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…..

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 revisited

I really don’t think I finished off the last post correctly about Cragfast.

I want to highlight something I have mentioned in the comments.

I am sat here with my iPad, in a comfy chair with a hot drink. That occasionally may seem like cragfast but it is most definitely not Hell. It just feels like that somedays. That’s human nature. Those poor climbers experienced hell. I read the truly inspirational stories some of my blogger friends tell of how they cope with life challenges – that is real adversity. They are the heroes who appear at dawn and bring hope.

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.

Searching in the dark

Just after my partner died I remember reading a book which suggested that grief was like a black hole. All consuming yet over time it’s energy shrinks and eventually it disappears allowing new life to replace it. I’m still waiting….

Everybody is different. Everybody deals with grief differently. This approach worked for the author but not for me.

Maybe another way to look at it could be that life exists outside the black hole. The black hole is always there. Somedays it’s powerful and sucks so much life force out of your universe. Other days not so strong. But the key thing is that although it never disappears a new life exists outside it – it’s your choice, your journey that determines how far you move from it. – that’s a bit of my inner Carl Sagan coming out in me.

My current take is a little different. It’s a dark place with doors – maybe it’s inside the black hole. My thinking is that when Bereavement occurs doors begin to shut (many permanently) on my old world. My old world will always be there I just can’t go back to it. It’s up to me to decide if I want to continue to stand next to these closed doors. As well as doors I will also discover windows into my old world. Those windows are too small for me to re-enter my old world but they do allow memories to enrich my soul. In the darkness other doors are created. They lead to new worlds, new experiences. On my grief journey I will come across these new doors. It’s my choice whether I decide to open the new door opportunities or not. Maybe I will make a few drinks, pull up a chair and take my time.

I carry my family’s trait of not having any sense of direction. What could possibly go wrong with me stumbling about in the dark trying to find some random doors…..

Silence….

5 Days 14 Hours xx Seconds

No my blog has not been sponsored by Jack Bauer and the 24 TV Production Team. It’s the time I’ve gone without speaking to anyone (excluding our son). I’m not sure if I should be proud or a tad worried. Maybe both.

So almost a week without a phone call, chance meeting or random conversation. Even on two long runs – didn’t bump into a single person. Its one of the prices you pay for living in a small village.

It’s an odd feeling. Have I been secretly ostracised. Has my liking for Nickelback finally caught up with me…….

I had assumed my streak would have ended today as today was the food shopping trip. However I managed to get round the aisles without uttering a word. I did smile a few times at random folk. Surely a conversation will be struck with the assistant on the cash till. But no. All the tills were full so I opted for the self service lane. No scanning problems encountered so the streak continued.

Tomorrow I have to go to the work unit but that is in a largely deserted industrial estate and I will be the only person in our building. So the streak may continue into Thursday. Hang on a minute Thursday is Valentines Day. Wow am I going to be seriously cranky by the 14th…

Anyway we have started a little wager, who will break my streak. I’ve gone for a random cold caller with my first words being “will you just bugger off”. Son is going for the postman or randomly a lost Donald Trump.

I will keep you posted…..

When dreams fade

The pre Valentine onslaught is in full swing. One advert claiming to have the perfect gift for my partner, every base covered….. Really – every base?

I’ve always been a daydreamer. As a child dreams of football, cricket, astronauts and mountains dominated. They gave hope. The years went by and still I dreamed. Dreams of happiness and a successful career. Then I met my partner and the dreams changed. Suddenly dreams focused on starting a family. Then our son was born and dreams shifted to happy family life. Few years further passed and it became more likely no more children would arrive – again my dreams shifted. Now they were dominated by images of us happily growing old together. Walking hand in hand. Sat together in Parisian cafes. Sharing new experiences in new lands. Dreams and hopes intertwined. Then the world suddenly changed….

Now I live in the moment, just focused on the practicalities of the day. When I daydream now (very rare) these are entirely focused on our son. Dreams involving me have gone. When I look – nothing. They died with my partner. No happy thoughts of growing older. Just the deepest blackness. I have heard this phrase used before. Living our lives through our children. It is so true. One role.

One day I do hope my daydreams return. Some things don’t change. I am still a daydreamer at heart.

Bereavement and Aspergers

Death is inevitable but so so tough to comprehend. It’s hard for a grizzly mile worn traveller like myself to cope with, what on earth is it like for someone so young. Especially when it’s now 5 major deaths in 4 years. He’s only 11.

My son living with his Aspergers finds comfort in routine and orderly plans. Bereavement doesn’t fit into this ordered and planned world. Suddenly the world shifts, things are never the same again. This complete paradigm shift seems to manifest itself as shutdowns in his processing skills. His fine tuned memory becomes vague and unreliable. Concepts and principles become just random jumbled images. Simple tasks become complex nightmares. All he can think about is that the world and his happiness will never be the same again. Completely lost in this alien world.

Another aspect of Bereavement is a sensory one. Our son constantly fights to control and deal with all the sensory inputs flooding his body every second, every minute, every day ….. hardly ever receding. He has talked about death ramping all these sensory inputs up several levels. Suddenly the noise in his head is louder, he can feel the heart pounding, his skin is oh so much more sensitive, the unsettled stomach becomes a whirling vortex. He is trying to understand death while coping with this sensory storm.

When Bereavement occurs so many worries resurface for our son:

  • Fear of his own mortality. Suddenly every cold, every encounter with an unclean surface, every bump, every cough is a potential path to death.
  • Fear of his Dads mortality. No backstop, no second parent. Images of sad kids in cold foster homes like Harry Potter or strict Victorian orphanages flood his mind. How many movies have this as it’s premise.
  • Fear about losing special loves he will encounter in the future. Is the safest option to just shut the world out.
  • Bad things keep happening so they must be the norm in life.
  • Is it me. Am I to blame for this.
  • I just can’t find order and rationalise things anymore.
  • You learn to love, you learn to trust, then it is gone.

I think that final fear underpins everything. Trust in life for our son is hard to establish. He works so hard to build those bridges. Death smashes those bridges, breaks his hard fought trust.

We have started the healing process. Recommenced all the stuff which has helped in the past. But each time it happens the path to recovery becomes longer and more difficult.

The irony here is that this post is about our son (my only focus) and yet those last two lines (without thinking) are probably about me.

We now try to move on. The motto we have adopted is ‘each morning we dust ourselves down and go again’. Next post I will talk about some of the stuff which helps our son. More uplifting. More humorous. It has to be that way.