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.

Where are the cobwebs

Autumn is definitely here. The flowers have gone. Many of the trees are bare. The leaves that remain have increasingly turned vivid red. My partner loved this time. She would find any excuse to spend time outside. Just looking at the colours. Today looking at the reds in the garden I have purpose. These eyes are looking for her as well. I try to spend an extra minute. Spending as much time as she would.

Before the world changed my partner would be fixated on the colours but I would have other things on my mind. Cobwebs. I love Autumn for the intricate and beautiful cobwebs which begin to take over our world. The young spiders have had all summer to grow. It’s also a time when spiders are out looking for mates. AND the weather and the dampness are perfect for adding to the cobwebs drama.

The weather is perfect but for some reason the cobwebs are largely missing. Still no abundant arachnid display. Maybe next week. Then we can be both happy. But at least this weekend we did get one cobweb. Hopefully it’s the start of Autumn becoming complete.

Yorkshire Chilli

After years of trying to grow just one chilli in the subtropical climate which is Yorkshire we get to this. In about 10 years this is as good as it gets. Two huge Guinness Book of Record Largest Chilli winners. But after all the years of failure I will take these mini wins.

The one thing you learn with bereavement is that every persons grief journey is different. Regardless of what the textbooks tell you ITS UP TO YOU to find your own route through the minefields you find yourself stuck in the middle of. Some can do it within months. Others it takes longer, sometimes much longer.

I was listening to a bereaved man on the radio. He had starting dating again within a couple of months of the funeral. He was remarried within 6 months. In his words he had ‘grieved for about 6 weeks then it was time to start again”. When asked if he still grieved he said ‘No I have moved on’. That was his way through and out of the minefields.

One of the saddest and most beautiful things I have ever heard was an elderly chap who had lost his wife. Every wedding anniversary he took his wife’s ashes out to the same restaurant. He would sit and have his meal alone with the ashes. Nobody knows what he would say but he frequently cried. He’s been doing that for over 20 years. Maybe that’s someone who has chosen not to leave the minefield.

I’ve been in the grief minefield for 3 years now. But that’s only part of the story. No real time to grieve as I had to step up to being a single parent. I needed (still need) to give our son the best possible childhood he could possibly have under these circumstances. In my brain parenting became more important than grieving. My way out of the minefield frequently became muddled and lost . What happened was often parenting driven rather than grief oriented. For example.

Three years of virtually no social contact happened not because of grief rather because of having a young kid with Aspergers.

In those three years my not so great social skills have become extremely limited.

Last week I had a lunchtime coffee with four of the mums from our sons school. I’ve done that a couple of times over the last 3 years. It’s only for 30 minutes or so. In my case it’s now Peppermint Tea rather than Coffee. It’s about my only non-son social life these days, certainly since the world changed. Talk about wooden. I end up just listening. Luckily the mums are really nice and I think they understand. It’s a start. A little dip of the toe back into the big bad world. It’s a mini win. At least I’m not still in the middle of the minefield.

So like the chilli in Yorkshire. I will take the little wins. I think it shows that I probably want to make my way out of the minefield eventually but I have to admit – I’m not entirely certain about that….

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.

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.

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.

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.

Voice

It’s been one of those Yorkshire days. Long periods of rain punctuated with spells of stair rod duck weather. It’s the perfect weather for a leaking back door. If we had ducks then they would be happily swimming about in the utility room. I know what the rich must feel like now – an indoor pool. Looking at ours I really don’t see what all the fuss is about.

It’s was similar weather three years ago when I had to go and see the solicitor about my partners will. I was in such a daze that I hadn’t realised that I had forgot to put a coat on when I got out of the car. Within minutes I was a drowned rat but I only realised when I saw my disheveled reflection in a shop window. Previously I would have had an angelic voice quietly whisper – why don’t you put a coat on dear. It’s the one thing I have never adjusted to. Not having that caring soul help guide this bumbling fool through the twist and turns of life. That’s probably why I still tend to avoid social gatherings. Not sure I trust myself.

I’m so blessed to have been with that caring soul for a wonderful 17 years. It’s created so many memories. Fortunately years of over using the camera has created multiple photo albums filled with these memories. Those photographs tell our story perfectly. But one thing is missing and it’s so haunting. I just can’t seem to remember her voice. After all those years we spent together how can I forget something so important. I just can’t get it right in my memories.

So I have been trying to find a video with my partner talking. So many videos taken but they all focus on our son. Then I came across our old video camera. The one we bought during the pregnancy. The one which has been gathering dust since mobile phones became the memory recorder of choice. No luck so far but I did come across something which completely floored me. A mini video disc marked up as sons first walk.

When it happened I had picked our son up from nursery. My partner was still at work. Son was sat on the floor singing away so I started filming him. Within seconds he managed to pull himself up and waddled across to me. All captured on film. Unfortunately our dvd was broken at the time so we couldn’t replay it. So I said I would go into the city and get it transferred to video. I kept putting it off. I never got round to it. Over time the disc was forgotten about. I never did share that moment with my partner.

You assume you have all the time in the world but in reality you never know how much sand is left in the egg timer.

It so important that we remember to seize the day. Don’t assume you will get another chance tomorrow.

So the voice hunt will continue. I know somewhere I will find it. Then my memories will be complete. And again I will hear my angelic angel.

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.