Dumbo meets Braveheart

Everyday more red bursts through to bring life to Yorkshire In Autumn. No creative license required here. Last night son asked to watched the Mel Gibson movie Braveheart. He quietly watched the movie in one sitting. When it had finished he had one of those looks. The Paddington Hard Stare.

Where do I start. I gave up making a note of the historical inaccuracies when I got past 30. I think they were averaging one a minute. I hope people don’t think it happened like that. As a piece of pure make believe it was ok. As an accurate record of real history I’d rather trust the new Dumbo movie”

I have to say the new Dumbo is great. But it’s one of the THOSE movies which would have been much easier to watch if it had come out before our world changed. Movies with the death of a mum are still very raw. For both of us.

Dumbo also touched on the idea that sometimes we are not prepared for what may face us a parent and as a human. Don’t want to give any real spoilers away so I can’t say too much about the movie.

I wasn’t prepared in the slightest way for being a single parent. For being a widow. For having that awful conversation with your son. For picking up the pieces of a life which had been based purely on three of us. But to be fair as a couple we were not prepared for the loss of one of us. Our lifestyle was based on two parents. Financially it only worked with two of us. After we became a family our careers only continued to work because we could share the load. We only continued to have a bit of a social life because the other partner was there.

So when you suddenly take one partner away …. it all comes tumbling down. Three years later we are still trying to rebuild our life’s. Watching another autumn and another set of red leaves makes you appreciate life goes on – even after a death.

Crazy dreams

Dreams and memories are a vital part of life. After my partner died memories became my essential comfort blanket – something which kept me going. Three years later they are just as important to my soul. The occasional forgotten photograph find rekindle long forgotten life snapshots.

Dreams come in three forms for me. Those dreams of a future life, memories and those dreams which come during those all too brief periods of sleep. My future life dreams died when my partner left us. All I see is darkness. My job is to give our son the best possible childhood. After that nothing. It’s something I’ve heard from others in a similar position to me – I live through my son.

After the world changed my night dreams became a weird bizarre place. Reality completely warped. But increasingly the dreams became memory driven. Accurate replays of precious moments. This brought great solace with a few tearful mornings. But recently things have changed. Suddenly the night dreams are actual memory based but morphed in some important and strange way.

A lovely visit family trip to Edinburgh Zoo to see the Pandas. But in the dream the family trip becomes a trip round Jurassic Park world. All the actual incidents but with a dinosaur flavour.

A trip to the Royal Ascot Racing Festival held for one year at York. The Queen riding past us. 2005. Yet in the dreams it’s not Horse Racing. Sometimes it’s Dragster Racing. Sometimes it’s donkey racing. YES I get these strange morphed dreams repeatedly.

A family trip to the beach. It’s cold so it’s double jumpers. Ice cream and hot doughnuts. Yet on the first sandcastle we strike oil. Oil gushes out of the beach.

A romantic meal. Days filled of love and smiles. Yet the fine food is replaced with bugs and slugs and grubs.

A hand in hand walk round York’s Roman Walls. But instead of lovely views of York and it’s stunning Minster we see Paris on side and Nepal on the other side.

A New Years Eve Blues Brothers Themed Night replaced with a WWE wrestling night.

I could go on. So many odd dreams. I’m not a clever man so I’m not going to venture into Descartes territory. I suspect the reasons may not be that fundamental. But the bottom line is that I want my precious original sleep dreams back. Often they are all that remain of a better place. I like a bit of craziness but not here please.

Commitment

This photo is from a couple of days ago. It was reasonable weather.

Over the last couple of days the weather here has been a little more damp. The Photograph below from The Guardian sums up today’s dampness. Welcome to Yorkshire – the worlds best cyclist competing at the UCI World Championships and enjoying the welcoming Yorkie weather. As my Dad would have said that will put hair on their chests. Bet the poor riders didn’t expect to be riding through lakes. Amazingly the race was completed. Thats commitment for you.

Parenting is about commitment. Even I realised that before our son was born. The bizarre assumption we made was that at some stage the kid(s) would fly the nest and we would go back to something like our old life’s. Maybe after school, after college, after university, maybe a bit later. But at some stage it was happening. At some stage parenting becomes more part time and the stuff we had to park can be resurrected. In my case socialising with friends, climbing, playing sport, career, astronomy….

“WE” would get our life’s back – yes I never envisaged one tragedy…..

But maybe the full time parenting commitment may last longer. I remember our sons lead health professional telling us

It is possible that your son will be largely independent at some stage. However on the current evidence this might be the least likely outcome. You need to prepare yourselves that he may find it very difficult to live independently at any stage.”

As a family we are so fortunate. Son is making great progress in many areas. So many families don’t get this level of progress. But there are clear areas where progress is not being made. We have to be realistic that progress may never be made. Support may be needed life long. That’s a sobering thought and raises so many knock on considerations.

Those parts of my life I assumed would restart at some stage may in fact not happen. I don’t like admitting it but this thought makes me sad. But that’s life. I now realise bad things happen and you have to deal with them. You never know son might one day take up something like climbing. I suspect not in the case of climbing. He is a natural risk assessor. He might make sufficient progress to become fully independent. We just have to see what happens.

I know I’m not the only one who is in this position. I was reading a similar thing from a blogger I really respect just the other day. Parenting sometimes doesn’t work out the way you have imagined. Parts of your world are lost. Dreams become unattainable. Although parenting is the best gig in the world it is so hard to explain to others how part of you can still feels so sad.

I now know that this is parenting. Its about sacrifices. It’s about commitment.

Bagman

What’s that behind you. It’s that pesky grief sneaking up on you again.

Lost in a world of spreadsheets and work while listening to the radio. It’s a rock station so plenty of Aerosmith , Foo Fighters and Pink Floyd. Playing a game of which bands I’ve seen and which I might still see. Then an innocuous advert. NEXT sale starts at 7am.

Nothing wrong with that surely.

Suddenly taken back to a now closed off world. In the immediate aftermath of the funeral I took bag after bag of NEXT clothes to the charity shop. NEXT was her favourite shop. It’s just not right that I’m here and she is not. Tears. A few minutes later the mood has changed. More memories.

My partners ears would always prick up if she heard the two words NEXT and SALE. The alarm would be set 6am. For the big New Years sale it would be set for 5am.

Come on bag man get up.

That was my role. Trudge down to the store. Try to look vaguely interested. Then don’t get in the way and hold the potential purchase items. Occasionally chipping in with a helpful thats nice. Then the bagman carries the laden bags home. For the next couple of hours while our partner tries on the truck load of clothes I replenish all the lost calories with coffee and biscuits. Then bagman sets off back to NEXT again to take back the unwanted items. On the return visit I would briefly look at the Men’s section. A few muttered are you sure these are sales prices and its off to the coffee shop to reflect on the joy which is knowing that’s the sales are finished for 6 months. Not sure how she put up with me….

It’s smiles and tears now.

Spending money on clothes has been replaced with spending money on school.

Dad have you paid for the school reward trip?

Yes I have but like the NEXT sales I’m struggling to get my head round it. All the kids at the school who didn’t get a detention or didn’t pick up too many negatives qualify for a reward. The reward is a trip to a cool destination. As it was a school reward I assumed school would pay for it. NO. Parents have to pay. So the parents of kids who behaved badly don’t have to fork out this wedge of cash. Life was easier when I was the bagman.

Autumn

Autumn is upon us. Everywhere you look the signs are clear.

The hedgerows are brimming with fruit. Intricate cobwebs everywhere.

Most of the swallows have now departed starting their six week trek to Africa.

Yellows, browns and reds are starting to dominate the foliage. Trees letting go as sad leaves fall to the ground. Soon the fruit in the hedgerows will be gone.

It was the time of year my partner loved the best. She loved the colours and the reflective atmosphere. A time she could walk quietly and just think. Now I walk the same paths. Today I was struck by one thought. My partner would have been looking at these same autumnal sights. Countless generations will have been looking at these sights. As much as you think the world has stopped because of your personal tragedy it never does. Life continues. The never ending cycle of life. The empty branches show the fleeting nature of life. Leaves fall but they will be reborn again. So should you – in your own time. When the time is right – it’s time to live again. It’s time to find a new way of blooming.

For me I’m still in the existing stage. I don’t tend to have personal dreams anymore. For years we had shared dreams. When my partner left us those dreams died. Now my dreams are my sons dreams. I exist because of my son. I live life through my son.

At some stage I will transition into the next stage. When I start to live for me. When I start to dream again. It’s strange how Autumn which is a time of life coming to the end of its cycle has sparked these thoughts. But maybe a better way to look at Autumn is that it’s a time of letting go before you start again. Rebirth. Yes that works better for me. It’s a time just before you live again.

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.

Dark Day

“Death ends a life not a relationship” – Mitch Albom

“If there ever comes a day where we can’t be together, keep me in your heart. I will stay there forever.” – A A Milne

It’s been a dark day for many people today. A dark day here. No more words today let some photographs say the rest.

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.

The important stuff

Dad can we go somewhere tomorrow.

Where do you fancy?

How about the New Forest.

Sorry too far for day trip it’s a 6 hours to just get there.

How about Skye.

I so would love to son but it’s a full days drive.

How about Stonehenge.

Sorry that’s a 5 hour trip.

Ok let’s go for the Lake District.

It’s going to be busy.

How busy.

Busy.

Ok let’s go when it’s bad weather. Much quieter then. Let’s go to the coast. I know that will be busy but let’s avoid the beaches. Let’s try the bird reserve. Sadly it will be quiet as people for some reason prefer sitting on a bit of sand to than watching nature.

So it looks like a 1 hour drive to the coast then. We will set off early morning just in case of unexpected crowds. That’s the price you pay for trying to find quiet locations during the summer school break. Must admit I’m a little gutted that it’s not a trip to the Lake District. Not been in ages. Thoughts of mountains and lakes.

Then a bit of a grief wobble. We are now within 2 weeks of the dreaded anniversary so I am a bit all over the place. We both loved the Lakes. Maybe it’s because it feels a bit like Switzerland. Not massively but just enough. The grief wobble was about how few times we made it across there. Definitely twice maybe three times. That’s not enough times in the 18 years we spent together. We never found the time. What a waste.

But then just a picking minute. Let’s turn this thing around. The important thing is not the limited number of times we made it there. The really important thing is that WE DID GO THERE. The great times. The beautiful memories. The picnic with stunning mountain views. The stunning mountain walk. Waking up to the smell of freshly baked bread in the little hotel. Laughing hysterically as we got lost in a forest. The bottle of wine next to the Lake. The romantic meals…..

That’s the important stuff. Yes the anniversary marks the end of our journey but it was some journey. It really was.

So tomorrow it’s birds. Another memory. Arriving at the reserve and realising I might have been a bit of a numpty. My job was to bring the binoculars. Unfortunately I remembered our sons toy ones but the proper ones were really helpfully still sat on the kitchen table. Ops. My partner needed the patience of a saint. The most organised person in the world meets chaos.

What’s the odds on the same thing happening again. Suspect son will be less forgiving.

Eevee

Happily having a morning constitutional when the bathroom door exploded open.

Sorry Dad you have company. Need a photograph of the Shiny Eevee.

Another thing not in the glossy adverts about parenting. But the same applies to Dog owning. Our bungalow has a design issue.

For some reason the architect who designed the building thought it would be funny to put the toilet basically in full sight of the front door. The bathroom door takes on the same importance as the Wall in a Game of Thrones. It is the only defence against chaos. It doesn’t help that for some reason the bathroom door has decided to expand just enough that it doesn’t fully shut.

So when you are happily sat on the throne it’s not perfect timing for the postman to arrive at the very same time as the dog barges open the bathroom door. The postman’s horror would make a great Stephen King novel. At least a short novel. It could be the short version of IT.

S*IT. Which is probably the words the postman issued. Definitely the words I said.

It’s also the perfect description of my current mood. I won’t bore you with the long story yet again. But over the last 3 years the period from July 23 to early September is when we lost my mum, my partners mum and my partner. It should be a great time. The period exactly covers the long school break. Before the world changed it rivalled Christmas for the best part of the year. Now it’s an ordeal. But holiday periods are often like that. Even after 3 years it’s still an ordeal. Maybe it will get better over time. Maybe it never will.

Grief is such a difficult feeling to describe. I’m still trying to capture it on this blog. I’m still not that close I suspect but I will keep plugging away. Have a look at the blog Party of One, or Life after Death. Malia writes about losing her husband so beautifully. Look at The Grief Reality. Another beautifully written blog about coping with the loss of a beloved mum at a far too early age in life. These show what can be achieved.

In those three years since the world changed I often fall back on silliness to release the pressure. I strongly suspect that it’s really a ploy to just to stop the grieving process for a few moments. Maybe if I laugh the problems will just go away. Sadly they don’t.

Son often copes by trying to fill his head with information. Today it’s been Egyptian Football, Agrippina and Pokemon Go. Thankfully the distraction seems to be working for him.

Tonight we will both forget about life by watching Red Dwarf. So very funny. Hopefully we will have more luck than the previous night. We watched an episode which featured unusually for the show a sad segment where the shipmates talked about not having a mum. The Kryten line everyone should have a mum really did hit home. You are so right Kryten. It’s not easy at my age but at son’s age….

So hopefully after a lot of laughs tonight we go again tomorrow. Let’s see how many Pokemon I can traumatise in the bathroom. No wonder it went shiny.