Torquay

My neighbours bird bath. Over the years it has become increasingly hard to fill. Thankfully the Yorkshire weather usually takes care of that.

Yesterday was a decently fun day. Any day with Pizza helps. We played football in the garden. Son fired a million questions at me. Including the following belter.

Name 10 best things about Torquay”

We had been watching John Cleese in old episodes of Fawlty Towers. It’s set there.

“Son your going to annoyingly tell me that you know 10 such facts”

Actually 17 facts Dad”

I whispered a silent bugger under my breathe.

We then tried to watch the new Joker movie. I was watching it thinking the acting is brilliant but I’m not enjoying this in the slightest bit. Then son broke my thought pattern.

Dad I’m really not in the mood for this. I enjoy a good bit of Joker but this isn’t a Joker movie. It’s a movie about how a country fails to deal with mental health and how people look down on others who are different. I don’t like the way the film is doing it. Let’s watch it another day.”

So ten minutes later we had the new Shaun The Sheep movie on. That there is a movie.

But I understand what our son was talking about. Not the right time or mood for this Joker movie. There is too much going on in the world. It is also Mother’s Day in the UK. That’s one of THOSE days…. I must admit the social distancing has severely restricted our visits to the shops. That means less chance to walk past all the cards, flowers and potential gifts. Dealing with it for just one day is better than having it rammed down our throats for weeks on end.

I must admit this one has been less painful than the other ones we have endured. We have wished our lost mums a happy day. In my partners case we have kissed the ashes. Then so far we have gotten on with the job of making the most of today. My heart does go out to many mums today. Because of the restrictions and other factors outside of their control, they may not see kids and grandchildren today (or for many days to come). I really hope a way is found for a connection to be made. A text, a video call, a card, a cute photo, a virtual hug or a telephone call saying ‘I LOVE YOU’.

Stay safe and to all mums out there. Sending you a big hug. Thank you for being super heroes.

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.

Music

Above the church it looks like that an RAF pilot was bored and decided to try and do a signature in the sky. Hope he was smiling when he did it.

Late last night I was watching the Queen biopic and my mind wandered again. Sometimes my mind wanders that far I’m surprised it makes it way back before breakfast. Actually maybe it doesn’t – that would explain things….

Anyway I was watching Queen and thinking about concerts. In all the years we were a couple, we only went to four concerts together. She somehow managed to convince me to see Ronan Keating TWICE. Don’t tell anyone that as I might get kicked out of the Mongolian Heavy Metal Grunting Club. I managed to convince her to go and see Meatloaf (the deal was I drove and she could drunk wine). The last concert was Tom Jones – I resisted the urge to throw my underpants at him…

I guess like most couples our rock and roll lifestyle went out of the window when we became a family. That was it. No more concerts together.

PLEASE don’t take this the wrong way. This is not a sad post. I’m smiling while I’m writing this. There was a very good reason why we didn’t see many concerts together. We had completely different musical tastes. Her cds have not been touched in the last three years. Why? I could say it’s because it just wouldn’t be right. Listening to the music would make me sad. Actually the real reason is that I’d rather listen to a chainsaw grind on for hours than endure any of her cds. I will never get rid of them, but they are never, ever going to be played by me. They have become a thankfully silent reminder of our differences. The differences that made us work as a couple.

I can only think of one other possible use for them. If you haven’t seen Shaun of the Dead then this will make no sense. If we ever have to fight off a zombie attack with only our record collection, then her music is fired first….

I guess the point of this post is to say that

just as it’s ok to cry when you are bereaved, it’s absolutely fine to smile as well. It’s your bereavement, you do whatever you need to do with it.

Dreams pesky dreams

If I was a flower I wonder what dreams I would have.

Before my partner died I would have the occasional dream that I could remember, but not that often. My sleep would be disrupted but usually by our son. Plus back then, when there are two of you can take turns on the sleepless shifts.

Then after my partner died sleep became increasingly disrupted. Son has always had an interesting sleep pattern. Whatever we have tried has never managed to change that. Eventually the health professionals just called it – it is how it is for him, it works for him, so just run with it. Basically his mind and body are too active for sleep anything south of midnight. He will usually fall asleep between midnight and 1am. Then he will sleep until 6am until his mind and body kick into active mode again. When he was younger he would constantly wake during that time, so one of us would need to be with him to get him back to sleep. But as he’s got older he more often than not sleeps through. A couple of times a week he will still wake and I get the night visits. Checking I’m still here, wanting an answer to a question or wanting to tell me a fact.

Dad Harold (that’s Harold II) was not the last english Saxon king. William beat Harold on the 14 October 1066 but wasn’t officially crowned until the 25 December. In theory Edgar Atheling (Edgar II) was king. He had the strongest blood claim to the throne. Night Dad.

But as our son’s sleep has stabilised my dream pattern has increasingly disrupted mine. It takes an age for me to get to sleep then all to quickly a vivid dream wakes me and then that’s usually it for the night – no more sleep.

The dreams have also changed. I have had three distinct dream stages. Each stage has its own unique dream type – each night its the same sort of dream.

The reliving fond memories stage. This was the nicest, yet saddest stage. The dreams would relive completely accurately lovely memories. Maybe a holiday trip, a birthday, an early date with my partner, finding out when we we’re going to be a family….

The bizarre memory stage. Then suddenly the dreams changed. They still were based on fond memories but always morphed in some bizarre way. A dream about a lovely family trip to a petting zoo, but in the dream the cute little animals were replaced by dinosaurs – we still petted them. A dream about sledging with son on one of our few proper snow days. But in the dream the white snow had become pink.

The current dream stage. The weird/unsettling dreams. No more dreams based on real life memories. Just unsettling made up dreams. Last night for example my partner (who was pregnant) and I had gone shopping in this made up out of town shopping complex. We had gone into a huge furnishing store. We found some items we needed and I went looking for a shopping trolley. Couldn’t find any trolleys inside, so I looked out in the car park. Still no trolleys. So I walked across to the next store which was a supermarket (ASDA). They had trolleys but they needed a coin to release them. None of my coins would work. I then couldn’t find our car to get more coins. So I ran down a short slip road to the next group of shops. Here the trolleys were all vandalised. I ran down another slip road to the another shop which was a huge DIY store. They had trolleys but they wouldn’t push correctly. It took all my strength to move them a few inches. Finally I found an electronics shop which had trolleys that worked. But now as hard as I tried I just couldn’t find my way back to the first store with my partner who would be getting increasingly annoyed with me. I was now completely lost and in full panic mode. Then I woke up. Now I was completely unsettled and that was it for sleep. Too tired to read or blog. So all I could manage was to watch crappy TV and listen for the clock to tick round until son woke up.

I look back with fondness at those memory dreams. Even those bizarre Dino type memory dreams. Yes they could be sad but they where a wonderful gateway into the past. But these current dreams I really hate. No sweet memories here just my brain finding new ways to unsettle my soul. Sleep is now something I desperately need, yet I struggle to do it. It is also becoming something which brings me nothing but stress. I hate being stuck in this ever decreasing sleepless circle.

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.

Castle

Sheriff Hutton Castle is over 850 years old and was built during the reign of King Stephen. Later Richard III acquired the castle through marriage. He made the castle one of the two sites for his Council of the North. The Council was his method of running the North after he became King of England. It has since fallen into ruin. It’s recently been sold for just over £1Million. It is our local castle.

Seven years ago we nearly bought a house which backed onto this castle. The castle was only 30 paces from the garden. An epic garden view. It was at a time when we we’re going to try for a second child. So we needed a house with an extra bedroom. This house ticked so many boxes. To me being so close to a castle seemed so exciting. However in the end we didn’t buy the house and sadly my partners health soon ruled out another member of our family. Every time I pass the castle my mind wanders off to what might have been.

There where a few reasons why we didn’t move here. One of the main reasons was our son. At that time a carefree, gregarious toddler had quickly transitioned into the world of Aspergers. Suddenly his world was populated with doctors, psychologists and other health professionals. It must have been so scary and disorientating for him. The one place he felt safe was our little bungalow on the hill. The bungalow was all things to him.

His Panic Room

His Safety Zone

His Dream World

An Exclusion Zone for the many who looked at him differently because of one word

His Play Zone

His World

It was the only place he felt comfortable and relaxed. From our experience Aspergers seemed to loosen and destroy all of our sons life foundations. Life became precarious and the slightest disturbance could bring everything crashing down. His little bungalow was one of the few things which was still secure and stable. The last thing he needed was for that to be torn down as well. So we decided to stay.

We are still here in that little bungalow on the hill. It’s still such a safety net for our son. A place he feels secure and at ease in. It still excludes those who discriminate. The garden fences mark the boundaries to his world. His ramparts. In a way it is his very own modern castle.

The road

The road often seems so long and never ending. Somedays it is, especially when your trying to run along it straight into the teeth of a biting north wind. Absolute purgatory. But then other days the road is short and manageable. Even in my rubbish car it only takes a couple of minutes to drive it. It’s good to remind myself this every so often.

In those dreadful early days of being a widow and a single parent the journey in front of me looked so daunting. So beyond me. A road with seemingly no end. I would shake my head and just think – I can’t do this. Yet I still set off down that road. I didn’t want to but I was faced with no choice. I was a parent to a young kid who has just lost his mum. He’s was also trying to get his head round not being able to read and that new word – Aspergers. I owed it to him to at least try. Nobody else would. It was down to me.

He only gets one childhood and it better be as brilliant as is humanly possible.

So I started down that road. I had no idea where the road led to. I was so confused. As a result I was hoping to find a ready made parenting plan – an easy to navigate road map. As hard as I tried I just couldn’t find a map which I could use. I searched everywhere. So many books and articles were scoured over for that magic road map. But in the end it was a futile search. No one is going to do this for me. No easy shortcuts had been forged by others. It was down to me and I needed to own it.

Fast forward to 2020 and I’m still here. Still a widow. Still a single parent. Still slightly confused. Still travelling that road. Still haven’t come across a map. But there is a difference. That road doesn’t quite feel so daunting. It doesn’t feel quite so long now. That’s progress in my book.

Laughter

Most runs around here end up with one last slog up this winding hill. A number of cycle clubs use it for races. The British Universities use the hill for their national road race championship. The 25% twisting ascent is a real leg sapper.

But on the bright side it’s a rapid, helter skelter of a descent. On one cycle decent I lost control and ended up in the farmers field. Still not as bad as one cyclist you apparently was rescued after being found face first, stuck in the roadside hedge. You could only see his legs sticking out. That would have cracked me up. As Monty Python would sing – Always look on the bright side….

Over the last couple of years I’ve learned the importance of laughter. It really has been a life saver some days. Really dark thoughts have been broken by a random laugh. A few weeks after my partner and my mums funerals I was as low as I have ever been. But a random chance encounter with Python’s Holy Grail movie lifted my spirts. It was bizarrely the scene where Eric Idle was collecting the dead bodies on the cart and John Cleese tries to get rid of a ‘not’ dead old man. It just touched a nerve and I laughed a lot. It just seemed to brake the spell.

Yes laughter breaks the spell. It’s distracts me. In computing terms it seems to reboot my system. The problem is that often when you need that reboot the most. At your lowest ebb. The hardest thing to do is laugh. The mindset is that your not allowed to enjoy a bit of life. Laughing is just not acceptable. Almost as if it makes you a bad person. Really. For me the two of the nest things I’ve learnt about grief

  • It’s really ok to cry AND
  • It’s really ok to laugh as well.

The news is unremittingly grim at present. Nothing like a pandemic to bring out the worst in our leaders, our media and sections of the population. Today the media was full of misinformation and photographs of empty supermarket shelves. Panic buying has started. So with some trepidation I ventured into the supermarket for a bottle of milk and a loaf of bread. What a pleasant surprise to find a well stocked shop. Then one last gift. With a sense of humour the store was running a promotion on Corona Beer. Clearly with shoppers loading up with the stuff that it was selling really well. Certainly better than in some parts of the world. It’s a shame that I’m on the wagon and that I never liked the stuff anyway. But it did get me thinking – maybe the World Health Organisation should continue naming viruses after products. Especially if it leads to heavy discounts. Maybe the next pandemic could be called the Cadbury’s Cream Egg Virus. I look forward to that discount….

Always look on the bright side of life….

Unwanted anniversary

The way forward is sometimes difficult under foot.

Another storm is heading our way. Storm Jorge. The world news is grim and unremittingly depressing. Definitely no solace at school. Son scored 14 out of 15 in his Drama spelling test. The one he got wrong was Unferth. Unferth is a warrior who opposes Beowulf. It’s not a word he’s likely to use much in life. I am so pleased with son. I wouldn’t have got 14 and I’m not dyslexic. Yet the teacher told him to try a bit harder as a few of the kids had got all the spellings correct. Deep sigh.

Today has been tough for me. The above factors don’t help but they are not the main cause of my struggles. No it’s a grief thing again. Son’s birthday is fast approaching. Since she left us this is just one of those times. Her organisational skills would go into overdrive as his birthday approached. She would be so excited. Her love would shine through.

Then the world changed. (That was going to be the original name of my blog site but I messed up the setupBereavedDad was a cockup).

So today I was trying to sort out his birthday and I felt so wrong. She should be here enjoying this time as well. I’m not often bitter but today I was. What is making this birthday so raw is that he is turning into a teenager. My partner has missed so much of his childhood and never got the opportunity to see him grow into a teenager. It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

But unfortunately feeling sorry for myself isn’t going to help. It’s not going to bring her back. It’s certainly isn’t going to deliver any presents. It’s not going to yield a happy birthday for our son. It’s not going to make him smile AND his smiles are the only currency I should deal in now. So give myself a proverbial massive kick up the butt. Turn the news off. Play some loud music and fully commit to birthday mode. That’s what my partner would do and by jiminy – that’s what I am going to do.

So yes the way forward is sometimes difficult under foot but you still need to follow it.

Late nights

Over the school break we were seeing what we could find with our very old telescope. With a bit of patience we got a photo of a distant power station. Took a steady hand and many out of focus disasters. I guess a lot of patience.

When I’m tired my brain has a habit of going into neutral. That’s fine if your sitting or lying down but try to do anything else and your asking for trouble. Last night at around 4am I was watching Black Panther. I decided my body needed a hot drink. So I make a fine cup of Yorkshire Tea. (That’s the tea which has got the new Chancellor of the Exchequer personal seal of approval).

The photo is from Chancellors own twitter feed.

Anyway my late night Yorkshire Tea was made. Unfortunately as I sat down to watch the movie again I realised that I hadn’t brought my cup with me. I was holding the kettle instead.

A couple of weeks back it was even more painful. I was watching a late night movie and I went for a midway toilet pit stop. On my way to the bathroom I completely missed the open door and walked into a wall.

It’s been even worse that that. About a month ago I was struggling with a leg muscle strain. During yet another late night movie the muscle started playing up. So I decided to apply some Ralgex (Heat Rub). A fine idea but in my zombie state I must have forgot to immediately wash my hands. Unfortunately I rubbed my eye and then with spectacular bad timing I decided to go for a wee. Within a few minutes my eye and my undercarriage were basically on fire. Now that woke me up.

But occasionally the late nights can yield moments of clarity. This happened last night towards the end of Black Panther. I had been spending so much time worrying about the future. All the pitfalls of homeschooling. Everything that could go wrong. How I was missing my partner and her advice. Then it struck me. The one thing I had missed was the opportunities. Homeschooling allows you freedom to design your own days. That puts US in charge. That is such an exciting and liberating prospect. And I missed it.

It’s so easy to focus on the negatives. There is an awful lot to be worried about in life. Yet it still can be a wonderful life. If you let it and have patience. So I need to find a balance. If I’m going to think about the negatives then I owe it to myself to think about the positives as well.