Another year and another anniversary. Time passes. It never stops. It never stops.
These words will go live almost 5 years to the minute when I received that call from the Hospice. That conversation has faded into the mists of time now. I remember just a few words “I am so sorry”.
The first two anniversaries were so tough. I was in a bleak place. I couldn’t understand why my time had stopped but the world kept turning. It never missed a beat. How could that be possible. One thought dominated. Why her, why not me. The wrong person went. Over an over, the same thought. I was kinda rooted to the spot. No dreams left intact. Living purely through the eyes of our son.
Now it’s 5 years. What does an anniversary feel like now.
More like any other day. Does that sound bad….Even for me time doesn’t stop. Yes some moments spent remembering. Maybe not enough moments. But I know now. Those times have gone. The good and bad times. Just memories now. Time has moved on. I have moved on. New Dreams. Time moves on.
I won’t lie to you. Yes I still sometimes think -‘maybe it should have been me’. But……There is a phrase that can grind on me but in this case it’s true.
It is what it is.
Yes it is. That’s how it’s worked out. I can’t change it.
Memories are in the past, locked in time. I need to deal with today. Yes it’s an anniversary but it’s also another parenting day. Time doesn’t stop, even on an anniversary. Yes hopefully time for memories but also time to dream.
So how does this anniversary feel. Important YES but i realise it’s just about the past. Important but not as important living. So what does it feel like. It feels like today. It feels like the gateway to the future.
Memories will come but forgive me I need to dream first.
Almost too wet for the iPhone to cope….. That’s wet……
Later in the day, thankfully we can finally record a few hours of sunshine.
It doesn’t look like it but the fields are drenched. Two miles away a large concert became a mud bath at the weekend. Thankfully tractors came to tow cars out of the field car park. A Yorkshire summer….
As clouds roll in and the once again hidden sun sets, I find myself in the backroom. Putting off work that needs to be done this evening by writing these words. Listening to crackly copy of The Godfather soundtrack on vinyl which kinda sums up my mood. Drinking Chamomile tea to try to sooth a nervous stomach which isn’t very happy. Feeling fatigued after far too little sleep again, yet realising insomnia will win out again tonight. Hawklad is in the living room trying to forget about his rising anxieties. He’s playing games online with a close friend who has COVID. Yes a very Yorkshire summer……
Another cool and breezy Yorkshire summer’s day. The kinda day that always works better with black and white.
It’s five years to the day that I found out from the Consultant that my partner had weeks to live and was likely never to regain full consciousness again. From that day life changed. Not a gradual, planned change. This was a sudden, seismic explosion. Almost everything seemed to cave in. Nothing would ever be the same again. Those doorways onto my then current life slammed shut and locked forever.
The one single thing that kept me going back in 2016 was Hawklad. I had one job now. Give him the best possible childhood I couldpossibly manage, on my own. At that stage I was living purely though my son’s eyes. Change had to somehow work for him .
Life was now different. Unplanned. Very much unscripted. It felt like that the life that had gone before was a more protected. More manageable. This new world seemed very real, very scary with no protection. But I guess that’s change for you. Often it’s too easy to have a change of heart. Avoid the consequences of change. Stick with the your current hand. But in that bleak 2016 moment, sticking with what I had was not an option. Change was happening and there was nothing I could do to stop it. That’s such an unnerving feeling.
Life has changed for me. There was nothing I could do to stop that. Some of that change was awful. Soul destroying. In the immediate aftermath most things felt that way. But now five years later the change that was forced upon me has largely worked out. And whisper it, much of the change has been positive or was in practice badly needed anyway. And yes in some really important areas things are actually better now than they have ever been.
My mum had a range of old movies that she would watch over and over again. Every week she would go through the TV listings and carefully circle those movies she just had to watch again. She would the likes of Casablanca and Singing in the Rain at least once a year. As she made 90 that’s a lot of views. But some strange movies would also get onto the ‘watch again and again’ list. Dirty Harry….. Die Hard …….. anything with Chuck Norris in.
But then there were other movies. Movies she would watch for the first time and only ever once. For these B-list movies she had an interesting strategy. If she didn’t like how the plot was progressing she would stop the movie. Stop the movie and make up her own ending. That changed the very essence of certain classics. Maximus doesn’t die in Gladiator. Tom Cruise was the rogue agent who killed his spy team in Mission Impossible. All the Gangsters get captured at the end of The Godfather. Bruce Willis was a ghost in Sixth Sense right from the start and there was no need to watch the rest of the boring movie as he was going to be resurrected at the end. The little fishing boat was completely unsinkable in Perfect Storm.
The strategy worked for mum. She was never disappointed in a movie ending. I must admit I am tempted to give it a go. I could watch the first 10 seconds of a Newcastle United game and then assume we played total football like the great Brazilian side of the 70s, winning the game by at least 6 goals. I could read the first line of my annual tax form and then assume the authorities owe me money. I could start baking a cake then assume it’s a gourmet masterpiece. I could cut one strip of lawn and assume the rest would cut itself.
But here’s the thing. What happens if the bit of the story you miss out actually is the best bit. What happens if you skip the bit where your dreams come true. This will sound bad but I gave occasionally felt like skipping parts of my life. Life can wear you down sometimes. Single parenting sometimes feels like it never stops – it has done the last day or so. Constantly pushing up a never ending slope. I could also miss out the grieving and bereavement section. But if I did skip parts of my story WHAT COULD I BE MISSING OUT ON. The fact that yesterday and today have been tough doesn’t necessarily mean that tomorrow will be. You just never know. You never know when dreams can start to materialise. That’s a reassuring thought.
If I wander around a graveyard I notice the old headstones. The stones that have been weathered for centuries. The etched names now gone forever. .
My mum told me once “Just put me in a cardboard box and bury me. Then get on with your life. “
Bereavement and loss is an individual thing. Each grief journey is different. It took me a few years to figure mine out. I probably spent too much time living in the past and not enough time getting on with my life.
But now the balance feels better. Much more time focused on today. But each day I don’t let those names fade. Those that I have lost and yes I include pets. I find a quiet place, maybe the garden at night. Then I spend 5 or 10 minutes and recall great memories. I say those names out loud.
This way I don’t forget to live but I also don’t forget.
As I’m writing this, it is almost 5 years to the minute that I last spoke to my mum. She was in hospital and planning to go home. Ok the doctors weren’t planning on her going home for another week or so, but mum was stubborn. A battle of wills was brewing. I can’t remember what we talked about that evening. How often is that the case. I can remember being given a shopping list to fill her home refrigerator – remember she was going home.
We didn’t see the overnight relapse coming.
Yes I really miss her. My sibling do as well. She was the gravity that held us together.
But I’m not sad. Not today. She would have used a Yorkshire cricket expression – ‘had a long innings‘. She did. Lots of great memories. Lots of smiles. That’s what I see now. And today lots of ‘tea and biscuits’. That’s exactly what you got every time you went to see mum. Within seconds you found a biscuit in your hand, as if by magic. Even if you were on a diet that biscuit founds it’s way into your hand. Followed by a reassuring ‘that diet can start tomorrow, how about a piece of apple pie…”
The one thing we have been careful about is not putting deadlines on the way forward. Somethings can’t be rushed. They have to happen in their own time frames especially as there are so many roadblocks out there. Especially when you get days where it’s one step forward and two back. That applies to my life just as much as it applies to Hawklad’s.
But it feels like a deadline is forming. The start of September. That sees the beginning of the new school year. But it’s different this year. His subject options have been picked. He is starting the final 21 month push towards his main exams. Fall behind now and it’s tough to catch up. This school year is hard enough even without anxieties and fears. Hard enough without having to worry about if it’s homeschooling or the classroom. Delaying a decision to return to the class adds so many complications. Hawklad would face the stress of returning to classes midway through the year. New classes. Different from the ones he left. Different faces. Established relationships and dynamics. That’s a real challenge for anyone but to someone with social anxieties, a nightmare.
Ideally September brings certainty. This is the start of how the learning and schooling goes until the exams. There shouldn’t be any sudden changes of approach. That’s why September feels like a deadline. A really tight deadline. Too tight. So many hurdles still to climb, so many bridges still to be rebuilt. Walking quiet country lanes although great progress is a million miles away from sitting without anxieties in overcrowded classrooms. Just under 8 weeks to do all that.
It’s also not much time to organise a full homeschooling approach leading to something meaningful for him.
Looking over the Vale of York I was pondering life. Pondering the wonderful things that I already have and what extra wonders might still come my way. I can definitely still dream big.
If you had asked me back in 2016 and 2017 I would have scoffed at the thought. Grief cruelly robbed me of many things including dreams. My dreams require a vision of future. Back then I could see no future, just a black void. I could only live through my son. It was his future and nothing else. Give him the happiest childhood possible. One day he would leave home and for me, that was it.
But with time dreams did come back and when they did it was like a dam bursting. I could hope again. I could see positive futures. Yes the old dreams are gone but new and very different dreams have replaced them.
Hope and dreams might be hidden but they are usually there somewhere. Maybe it just needs a bit of time and a period of pain. Maybe they need a chance meeting or a seemingly random event. But when dreams are rediscovered they might just be better than ever.
There’s a chap in the village who is an artist. A really really good artist. Has exhibitions. He has a talent for creating beauty. Even in his garden. He lets his garden go native. Will occasionally tidy it up but mainly just let’s nature sort the rest out.
Well this is what happens he does this…
This artist lost his partner a three years back. It really hit him hard. His world fell apart. Yet over time he has got going again. He has returned to making new art. He’s carrying on. He would give me a progress report every time I walked past his garden with Captain Chaos. Whisper it – the Cap likes contributing to this nature show in his own very unique way…. We talked about sitting down and having a longer chat.
Hopefully over the next couple of months I can pop over and he can show me his studio. We can have that coffee that has been on hold since the pandemic swept the world. We talked about doing this 15 months ago.
The 6 week summer school break is only a month away now. Not long. 30 days. Lots to do in that time. Even more after today.
Hawklad has decided that he wants a stress free as possible summer. Summer is difficult as he can remember the summer of 2016. First day of the summer holidays his granny died and then as the school returned he lost his mum. So summer can be tough even without his current anxieties levels.
Stress free means reducing exposure to those triggers that can escalate his worries. And what is one of the most common triggers. Movies and TV shows. I’ve frequently talked about how often story lines involve death, illness, broken families……
So I have a task. Compile a list of movies and shows that Hawklad can watch which are SAFE. No sadness, no illness, no bereavements. 6 weeks is a long time, so it’s going to have to be some list.
Here’s my list so far
Alvin and the Chipmunks
Wallace & Gromit
Kicking and Screaming
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Night at the Museum
The Lego Movie
Fantastic Mr Fox
Big Mommas House
The Office (US) but avoiding a couple of episodes
Any suggestions greatly appreciated. Remember no triggers. For example The Guardians of the Galaxy – top movie but just NO to the start…. For example Mary Poppins Returns – great movie but mum dies…. For example the Disney movie I’ve forgotten the name of at the weekend , really good apart from the one line about a serious illness.