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.

Demon Hummus

Dad what on Earth is that.

I’m trying to make home made Hummus.

Are you sure it should be that colour.

No that was not what I was expecting.

Dad it looks like something from the X-Files.

I’d moved from trying it with some carrots to which bin it should go in. It might even need a Priest and an Exorcism before it’s safe to do that. Wonderful. Yet another culinary masterpiece.

Dad let’s take the pup to the woods. If we go now should have the place to ourselves.

So leaving the alien hummus to mutate into something with teeth we set off. The signs of autumn are now all around us. Less than 900 miles away the first winter snow has come to Italy. So that’s another summer ticked off. It also means the 30 year old boiler is being fired up for the first time in months. That process is always done on a wing and a prayer. Apparently when it goes to boiler heaven it’s going to cost a fortune. Not just the boiler but the pipes, a good part of the central heating and the oil tank will need to be changed. We couldn’t afford that when we had two incomes never mind when it’s become one (on less hours and at a much lower pay rate). I remember being told by one mum that I should just hire childcare or put son in a club so I could work full time again. Not the first idea about single parenting and Autism but to be fair her hummus will be considerably better than mine.

This might have been a good place to go on about some of the practicalities of when you go from two to one parents but not when it is so close to THE ANNIVERSARY. Anyway the old boiler has fired up. Which is a bonus. THEN….

Dad did I tell you school has changed the PE Polo Shirt from white to black. You can use the old ones for a couple of weeks then if you don’t have the new colour you will get negatives.

With the great news of yet another visit to the school uniform shop still fresh I decided to try the demon hummus. The taste sensation was somewhere between wallpaper paste and a skunks bottom. But on the bright side I might have found a home made recipe for wood putty. That might come in useful this winter.

Feel it

Autumn is coming I can feel it.

That anniversary is coming I can feel it.

Coming up to three years on the grief train.

The world flies past the window with no slowing down.

Unclear where I am heading or the purpose of the journey .

Captive Passenger on this locomotive with absolutely no sign of a conductor.

Who would have thought that after 3 years I would still feel so completely confused . Don’t get me wrong I am so lucky. I have a purpose to focus on. Give son the best childhood he can possibly have under the circumstances. Be there for him when he needs me for as long as that may be. My life is completely focused on our son.

And yet.

I realise that as son becomes increasingly independent (that has to be the goal) then I will need to start finding my own life again. My own self purpose. Will need the pesky grief train to stop at a new destination. But here is the conundrum. I’m driving the train, I’m the passenger, I’m the conductor. It’s down to me. I have to want that new destination to arrive and then I need to open the train door – and then decide to leave the train.

I’m using up valuable air. I owe it to the world to start living again. Eventually.

Why

School is back on Thursday. Deep Joy. So we have completed the dreaded school bag and uniform audit. Pigging hell. I blame it on this Pokemon.

Please tell me why

  • The school bag seems to have developed zipillitis. Every single zip has either jammed half open or have decided to become stunt lemmings and dropped off onto the floor,
  • We don’t have any black or blue pens but we helpfully have a shipping container full of yellow and red ones. Particularly helpful as only teachers are allowed to use red and yellow ink seems to be as fashionable as German Sausages at 10 Downing Street drinks party these days,
  • Why is every single pencil snapped at the same time as our 38 pencil sharpeners have eloped with coloured crayons,
  • Why is the only useable pencil case PINK with Peppa Pig on it,
  • All the rulers and set squares and protractors are missing or appear to have been sat on by an African Elephant,
  • Why has the French Dictionary (which we had to buy even though its never likely to be used) clearly gone for a swim in the Mediterranean Sea and decided not to dry itself properly,
  • Every single eraser has got as much rubber left on them as I have hair left on my scalp,
  • Why has the never need batteries calculator run out of power. Who thought it would be a good idea to use light as an energy source in Yorkshire,
  • No black socks at all – all buried in the garden by helpful dog,
  • His school blazer has developed more holes in the sleeves than my empty bank account,
  • Blue shirts now so badly worn that he might as well just wear a see through bag,
  • All Trousers 3 inches too short with more patches than on my 30 year bike tyres,
  • The school tie which was blue but now seems to be more Tomato Ketchup colour,
  • Finally the all important school shoes. Still just about black but unfortunately with two holes in the soles so large that they must have got in the way of an Alaskan Oil Drilling operation.

Don’t you just love school……

Sunday lunch

We do the same dog walk everyday with our son. We do it that often that I’ve got names for many of the straw bales. This one is Eric.

Routines and repetition form a key part of our lives these days. Some things have to be done at the right times and in exactly the same way. Anything else yields anxiety and stress. In a couple of days school starts again and all these anxieties are going to magnify again. But at least we can now smile at them thanks to the brilliant TV series Red Dwarf. Every time one of us is anxiety stricken we have to both put on our finest Kryten accent and shout

Grind those worry balls like you’ve never ground them before”

Before the world changed son loved to go to see his Little Nan every Sunday. He would sit with her and watch something like Ivanhoe. I dread to think how many times we have seen that movie. His Nan would read him a Mr Men book. He would also have an expertly cooked Sunday Lunch.

It’s a changed world now. But some things are constant.

We have the Ivanhoe dvd. We have the Mr Men books. Unfortunately I just can’t read the stories as well as they used to be read. My accents all sound the same like some really rubbish rejected extra from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

The Sunday Lunch cooking baton has also passed to me. Every Sunday I prepared Yorkshire Puddings, peas, carrots, sweet corn, potatoes, sausages and gravy. The food has to be plated so that each item is separate and don’t mix. I’ve had countless arguments with other parents and school over this. The ‘well just tell him to eat it, he will eat it when he’s hungry‘ line is just not helpful at all. It shows a complete lack of understanding. Maybe I should invite those parents over for one of my special baking disasters. Then they can just eat it that abomination when they are hungry….

The Sunday lunch is not exactly difficult to make but remember my cooking skills are military grade. Over the 3 years I’ve almost become competent in this particular art. HOWEVER Part of the Little Nan Sunday Feast was a sensational pudding usually Apple Crumble. Sadly this is still beyond me. Every so often I try but the results are as my Dad would say – a tad manky.

I have tried bought apple crumble but these have not been to our sons liking. So the search for the holy apple crumble grail continues. Until it’s found Plan B is Rice Pudding. Even I can do one of those – sort of. Don’t tell anyone but son hasn’t worked out that he quite likes tinned rice. Tinned rice is now part of the routine.

Presence

Somedays I can feel your presence all around me. When I can feel you it makes the world just a bit less scary. Then you get days when your not there. As hard as I look you are simply just not there. That beautiful sunset just could not warm my heart today. Too much emptiness. When I can’t feel you maybe it’s a message that I need to take more ownership of my life. Maybe I’m just not looking hard enough. Probably too busy trying to get my head round parenting.

Over the last 3 years (is it really 3 years) I have frequently revisited one of the first single parent decisions I had to make. One with no right answer but equally one I probably got badly wrong.

How long to keep our son off school immediately after his mum left us.

In 2015 our caring Education Minister said

The rules say you can’t take leave from school during term time except in exceptional circumstances. If it’s something like a funeral or something, then the head teacher would be able to give permission to attend the funeral, but not to have an extended holiday on the back of that funeral or other compassionate circumstances.

AN EXTENDED HOLIDAY….. what planet is this heartless Pillock from. Guess what – he is still in his job. Sums up why our country has fallen apart. The best approach is to ignore the Government as it’s filled with self centred over promoted numpties like him.

To be fair to the school they completely ignored Government recommendations and just said ” let us know when you want him to return – Completely up to you. “

My partner died on a Saturday night so on Sunday I’m faced with a call – what to do with school. I was barely functioning. I agreed with son to play it on a daily basis. My mind was thinking at least a couple of weeks off. But we came to Tuesday night and for some reason my mind shifted.

Maybe it’s better to get him back into the swing of life earlier than I had initially imagined. Maybe it will distract him. It will certainly get him out of a house which feels like a morgue. Might be easier this way in the long run.

My heart was saying one thing my head something different. My head won. The decision was made to give school a go on Thursday. That’s just over 4 days since he lost his mum. AND he’s only 9. Looking back I am not sure what I was thinking. I phoned a couple of his classmates mums up and we agreed to meet up at the local playground after school on Wednesday. Maybe just meeting a few of his friends initially would help. Great plan unfortunately within a few minutes most of the other school kids turned up as it was a nice day. Not really the quiet reintroduction I was hoping for. Too many faces so it didn’t go well.

He still returned to school the next day. That walk from the school car park was a nightmare. It seemed like every eye was on him. But he survived and then the only other day he had off was for the funeral. He was just about ok at school. I’m now think more time off would have allowed him to better process the new world. But we will never know. The kids his age were great with him. Some of the younger kids understandably not so tactful. Understandably some tears were shed. The common young questions being

What’s it like to not have a mum

How did she die

Will you have to move

I keep going back to that decision. I had him facing those questions far too soon. I am sure I got it so wrong but I can’t decide on what the decision should have been. More days off yes but not sure how many. My fear is that I was just as heartless as that Government Minister. In my defence if it was wrong then at least it was unintentional. But I did learn two important lessons. Firstly there is no rule book for parenting with nice clean set answers. It’s really just about a series of best guesses. The second is that on big split decisions – go with the heart. Even if it goes wrong at least you will feel better about yourself in the long run.

Energy

The poor Apple Tree has been stripped bare at its base.

If your not going to give me a bone then I’m going to eat the tree.

Its a hard life being a dog. Constant action. No need for caffeine based stimulants here. Oh for a fraction of that energy. What is the elusive secret of the unlimited energy supply. Is it chicken flavour dry dog food. Is it dog chews. Is it copious amounts of water. Is it getting a solid 6 hours sleep every night. Is it rolling around in any unpleasant object you find. Is it tummy tickles. Is it chasing your own tail repeatedly. Hopefully it’s not something to do with repeatedly sniffing the cats butt.

Today I’m officially zonked out. Really low energy levels. It’s a struggle. But you just have to keep going. Get through until night then hopefully a few hours kip. Parenting is a privilege. It’s the best gig in town. As a single parent I have got to spend more quality time with our son. I so so wish circumstances were different. But thats how it is. One major downside of going solo is that there is no hiding place when you are not firing on all cylinders. There is no plan b. Just got to keep going.

Anyway the dogs got energy in bundles and I haven’t. So you will have to excuse me as I am off to get a handful of dog biscuits and attempt to chase my own …..

Caffeine

Without any sleep last night I managed to serve breakfast, set off the washing and get the works payroll sorted. Then in the dog walk managed to spot more signs of the end of summer AND just about successfully focused the camera. All made possible by Coffee.

What would have happened if Caffeine had not been brewed for the first time. I dread to think.

Currently on a 3 year streak of no more than 4 hours sleep with probably half of that time operating on no more than 2 hours. That is certainly not out of choice. It’s also not really sustainable but I’ve been saying that since 2016.

Every morning my internal operating system boots into safe mode. The body drags me to the coffee machine and somehow a very dark evil smelling brew starts to enter my system. As the caffeine feeds into my bloodstream Safe mode moves to Zord the Zombie mode. Now some basic tasks can be undertaken. Not necessarily in the right order and almost certainly not to any level of competency – but we are at least off and running. All thanks to Coffee.

I did try to stop being so reliant on the caffeine fixes. It really isn’t healthy for you. So the coffee stopped. Withdrawal headaches were not pleasant but they passed. However most days I failed to get out of safe mode. Not much use for anything. Even the most basic tasks proved beyond me – that’s assuming I remembered to do the task in the first place. The coffee fast reached its lowest ebb one morning as I was fumbling around with a Tie for 5 minutes without being able to get the knot right before realising that the my work shirt was still on the table and I clearly had decided to go to work in the buff with my only attire being a red kipper tie. As a single parent, the single breadwinner that situation just can’t fly. So I restarted my daily fixes. The compromise was that no more than 4 cups a day could be the proper stuff. Anything else had to be decaf. That now works for me as long as I ensure that the first brew is NUCLEAR grade.

To be or not to be

A beautiful delicate flower. Unfortunately it has decided to grow directly on the mad dogs preferred route to his watering zone. Given the unruly speed the four legged wrecking ball hurtles down this path it’s not the ideal environment for delicate beauty. Will it survive. Will it be crushed to a pulp. Who knows.

The new school year is looming. Will we start. Will we home educate. With all the emotions swirling around the house currently it’s not the easiest time to focus on crucial matters. But it’s decision time.

As our health service points out – The school system is failing our son. No additional support is provided in terms of his Aspergers. In terms of Dyslexia it’s the bare minimum. The assumption is that he can’t read, never will read and he will be shown how to use a reading pen for the final exams. Set low exam expectations and anything achieved is a bonus. Let’s be clear that’s not all the teachers. Some do see the potential. Unfortunately his biggest supporter has left this summer. It will be illuminating to see if the school move him up to higher sets this year. His effort, his behaviour, his results clearly highlight the correct answer. A number of teachers have also recommended that course of action. But kids with dyslexia are often just bottom classed.

Yet the evidence suggest that the school system is wrong. The Doctors continually state that it is far too early to give up on the reading. The work they do demonstrate much promise. A kid who has been written off now can read the subtitles which appear on movies. He can read text messages. Today he read a 2 line subtitle and only got one word wrong – minority. He’s achieved that progress without school help.

He needs a tailored approach to development. But to be fair the schools hands are tied by government policy and cutbacks. Tailored education does not happen unless you can afford to go private. Private like the entire Government has enjoyed. Home Education currently allows the parent to tailor the approach. You can develop an approach that best suits the individual. Unfortunately the government is keen to stop this as well.

The major obstacle to home education is having one parent. It’s trying to home educate and trying to bring in sufficient income at the same time. I just can’t make the numbers stack up. I just can’t find enough hours in the day (& night).

The bottom line is that I currently just can’t home educate and balance the books. Home education is the right option but it’s also currently an impractical one. So much frustration. If we still had two parents then it would be doable. It just feels like our son is being penalised again for something outside his control. That makes me angry. Very angry. What’s the line – you wouldn’t like me when I’m angry. Hopefully I don’t turn green. That anger fuels the desire to find a way. Our son deserves that. He deserves at the very least a parent who tries.

So in two weeks our son will return to school. Hopefully to a much improved education. But if it continues to fail then we will just have to find a way.

The phone

A couple of miles from our village a large TV event has been taking place. Something like 20000 people have been attending. But we haven’t seen a soul. The dog walk felt like we had the land to ourselves. Isolation.

This summer is probably going to be my most isolated ever (so far). Outside our gang I would be amazed if I have spoken more than 30 words to the outside world. Probably had more conversations with the plants (weeds) in our garden. It really is starting to show. Even something as simple as buying a couple of entry tickets leaves me a gibbering wreck.

Not had a single conversation with anyone in the village in months, Suspect the village are celebrating that. Even the postman has gone into stealth mode. Absolutely no sign of the neighbours.

A few years back I remember a clinician telling us that we should probably get used to the idea of becoming isolated. Get used to your own company. She had seen a lot of parents in our position get cut off from friends and the outside world. That seemed fine as I had my soul partner with me. Didn’t realise how applicable own company would become.

This afternoon I checked if our phone was still working. It’s not rung once during the entire school holidays. In fact my mobile has only had two brief work calls. As the months go on my isolation from the world gathers pace. I’m not sure if that scares me or delights me. It’s got to the stage that I’m not sure if anyone would notice if I replaced the phone with a large bust of Boris Johnson. Probably not.

I would hope that the Boris bust would become a favourite cock a leg spot for the dog. Suppose I would need to move it outside. Wonder if Boris would tell the migrating birds to bugger off back to their own country. Sorry should really give Boris his full name

Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson.

Ironically Boris wasn’t born in this country. Given his position on immigration maybe he should send himself back to America. Anyway I bet his phone rings more times than mine. A man who currently wants the UK to be isolated Internationally probably doesn’t understand what isolation really means.

Maybe I should offer my services. I could be the Governments expert on isolation. I did think about being the Government expert on talking gibberish but they have already got that position well and truly covered.