Ghost letters

We have some really nice postmen who work our mail route. Even down to our third reserve postie who is equally nice and conscientious. So rather than just post an unusual letter he knocked at the door.

“Sorry to bother you but I don’t recognise the name on this letter addressed to you”

After a quick scan I confirmed the letter was correctly addressed to us. You see this postie only occasionally covers our village and probably only for the last couple of years. He has no idea, nor should he. We often think the world stops when someone dies and grief hits. But you quickly realise that the wider world keeps spinning. Only you and maybe a handful of others experience a shuddering world halt. When finally your world does starts spinning again there is no guarantee that it will get back up to the speed of the wider world. Until the speeds harmonise you feel out of synch. Not quite part of this world anymore. For me everything seems to happen in slow motion while outside of my bubble the world flies by. Sometimes I drift into social settings and no one seems to see me. They certainly don’t see the grief baggage that I am am shouldering. My chains. When I do reach out to make contact with the outside world again I often fail. As if I just can’t grasp it anymore. Part of the world yet removed from it. Maybe this is what a ghost feels like.

So when a letter arrives addressed to my partner and only two people blink. An efficient but blissfully unaware postman and me. You realise then that grief is deeply personal. Incredibly localised. All this from one of those letters. A random invite to a furniture sale. A mass produced advert. But the computer generated name on the front of the envelope changes everything. It reminds me of what I have become. Someone going through a process. Transitioning. Currently in the ghost stage.

Pesky New Year

A late evening walk. Not easy for our son. Full of anxieties. But he only had 36 hours to meet his goal for the year. Twelve new places visited in 2019. We had two more to tick off. Too many crowds at the places we ventured to over the last few weeks. So a walk in a desolate dark wood became the next best option.

New Years Eve brought a walk down a little used path. A path that took us to a couple fishing lakes. Thankfully few anglers today so we could have our space. Son counted this as his 12th new place visited. His goal achieved. Not an easy goal for him because of his social anxieties.

*******

Dad I’m going to set a target of 15 new places for 2020. Surely we can find 15 deserted areas. Maybe one or two places will be allowed to have a few people there. Are you going for any New Year goals?

Just my usual trying to end up looking like George Clooney.

Who is George Clooney? Is he cool?

He was Batman.

That’s cool enough. Don’t expect any help from me getting you into the Bat Suit.

No I suspect I would need scaffolding and a construction team for that.

*******

2020 goals……

The only thing I’m specifically aiming for apart from looking like a George came from a blog I was reading this week. It mentioned changing things up. So I’m going to do some writing which takes me out of my comfort zone. Not sure what yet. Maybe I will write a professional looking post. That will be a first. Any volunteers for the ghostwriter for that one.

2020 goals……

Apart from that writing one I can’t think of any new ones that will stick. This year it feels like just dusting myself down and going again. I do tend to struggle with Day 365 of the year.

New Years Eve. I hate it. I’m sorry I just can’t buy into the fondly saying goodbye to the current year. Let’s look at all the highlights. Then welcome in the new year. It’s a new beginning. Is it really. You wake up January 1st to find that your slate has not been wiped clean. Sorry that’s just me. I’m so pleased for the people who can see the New Year so positively. I just can’t.

This year we add the end of the decade. Pictures of people ten years ago and now. For us it would be a family of 3 and now a family of 2. Not going down that road tonight.

So for those who enjoy New Year then I wish you a really happy time. Hope it’s great for you. For anyone who feels like me – I send you all my hugs and we will hopefully reconvene on the other side of this pesky midnight.

Breaking his body

Running past this monumental feels like a daily privilege. Must admit running anywhere these days is a privilege.

The last two years brought injury after injury. Clearly doing the same thing over and over again was not working. Finally the penny dropped. But it did take the doctor warning me that actually I might have to PERMANENTLY STOP running and working out for common sense to finally take hold. Change was needed. A new exercise approach was put in place. Alternate Home CrossFit days with a day of running or cycling. No same exercise on two consecutive days. Sunday is a gentle exercise bike session and yoga. No pre exercise stretching warmup. If an exercise is causing the body pain stop it for a few days. If the exercise hurts again stop for a few weeks. If it hurts again then ditch the exercise. THATS IT. So far it’s working (touch wood). Four months of uninterrupted, mostly pain free exercise.

Change worked.

Our sons Aspergers journey continues. It’s a journey without a map. Who knows where it may lead. But I do have a gut feeling. The health professionals have talked about the possibility of our son becoming increasingly ill at ease with social interactions. Although from the age of 5 he has always struggled with this 2019 certainly has seen this intensify. Increasingly he just wants to spend his time in the safety of his home realm.

Although he seeks isolation from the outside world he struggles to be on his own. In our one parent, one child, mad pets kinda world that in practice means he struggles to be without me. With the advice from his health experts we have tried to gradually change things up to help with this. But it hasn’t worked. We tried things like him staying on his own at the house while I took the dog for a quick walk. Even though I would tell him the route. Stay in the village. Talk to him on the phone while I walked. The brief periods of solitude would throw him into a nervous meltdown. Any longer than 10 minutes and he would have to come looking for me. The only thing it achieved was to spike his anxiety levels. We decided to abandon the changes.

Whether this is Aspergers or whether it’s to do with losing his mum or both – who knows. But currently as a single parent I have to make the necessary adjustments to work around these constraints. One of which is that when he’s not at school my exercise programme is tied to the house or garden. Hence that rather puzzled look I got on Saturday. A group of walkers giving this rather odd looking chap a puzzled look. Even standing to watch for a few seconds. In the pouring cold rain why is a man in his garden dressed in shirts and a T-shirt jumping on and off an exercise bike to throw a 20lb kettlebell about.

It’s because I’m a single parent who can’t leave the house who has found a way to keep himself fit while not breaking his body. At least allow me that.

The river

Plenty of water flowing under the bridge. The water seemingly never ending.

In the run up to Christmas I was worried that it would bring sadness and hurt. Anniversaries and big holidays do that. As it happened yes one or two wobbles but son seemed to enjoy himself. That’s the only thing that matters these days. So it’s late on Boxing Day and soon Christmas will have gone. Job done. I survived.

But the flow of grief never stops. It’s ebbs and flows. The calm often masks the arrival of a raging flood.

Unknowingly my attention for weeks has been focused on the goal. The goal of giving our son the best Christmas possible. A real focus. A real direction. Caught up in the growing excitement of a child looking forward to time off from school and still hooked on most things festive. That rubs off on the parent.

Now it’s the end of Boxing Day. Heralding the coming end of that special time. The end of the focus. Suddenly it hits me. A new year. A year of more school strife. Son spending so much time in a place, an institution (sadly seems a more apt term to use than school) which goes out of its way to constrain, belittle and make him feel without worth. Hence another year of soul destroying fights with the authorities. Trying to squeeze more work into those hated school hours. Failing to find a way to rebalance the books to allow for home schooling. Adjusting to a world of increasing isolation which currently is the path of our sons Aspergers journey. Sleepless nights and tired days. Living in a country which is becoming increasingly alien to me. All wrapped up in another year without my beloved partner.

Tonight that is a truly haunting feeling. Son is in bed so no distraction from these worries. Suddenly I feel low. Very low. Feeling so unprepared for 2020. For all my fears Christmas provided a much needed boost. Something positive to focus on. Something tangible which I could have an impact on.

This haunting feeling will pass. It must pass. No one to step in if I shut down. Like most parents I will do what ever it takes for our children. A few tears tonight I suspect but tomorrow let’s make some more laughter for our son. OUR SON as it’s still our son. Yes I’m carrying the baton but he’s still our son. I just can’t drop that baton now. So after January 1st I will find a way to go again. Maybe it will be the year of progress. Maybe I will end up reposting these words next year as nothing has changed. Like the river I’m sure the bouts of sadness and loneliness will keep flowing. Constant stream of perpetual tiredness. But the good times and smiles will also flow. Yes remember that river – it keeps flowing – I keep going.

Kings, Queens and Telly Tubbies

4am When the world hopefully sleeps.

The bedroom door bursts open.

Sorry Dad can’t wait to ask. If you had to be related to a king or queen which one would you most want it to be and which would you be most embarrassed to be associated with.

Erm top of my head probably Queen Victoria and probably not mad King George III. How about you son.

Henry V would be so cool but he only had one child and he was pious so it’s not likely. Many would say King John as one your embarrassed with as he is seen as the most useless one but he was actually not as bad as that. Henry VII probably as his claim to the throne was illegitimate. Night Dad.

I then I had a bizarre dream about being late for a meeting with the Queen. A meeting which was to happen on a train in a random rainy town. And I got lost. At least Son had not asked about my favourite Telly Tubby. Getting lost on the way to meet my favourite Telly Tubby would have been a dream too far.

So at breakfast I decided to continue the historic theme. I convinced son to have a trip to see the beautiful ruins of a local Abbey. He wasn’t convinced but finally we set off. I really should stick to my level. The Telly Tubbies. We arrived to find the site closed until March and that knowing look from son. At least we got a few lovely views from the outside.

I gave our son the option of extending our trip but he just wanted to go home. Too many people about. That’s becoming an increasingly common comment from him. As the months go by he finds it harder to deal with social contacts. He can still cope with rock concerts. It’s because he thinks they are still very inclusive. Doesn’t matter what you sound like, dress like or look like – your just accepted. No condescending looks. It helps that it’s dark and noisy so it’s unlikely anyone will talk to him. He was also ok on our recent train night but that was onboard the train. Luckily no one was sat opposite us. On the platform he struggled. We basically stood inside a coal shed until we could board. He had been ok with the cinema but now if the screen has more than handful of people in then he can’t watch the movie. We were going to see Jumanji but the screen was half full and that was the end of that. At school he’s just not happy. The crowded school bus is becoming impossible for him. You can see the change in him when he’s back home. He’s confident and happy. Outside he’s nervous and wants to hide. As soon as we leave the front door his hood goes up.

I remember a conversation with a really good Child Psychologist who worked for a time with him. She thought that his social difficulties may well become more pronounced as he became a little older. She had worked with a number of kids a bit like our son and they had all found mostly happy life’s. But isolated life’s. One or two friends and some family contacts allowed into the inner sanctum. Pets and animals definitely. But the rest of the world – preferably not.

It’s early and things may change. He will follow his own path. I will be there as long as I’m needed. But it’s his own path and he needs to find the type of world he’s most contented with. A closed abbey with a handful of walkers being too busy is potentially an indication of the direction of travel. If that path takes us inevitably into a more isolated world then so be it. And for those interested my favourite Telly Tubby was Laa Laa.

Just like that Tree

A couple of photos of a favourite tree of mine. And Captain Chaos – saves an extra special cock of the leg for this one.

It’s sits on the edge of a forest. It’s in a field all by itself. Is it part of the forest or does that 50 yards of separation make it a loner – in its own forest of 1 tree. I guess it once was part of the main forest but over years the trees around it have died or been felled.

There’s a photograph from our sons old nursery which comes to mind. I can’t share it as it has other kids on it and I don’t think it’s right to show it without their agreement. It was taken when our son had just turned four. He was a kid which every other kid wanted to play with. Up to that stage no real indication of Aspergers. In fact I really didn’t know what Aspergers was. The photo has all the nursery kids and nursery staff stood in a group. The Nursery Team photo. All huddled together except one small boy. Our son was stood by himself about 2 yards in front of everyone. Giving the camera a real Paddington Stare. They tried to get him into the group but he just kept saying ‘NO I’m fine here’. Unusual for him as he was normally the one hiding at the back with a hood over his head as soon as a camera was produced.

Was he part of the group or was he becoming a loner.

Maybe he thought he was the leader. Maybe he thought it was his moment to shine. Maybe he just took a dislike to the photographer. We will never know.

A note was shoved through our letter box yesterday. The Village Committee are holding a village Christmas party at the little Village Hall. Children can come so WE could go. But I’m not sure I feel part of the village these days. The friends we had have all left now or passed away. The few I still know are elderly Residents and they will either be off to spend time with family over Christmas or are not interested in socialising anymore. So if we did go WE wouldn’t know anyone there. Part of me is saying WE should go as it’s a chance to meet new people. But WE won’t in the end. Son is adamant that he would rather do a spelling test than go to that party. A large part of me shares his view. Stood in a cold village hall with people who either have no idea who I am or with people who I share nothing in common with. They live in a different world. A world of dinner parties, bridge Clubs, Conservative Party Socials and going pheasant shooting at the weekend. You see the problem is that although I am living within yards of these good people – I am not really part of them. I once was but those close to me have either left or died. Slowly isolating me from the village. Just like that TREE. Hopefully the dog doesn’t cock his leg on me.

How does the mind work

I can memorise phone numbers, the stars in constellations, virtually every of the Mr Men books yet every year I can never remember what the tree which overhangs our garden is. Every year I have to look it up……

Dad why do I find some long words easy to remember yet some small words I have to keep relearning every time I see them

It is one of the great frustrations of dyslexia. When you read some words, maybe all words it’s always like your reading them for the first time. Doesn’t matter how many times you see that word it’s always like you have never seen it before. Constantly having to decode and relearn. Speaking with the health professionals there can be hundreds of potential neurological, physical, visual, environmental reasons for this. Often it will be a spiders web of causes. Some get answers, many don’t. With our son we have only just started to scratch the surface. Maybe the best we can hope for is by trial and error we come across stuff which help but we will never fully understand why.

I can sort of understand what our son is going through from my own experiences. I was a reading late starter. I eventually found a way that worked for me. But there are words that I still constantly struggle with. They stop me in my reading track for a few seconds. Thoroughly is one that I have to almost relearn every time I read it. I struggle with spelling. Autocorrect is such a godsend. Then you get words like There, Their, They’re. Every time I use it I have to relearn the rules on which variant to use. It’s as if my brain just blanks the rules as soon as I’ve used it once. It’s not that I don’t understand the rules, I just can’t see them, just see static. Never will understand why.

It’s like trying to fully understand grief. The brain processes it in different ways. Some memories are painful. Some items I can’t touch or look at anymore. Yet other items bring happiness and are almost like a comfort blanket. I drive past the first house we lived in as a couple and I often stop. It brings good memories and smiles. Yet I can’t look at my mums last house. It’s filled with good memories but …. When I go to the Dentist I should drive past the house yet I take a much longer route to avoid the street. I can go by the hospice where my partner died yet I become a shaking wreck if I walk past one of the wards where she was initially assessed.

Some days the brain relishes working on its own. No complications, no alternate views. Isolation is a boon especially when the world seems so alien to me these days. No awkward social moments. Peace and tranquility. Yet other days the brain can’t cope with the isolation. It’s a cold dark prison. The world is living outside yet I feel so adrift here in these four walls. No love for the prisoner, just got to do my time. It’s the same house and same brain yet different outcomes.

How does the mind work – it’s beyond me.

The phone

A couple of miles from our village a large TV event has been taking place. Something like 20000 people have been attending. But we haven’t seen a soul. The dog walk felt like we had the land to ourselves. Isolation.

This summer is probably going to be my most isolated ever (so far). Outside our gang I would be amazed if I have spoken more than 30 words to the outside world. Probably had more conversations with the plants (weeds) in our garden. It really is starting to show. Even something as simple as buying a couple of entry tickets leaves me a gibbering wreck.

Not had a single conversation with anyone in the village in months, Suspect the village are celebrating that. Even the postman has gone into stealth mode. Absolutely no sign of the neighbours.

A few years back I remember a clinician telling us that we should probably get used to the idea of becoming isolated. Get used to your own company. She had seen a lot of parents in our position get cut off from friends and the outside world. That seemed fine as I had my soul partner with me. Didn’t realise how applicable own company would become.

This afternoon I checked if our phone was still working. It’s not rung once during the entire school holidays. In fact my mobile has only had two brief work calls. As the months go on my isolation from the world gathers pace. I’m not sure if that scares me or delights me. It’s got to the stage that I’m not sure if anyone would notice if I replaced the phone with a large bust of Boris Johnson. Probably not.

I would hope that the Boris bust would become a favourite cock a leg spot for the dog. Suppose I would need to move it outside. Wonder if Boris would tell the migrating birds to bugger off back to their own country. Sorry should really give Boris his full name

Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson.

Ironically Boris wasn’t born in this country. Given his position on immigration maybe he should send himself back to America. Anyway I bet his phone rings more times than mine. A man who currently wants the UK to be isolated Internationally probably doesn’t understand what isolation really means.

Maybe I should offer my services. I could be the Governments expert on isolation. I did think about being the Government expert on talking gibberish but they have already got that position well and truly covered.