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.

The view opens up

One of my Running trail runs is tough. It’s a muddy slog through increasingly thick woods. It’s a slow claggy run climbing through undergrowth that sees only glimpses of the sun. It’s very claustrophobic. Your on your own. A little voice keeps telling you to just stop. Why am I doing this. One step forward, two back.

But with patience and effort the going becomes easier. The ground levels out. The cover starts to thin and the distant view begins to reveal itself.

Then your out. The openness is initially disorientating but it’s been so worth the struggle.

Then a reluctance. A moment of doubt. Need to turn your back on the openness and head back into the dark. The way is back through the woods.

This trail run reminds me of our life these days. I head into the working week with trepidation. Too much to do and not enough time. Self doubt is king. Often so little direction and so much frustration. It feels like you are against the world. Battling uphill through mud. Our Son heads into 5 days of mainstream school. So little help. Fighting on his own. Not sure why he is doing this. It’s an alien world. You just have to keep plodding on but then Friday comes. Our hopes and spirits build. Then you arrive at the weekend. For two sweet days life improves. The week’s slog and struggles are forgotten. But so quickly it’s late Sunday and you face the trepidation of the upcoming week and the return to the darkness.

So we move on. The week calls and maybe so does the woodland trail. That’s our life cycle.

World Mental Health Day

Every 40 seconds someone loses their life to suicide.

Too many die in silence. We need to continue to change our society. Progress is being made but not enough. A stigma still exists about Mental Health and Suicide. In my country you die of a heart attack but you commit suicide. Commit is associated with crime. That’s just wrong.

It’s time for change. It’s time to make it ok to talk. The more we talk the more acceptable it becomes.

I suffer from depression. It comes in waves. When I was young I hated being me. That’s still with me today. Two big things have stopped me becoming a suicide statistic. HOPE and LOVE. Both give you the strength to keep walking through the dark times. Just a fraction of either is all it takes for many.

So today and everyday let’s try to give that love and that hope to others.

The soldier

A few years back I played in the same team as an Ex Royal Marine. A huge bear of a man. He left the Marines early. He would never talk about the service much. But occasionally he would drop the occasional line into the pub conversations. I know he had a really bad time in Afghanistan. I remember him telling me once that he might be a huge intimidating figure but he was not prepared for what he experienced. He then said but your not supposed to talk about it. He on more than one occasion said that he was not the hero he set out to be. He certainly struggled big time with his mental health since he left the service. One day he without warning just moved out of his house. Disappeared off the radar and no one from the team saw him again. I often think about him and I really hope he found a better place.

Similarly my Dad never wanted to really talk about his time in the army and the fighting. In his eyes talking about it just opened old wounds. He needed to bury the pain and loss.

Recently I came across this music video on a similar theme. It’s called He Died at Home. The lyrics from this Neal Morse song resonate because they are based on real events.

https://youtu.be/88e74WaQioI

*********************

William always wanted to be a soldier
“Army men were his favorite toys,” tells his mother
He was going to be the hero of the story
Live with honor or die in a blaze of glory
So he joined when he was seventeen
Kissed his mom goodbye
She wept as she packed his duffel bag
With notes of love and pride
She’d never guess six years from then
Tortured and alone
William wouldn’t die in fields unknown
He died at home

He loved the army, it’s all he ever wanted
To serve his country and look death in the face undaunted
But after a couple of tours, the fire in him died
You can’t watch friends be killed and stay the same inside
He told his mom “you’d hate me
If you knew the things I’ve done”
“I will never hate you
You are my beloved son”
He said, “no mom, the son you loved
Died somewhere over there”
But William didn’t die in the combat zone
He died at home

He came back ill at ease with civilians
His mother woke to screaming – it was William’s
The army shrugged and gave him more prescriptions
As William’s mind grew more and more distant

Before he died he told his mom
“Don’t bury me in my uniform
No military funeral
That’s for some who gave their all”
One night he shot the soldier dead
To kill the voices in his head
They gathered at the weekly wake
They have at every army base
‘Cause more will die by their own hand
Than fall in any foreign land
They covered William in the flag
But there was not a boast or brag
When asked how soldier William died
No one mentions suicide

The cause of death is hard to say out loud
The soldier who once stood so strong and proud
His mother looks away and simply moans
He died at home

Song by Neal Morse

Lyrics from songmeanings

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.

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.

Change

When grief comes calling your life changes. It changes almost everything. Your concept of time. Your priorities. Your dreams. You hobbies, Your finances. Your sleep. Your diet. Your confidence. Your mood. Your lifestyle. Your social life. Even the food you have in the fridge. It’s complete upheaval and your life will never be the same.

Almost everything. Grief doesn’t change three key things.

The world – it just keeps spinning, the world continues without blinking an eyelid at your personal tragedy.

BUT

Grief doesn’t change your love. Your special person may have left this world but you still love them dearly. More than ever

Grief doesn’t change your memories. They will be your special gift forever.

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.

Did it work

We were in the hunt for a distraction. Why? A grisly return to school providing a harsh reminder of how badly the system lets down kids who do not fit the expected mould. The anniversary of losing my soulmate and our sons beloved mum steaming toward us. So distraction needed.

After much searching we found the only option we could find which was affordable and which was just about in the required timeframe.

Off we went to see a Rugby Union match. England playing Italy.

Normally these internationals are played hundreds of miles away in London, are heavily oversubscribed and are far too expensive. But they decided to play this last warmup game before the World Cup in North. The game was just a few days from the anniversary. It had the added advantage that some of the tickets were heavily discounted as the seats were high up in the stadium amongst the clouds.

So it ticked a lot of boxes. Just two problems. It was a night game and our son is not too confident outside in the dark. The other problem is it was going to be a 50000 crowd – that’s a lot for a kid with Aspergers.

The night actually went quite well. The outside stadium entertainment and fan park was too much for son. Just a sea of humanity. Too many people moving in all directions. No pattern. So we quickly got to the seats. Once he was sat down and the world started to become ordered again he began to enjoy the experience. Interestingly he quickly switched allegiances to the Italian Team. He put it down to a combination of them playing in blue and “coming from York we were part of the Roman Empire”. Have to say it’s gone downhill for us since the Romans left. We did play the Monty Python game of what have the Romans ever done for us game. Lots.

The walk back to the car had to be handled carefully as a busy city at night can be so daunting. At least the walk across the bridge made him forget the anxieties.

So today our spirits have been lifted by the distraction. I think we are in a better place to face the anniversary. And I’ve got my first Christmas idea for our son – an Italian Rugby Shirt.

School

So it’s about to start again. SCHOOL. The anxieties are building. The sleepless nights. The upset stomach. The worries. And that’s just me.

For our son it’s worse. Far worse. He is already stressed out. Anxious about the return to that alien world. An institution which could not have been designed in a more anti-autistic way if they had honestly tried. A system which is designed for kids with dyslexia to automatically fail. An underfunded service which is not fit for purpose.

So he will get on the bus at 8am tomorrow with hope. Hope that school has changed. It now positively promotes uniqueness and individuality. Kids with specific learning obstacles are giving tailored support to help them fly. In fact all kids are given a tailored education not just the privileged few. The 1950s school infrastructure has been replaced with modern, bright and welcoming learning facilities. The strict rule structure has been relaxed. Kids are allowed to be kids for at least part of the day. Good dedicated professionals are supported and properly rewarded.

But in reality we understand what our son will face again tomorrow. A broken system where the bonkers government sees stricter rules for kids as the answer to everything. Stricter rules for kids and teachers yet wants less rules for those trying to make a profit out of our kids education. Yes an education but not the one we want for our kids.

The summer holidays were great but the fight for many parents starts again.