but when they do come they can be very bleak. What helps me through them is trying to force myself to stop looking at it as grief but as continued love. To stop focusing on what I have lost but what I gained during our time together.

Points

On Sunday I was trying to unsuccessfully fix the hoover while listening to the radio.  As the hoover continued to splutter, a life counsellor on the airwaves talked about the importance of doing an annual life audit.  This seemed to involve listing 10 key lessons you have learnt over the year.  So to keep myself from smashing the hoover into little pieces with a very large hammer, I tried to think of the annual lessons for me.

1) Become self reliant.  People talk about developing a range of family and friend resources who will help support you.  From my experience that support is either not available in great levels or not at the times you need them.

2) Old Career plans are scrapped.  As a couple we were able to fit the family around our careers now it’s fitting my career (whats left of it) around my family.

3) Live in the real world.  As a couple we would have big dreams, now the focus is just on trying to pay the bills and put food on the table.

4) Don’t take things for granted.  In the past a passing conversation would seem unimportant, now it’s a vital component of my often secluded lifestyle.

5) Occasionally the planets line up and you do get some free time.  Make use of it on yourself, everybody needs a bit of ‘me time’.  

6) In some of our of daily newspapers, single parent families are often portrayed as one of societies ills, somehow second rate. We are still a proper family, just a bit smaller now.

7) Lots of people have said this, but it’s so true.  Dealing with bereavement is awful, it can completely consume you, it can take you to some really dark places.  But its often forgotten that bereavement is really a sign of continued love for someone and that’s something to be cherished.

8) Bereavement and/or parenting is stressful. I quickly realised that I needed some form of release to keep me from going under.  Something which I would book in every day and stick to. For me it was fitness.  I try to get up a few minutes early each day and do some exercises.  Often it’s just doing some sit-ups and then a few minutes on the battered old exercise bike.  Unusually for me I’ve stuck to the regime, has it made me into an athlete – NO, but equally I’ve not cracked yet, so maybe it’s working.

9) I quickly discovered the key benefit of single parenting, you get to spend more time with your kid(s).

10) Never to retrain as a Hoover repair person.

Apple Crumble

The perfect single parent is supposed to be a master of everything with the patience of a Saint.  The worlds greatest multitasker.  Oh I wish.

This perfect single parent often feels like a master of nothing.  In one particular area I take the master of nothing to new heights.  Baking!!

How difficult can it be to bake a decent apple crumble. 

Over the last two weeks I have tried and tried again and tried again.

Effort 1: Not enough sugar, inedible.

Effort 2: Too much sugar, inedible.

Effort 3: Dropped crumble onto floor before it made it to the oven.

Effort 4: Burnt, inedible.

Effort 5: Cat caught eating crumble mix, inedible on hygiene grounds.  (A positive really as the cat is not dead yet).

Effort 6:  Made crumble but realised we have run out of apples.

Finally my son, who is the voice of reason in this house, instructs me to just go and buy a ready made apple crumble from the shop.  So after two weeks we have finally an edible apple crumble on the table.  One small problem.  I never checked to make sure we had any custard or ice cream in, and guess what…. 

Over all these disasters I unusually never lost my temper once.  Just maybe I’m becoming a master of patience.

School drop off

I would share the School drop off with my partner.  It was something I never really thought much about, just a task you try to complete as quick as possible.  Just try to make sure your son arrives on time, hasn’t forgotten anything and looks reasonably tidy.  When it was my responsibility things tended not to be that well organised and my poor son was often last to arrive just seconds before the start of school.  

The School pick up was always more sort after as you could then spend time with your kid.  

I never gave any thought to social aspect of the school transport process.  

That was before the world changed.

Now fast forward 10 months and I find myself in the long summer school break.  Suddenly I now appreciate how important the School drop and pickup has become.  Without the twice daily interactions with other parents the world has become a very isolating place.  Don’t get me wrong, spending days talking Pokémon and wrestling is rewarding, it’s time spent with the most important person in the world to me.  

But sometimes you yearn for contact with the outside world.  Even if it’s just a five minute moan about the great British summer. That’s where the School run comes in.  Since my partner died it has become my only consistent contact with the outside world.  Something I truly appreciate and look forward to.  Maybe that’s the reason my son is now often the first to arrive in the playground on a morning.  It buys me a couple more minutes in the real world.

Splendid isolation 

I have always been a very social type of person, enjoying company, enjoying conversations.  That was before the world changed.

Now I spend significant amounts of time on my own.  It’s been one of the biggest adjustments I have had to make as a single parent.  The opportunities to go out into our mad old world just don’t seem to exist now.  It’s coming up to 11 months since my partner died, and in that time I have had two nights out.  One was for a meal with a family from school and the other was a trip with my son to watch the wrestling.   Living in a small village you just don’t see anyone after you return from school.

During the day the splendid isolation continues.  You do the school run in the morning then it’s a combination of housework, shopping and trying to do part time work from home.  Then it’s back to school on the pick up run.  The only regular interaction you get is with other parents at the school gates and the poor postman (I’m sure he could do without this every day).   Today I timed things and I had a 1 minute chat with the poor postie and 7 minutes with other parents.  That’s on top of the 2 minutes I spent on the phone trying to tell a random caller that I didn’t want a new kitchen or windows.   That’s why I treasure the time I get to spend with my son (even when it’s spent talking all things Pokémon). I am genuinely thankful to have the chance to spend time with my son.

 I always kind of recognised how tough it was for single parents, I just didn’t appreciate the isolation which could go with the role.  If I had known about the isolation straight after my partners death I think that it might have sent me over the edge.  Thankfully I’ve been able to adjust to it over the months. Now everything revolves around my son and nothing else really matters.  Living your life through your children.  I listened to someone on the radio who had also lost their partner and they also talked about living their life through the child.  It’s reassuring to know that I’m not the only person surviving splendid isolation in this way.