The weather

I bumped into a parent from our son’s last school this morning. A conversation started about the weather (forgive us it’s a British thing), Brexit (forgive us it’s a British madness) and son’s old school. Nothing remarkable. Then the dreaded question from the parent.

“It’s been a couple of years now. You must be over the worst now. Now the clouds are parting do you think it’s time to move on. Find someone else. Your still relatively young…”

Couldn’t believe it. What a thing to say. Relatively young. Cheeky bugger I am still only 24!!!!! I think it was 1875 when I was 24….

That conversation reminded me why staying in the house is often so appealing and cheaper – ended up sponsoring his son.ł

A year ago the main part of that question would have thrown me completely. I suspect I would have gone to Jelly. Now it just yields a deep sigh.

Every persons grief is different (forgive me I keep saying this a lot). With me the clouds do part some days but they often quickly move back in, blocking out the view.Like the weather I get fine days, average days and crappy days. The comment about you must be over the worst because it’s been a couple of years is clearly an unfounded assumption as every persons grief is different (forgive me I’ve said it again). Find Someone Else ….. makes it sound like I’m house hunting.

The photo is taken near Interlaken in Switzerland (forgive me it’s another favourite country plug – still waiting for my chocolate from the Swiss Tourist Board……). It’s quite a good representation of my grief journey. Yes the clouds keep sweeping in often covering the mountain peak. But somedays the mountain is cloudless. Same mountain vastly different mood. So unpredictable. That’s the weather for you (The Brits and the weather AGAIN ).

Sneaky Grief

Grief sneaks up on you. It often doesn’t attack head on – when you can brace yourself for impact. The big hits are the attacks from behind – the ones you don’t see coming. That song on the radio, an unexpected find, a hidden photograph, a surprise film scene.

In the U.K. Mothers Day is fast approaching. It’s not an easy day to get through but it’s no surprise. You have weeks to prepare. It won’t be fun but I guess it won’t be a complete meltdown. I suspect I will blog further on this again.

Taking the dog for a walk in the local Arboretum. It’s a lovely relaxing place. I was using the walk to get my head round a work problem. The mad dog was happy – a dog and an Arboretum full of thousands of trees …. Pup Heaven.

So I was in autopilot. Just following Captain Chaos from tree to tree. Starting to form a viable fix to the work problem. Then I stopped dead in my tracks. A sudden realisation of location. A sudden sinking heart. Suddenly hit by a sneaky grief attack.

In autopilot mode I had drifted into one particularly beautiful area. During autumn a place glowing with silver leaves. A place my partner would repeatedly visit. I can see her face smiling at the view. A place where she wants part of her ashes scattered. A flood of tears and complete despair. I feel very old and so very alone.

But thankfully for my sanity I have designated role. Our Son needs me. He deserves the best childhood possible. So I let the dog pull me away from the area to a particularly exciting unmarked giant Tree.

Put away the tissue. Breathe. Refocus. That wave of grief has passed but I know that the tide will return.

This funny book is going to make me cry…

Every Christmas my mum would always check to see if Terry Pratchett had a new book out. It was always her go to present for me. It became a tradition. Looking back she bought me every book in the series since the first one came out in 1985. I have read all of his books except the last one. He is without doubt my favourite author. Funny, clever, inspirational and with a boundless imagination. The last book was written as his Alzheimer’s took hold. He wasn’t able to finish the planned final scene as his heath rapidly deteriorated.

Sadly both my mum and Terry have now left us.

I miss those Christmas evenings. Sat by the fire. The new Pratchett book in one hand and a box of miniature Cadbury chocolate bars in the other (mums second go to present).

After mum left us I had one final discworld novel to read. But I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. It just didn’t seem right. The tradition was broken. I think part of me also realised that it would be a deeply emotional process as well. Memories of two stunningly beautiful people flooding the pages of the final novel.

But now the we have crossed the line. The Shepherds Crown has arrived by post. The 41st and final discworld novel. Tonight I will start this cathartic experience. It won’t be easy but as it’s a Pratchett novel, it will also be brilliantly funny. The mini chocolate bars will be replaced with copious amounts of black coffee. I don’t think I am ever going to have such a book reading experience again – it feels like a once in a lifetime event.

The process has started I read the first couple of lines. Even those brought a tear to my eye. This one is for you Mum and Terry.

It was born in the darkness of the Circle Sea; at first just a soft floating thing, washed back and forth by tide after tide. It grew a shell , but in its rolling tumbling world there were huge creatures which could have cracked it open in an instant.”

Happy Days – Spiez

Looking out at the rain and the trees bending in the wind. It’s all just a bit too grey. Sometimes you soul needs more. For us that was a holiday in Switzerland. We probably couldn’t afford it but was it worth it – you bet.

We always used the small town of Spiez as our base. A stunning and friendly place sitting by the banks of Lake Thun. A transport fanatics dream. On one side you can take the regular boat service (sometimes an old steamer) to explore the lake from Thun to Interlaken. On the other side a brilliant train station offering precision perfect links to the rest of Switzerland, Germany and Milan.

After a hours of exploring we always ended the day with a walk up through the vineyards to a small hill top with stunning views across the lake to the Alps.

Memories and views like that are worth so much more than money. It’s why my beloved partner indicated that she wanted some of her ashes scattering here. A perfect choice. One day hopefully I will do the same. So our souls can wander here forever…..

Blue Croc

Captain Chaos with his beloved blue crocodile. That poor croc needs years of therapy.

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When a parent dies it is so tough it is difficult to explain the feeling. That’s a so called adult speaking. Imagine what it’s like for a young kid.

I lost my dad when I was 21. He had been ill for years. I got the feeling during the last period of his life that he was trying to keep going just to see me graduate. Sadly he missed out by a few months. It was a numbing experience but the pain was mitigated a bit as I had been expecting it to happen for ages. I was sort of prepared. My mum died a couple of years back. It was a complete shock. But a five years earlier she had suffered a massive stroke. Doctors told us to prepare for the worst. Yet in a month she was back in her house – still able to live independently. In some respects it felt like the years after the stroke were a real bonus. She got to spend time with her grandson.

But for our son we have no mitigating factors. He had just been to his beloved grannies funeral and a week later his mum goes into hospital for some routine tests. His mum deteriorated rapidly and completely unexpectedly. He was visiting his mum in the hospice two weeks later. For someone so young that’s devastating.

We still get tears but now he can talk about his mum. He can laugh at the good memories. But the anxieties caused by that period of death are still impacting his daily life. He is so worried about becoming ill and also about losing others close to him. Today is common. We have had anxiety about catching illnesses. Worries about dying. On top of that every time I sneeze or cough he runs to make sure I’m ok. We try to find ways to ease the anxieties but it is still so tough for him…..

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Son comes back from school to be greeted by Captain Chaos and a well chewed croc. That’s one thing that works.

Ashes

This is another photo from Whitby. For some reason the WP app for the IPad refused to accept it yesterday. Maybe it’s my not new iPad but the app is becoming almost unusable. Anyway today the photo seems to work and it will get its moment.

My partners ashes are still in the house. We have a sort of make shift shrine in a room overlooking the garden. Now she has been joined by 3 energetic gerbils. She would like that. At some stage we will start to scatter the ashes but not yet. It just hasn’t felt like the right time (for both of us). My mums ashes have been scattered in a cemetery (with the help of a squirrel – see earlier post…)

I asked our Son about if he was ready to start the process.

“Not yet Dad. Dad do ashes go off”

Don’t think so. They urn doesn’t have a use by date on (don’t think badly of me, but I did check). But an urgent google check confirmed no safety time pressures. But it did reveal some additional factors to consider.

  • The Vatican has issued guidance that Catholic remains should be buried in cemeteries rather than scattered or kept at home. However this clearly doesn’t apply to Quakers.
  • Ashes containing bones don’t decompose so they shouldn’t be scattered around plants.
  • UK Law is fairly easy going when it comes to scattering ashes. Nothing specifically exists to prevent scattering. You only need to secure the landowners permission.
  • In Germany cremated MUST be buried in a cemetery. Switzerland are quite relaxed as long as it’s not for profit. France does open up a few scattering options.
  • In the U.K. it is legal to scatter ashes in water or the sea. The only restriction being that you need to get the permission of the water stretches owner. In the US you need to scatter ashes at least 3 nautical miles out (and inform the EPA)
  • Currently you can take ashes out of the U.K.. The Tunnel and Eurostar are the most relaxed. However Brexit may change all this.
  • In the U.K. it is ok to bury a pet in your garden if you own the property, it has domestic use and (if I’m reading the legal stuff correctly) the pets have not been declared as Hazardous Waste.

So for the for the time being I suspect my partner won’t be going too far. So I can give her the daily updates about our son. As my partner was so very organised I strongly suspect that if roles had been reversed then I would have been out of the door within months not years.

I hope this all doesn’t sound a bit too matter of fact or flippant. This post could so easily have been extremely dark. I vividly remember driving my partners ashes back from the crematorium. It’s burnt into my sole. I was fine until I got back into the car. I put the urn on the front seat and quietly said “time to go home my love”. Suddenly the Dam broke. I completed collapsed into a deluge of tears and despair. Didn’t stop for hours. My lowest ever point.

Deep down I am worried. I am not sure the brittle foundations that my new self is built on are strong enough to cope with another one of those final car journeys to scatter the ashes.

Anxiety

Anxiety is far too often an unwelcome visitor to our house. I have suffered from it since childhood. It got so much worse after the world changed. Never ending road. Virtual all the worries now focused on our son. Not sure I am that bothered about myself these days….

This morning I woke to that unwelcome guest again. So many voices in my head. All saying the same thing … son is due a anxiety meltdown. Unfortunately that was the truth.

Anxiety and Depression are real inhibiting factors for so many in our society. Research clearly indicates that the risk of suffering from these awful conditions are increased for those living in the world of autism. At least a two fold increase is often reported. Yet from personal experience this was never identified in any of the briefings or guides we received during our journey. It is just not addressed appropriately by society. This can and does have catastrophic results. In our case it took several years of pushy parenting before our son started to get some help.

It’s so difficult to unpick the anxiety for our son. Is it Aspergers related, is it Dyslexia related, is it bereavement related, is it human life anxiety, is it all four….

With our son we have a frequently returning swirling mix of worries and demons. They recede then they blast back. On really bad days they all materialise at the same time. He has many repeating spectres.

  • Dyslexia and it’s unwanted consequences.
  • Friendships and social interaction.
  • Not understanding this strange, alien world.
  • Fear of death (his, mine, his pets, his remaining family, the people he cares for).
  • Related to the fear of death is his fear of illness. Everything is catchable. Everything can be a risk. Every sneeze, every ache, every speck of dirt is a potential harbinger of a health disaster.
  • School. Homework, rules, punishments, no support, cold and scary environments.
  • Feeling different, feeling inferior, fearing the finger pointing, fearing being laughed at.
  • Running out of money, going broke, losing everything.
  • The climate, wrecking the natural world, world politics, Brexit. World is going wrong.
  • Being alone.
  • Having to fit into large social groupings.
  • Fear of being long term depressed.

This is someone so young.

Today it is the return to school and fear of illness. The anxiety vortex is building strength. The bag of tricks we try only helps take the edge off but doesn’t fix today. All we can do is just be busy. Constant activity. Try to stop the mind thinking. These apply to both of us. My world is full of anxiety today as well….

Sun sets.

We took the dog for an evening constitutional. This was three nights ago. Lovely sunshine then as the sun sets – suddenly the light was transformed. Not day and yet not night. The colours just so dramatic against the advancing black. Then just a few moments later – all gone. Just blackness. But no surprises, we know exactly when the sun was going to set.

Fast forward 3 nights.

That evening scene is etched in my brain. It’s such a metaphor for life, well my life. Happily walking along the path of life – so much light. Then suddenly a dramatic transition and everything changes. Within such a brief period of time the light is replaced with darkness. The big difference is that in life we just don’t know when this is going to happen.

I wish I had understood this a few years ago. We had plenty of time. We had years. So much time to have a second child, visit New Zealand, take our son to Lapland, spend every available hour together……. So wrong, so very wrong. So many unfinished dreams.

Please don’t make the same mistake. Seize the day before the sun sets…..

Cragfast

Somedays you wake and the world is full of hope. Yes it’s a challenge but you stride purposely towards the light.

Whether it’s the alignment of the stars, or the moon, or the lack of sleep or the weather or the cards are stacked against you or the demons have woken ….. but for whatever reason somedays the world appears different. You are alone and operating without a safety net. It’s is dark, cold and scary. Often I liken the feeling to a Tolkien like scene. You are stood on the ramparts of Helms Deep. It is cold and the rain pours. You are besieged by an evil army of Orcs. But this time you are stood alone and Gandalf isn’t riding over the hill top to save you that day. You feel like hope has deserted you. A battle you didn’t ask for and one you cannot win this day.

In climbing the dreaded word is cragfast. Basically you are stuck. You can’t go up, down or sideways. Less polite terms also exist for this ……

My mind drifts to The Eiger. Back to 1936. Four young climbers attempt to be the first to scale the infamous North Face.

Andreas Hinterstoisser, Edi Ranier, Willy Angerer and Toni Kurz.

On the ill fated ascent Hinterstoisser opened up the mountain with an astonishing traverse now named after him. Tragically they decided to remove the ropes they had fixed in that section. A huge storm set in so they tried to retreat. They discovered that the Hinterstoisser traverse could only be completed in reverse with the aid of fixed ropes. They were suddenly out of options. A suicidal decent was attempted. Over the next few hours three climbers died. Rescuers got close to the remaining climber Toni Kurz. But they did not have enough rope to reach him so they had to retreat leaving the young climber stranded. They left to the echos of a climber pleading not to be left alone. The next morning a second rescue attempt was launched but they found the young climber close to death. He quietly said “Ich Kann nicht mehr” – I cannot go on. He died feet from rescue.

The German 2008 movie of this tragedy “North Face” is one of the bleakest movies you will ever see. I have stood at the bottom of the North Face. Your mind can’t help thinking of those brave young climbers. Too many climbers have been lost here. It’s a truly cathartic experience.

What is the point of this post. I am not sure. Maybe it’s just about saying that life can be bleak and dark. You will come across times when you become stuck – cragfast. You find times when you are on the ramparts alone. You hope that when that happens people will come to save you. But rescues sometimes fail – even heroes stumble. These are the times you have to stand alone. Those are grim times. Times we must endure. You hope to just make it through the night. The morning may bring new light or a hero. Or you may have to struggle on for another day alone. It’s a sobering thought.

A letter dilemma

Out of the blue I received a letter addressed to my partner. It was a friend who clearly hasn’t heard the sad news yet. Reading the letter was heartbreaking as this lady had tragically lost her husband. She was clearly in a bad place.

This leaves a dilemma. Do I tell her or not?

I know the right thing is honesty and I should inform her. And yet…. does someone who is in such a bad place really need another piece of bad news. I told our son when he noticed that I was distracted. Interestingly he said that I shouldn’t make her even more sad. I had assumed his Aspergers Truth Filter would have made him say – just tell her straightaway. It rather puts a lie to the frequently heard argument from experts that people on the spectrum are cold and uncaring.

Even after a few hours I can’t make my mind up.

It doesn’t help that I remember when my partner found out about a friends death. She had met this wonderful lady from Channel Islands on a trip to China. They became good friends. I remember she came to stay with us for a few days. We hadn’t heard from her for a few months. Unfortunately a birthday card my partner has sent her was returned unopened and marked ‘person has died’. It had such a profound effect on my partner, I’m not sure she ever fully healed from it.

The circumstances are different but do I want to put someone through this now. I really don’t know. I just don’t know….. What I do know is that I can feel those icy fingers of sadness starting to circle my soul again.