Irony

It was another one of those Yorkshire days. Cold, wet, windy, brooding.

That weather combined with a pandemic, homeschooling and our enforced lockdown is a heady mix. A mix which gets me pondering life. Probably too much pondering some days.

I was sat looking out through the window at that dark sky. Sat alone while Hawklad did his school work in the bedroom. I was suddenly taken back to before 2016. The old small conservatory had finally fallen to bits. We had found the money for a replacement one. I think we planned for years of sitting in there, spending time together. But here’s the thing. We never really did. Life always got in the way. We always seemed to be too busy. If only we had found a way of slowing life down. Creating time at home. Seemingly having too much time on our hands. No excuses to not sit together in that new conservatory. At the time it kind of never really mattered. We had so many years ahead of us to do that.

Well that plan didn’t go well.

Here’s the irony that 2020 presents. Suddenly time has slowed down. Often a feeling of too much time on our hands. A lockdown enforcing time together. No outside distractions this time. A perfect time to sit with my partner and look at that dark sky. Thinking how lucky we are to have that time together. The irony is not lost on me.

Dads

That’s what my old Dad would have called a proper apple. Misshapen, blotchy and seriously tart. But with a lot of sugar it will make a grand apple crumble (crisp).

Actually that could be me. Misshapen, blotchy and seriously tart. I do like sugar as well. Actually that was definitely my Dad. Round here a better way of saying that is – he was well weathered. Another phrase is – he definitely had a well lived in face and body. He left this world when I was at university. So our son never got to meet him. In fact he never got to meet his other granddad. Which is sad.

Hawklad has asked about where their ashes are scattered. Unfortunately the answer is rather unclear. With my dad we just don’t know. How bad does that sound. Mum decided against getting the ashes back. They were scattered by the crematorium but we can’t remember where. We are not even sure that they were scattered there. It was one question we never got round to asking mum.

With my partners dad it’s equally hazy. He was scattered on a Swiss mountain top. The people who took them there have left this world now. The only person with a clue is me. The person with a capacity to forget important stuff and remember the useless stuff. I call it – Selective Total Recall. My partner wanted part of her ashes scattered on that mountain as well. One day she briefly described the exact location. I didn’t write it down as why would I need that any time soon…… So I’m a little unsure of the mountain and even less sure of the location on that mountain. Apart from its by a bench with some stones to one side. The ashes are where those stones are. Hardly GPS accuracy. At the moment it’s not really an issue. Travelling to Europe at present is not very likely for our family. But one day it will be.

Today Hawklad mentioned the need to get on with the ashes when he is ok in the world again. The pressure just ramped up a bit. I’ve started studying the names of Swiss mountains. Narrowing the potential choices down. If only I had wrote the instructions down. Still there’s a different way to look at things.

Dad we might have messed up the scattering of the ashes in Britain by then. The secret is for us to do that before I get to the age of 18. Then I can officially blame you as the legally responsible parent and adult. No pressure on me then….”

Vexing

Time passes. It keeps on passing. A wander round this small graveyard provides proof of this. Many of the once proud gravestones are now weathered beyond recognition. Time passes.

Five years ago I had just driven to the crematorium to pick up my partners ashes. They joined my mothers ashes on the sideboard. At that stage a real urge to get on with laying my those two precious spirits to the earth. Definite external pressure for this. I remember listening to one so called expert talk about it being unhealthy for society for people to linger on those who had left us. Maybe that’s the hidden message there – it might be ok for the person grieving but it’s uncomfortable for everyone else. Anyway it seemed like the right thing to do. The only thing to do.

Within weeks I had scattered mum on her family grave. I remember it so well and I have already wrote about a bizarre memory from that experience. I was alone in the graveyard. As I started to clear some earth away, to my side I noticed a little squirrel. A squirrel apparently doing the same thing on a neighbouring grave. Was it a case of burying nuts or was it a burial. It made me smile, two souls getting on with important stuff, maybe the same stuff, almost happy to have company there. Mum would have loved that sight.

Now time to get a move on laying my partner to the ground. Partly in England and partly in Switzerland. A bit of a logistical nightmare. I secured the paperwork to allow for the transport of ashes overseas. Ready to begin.

Five years later…..still waiting to begin.

Now I worry. Have I left it too late. Have I missed the window of opportunity to follow my partners wishes. Being a single parent and with son’s Aspergers, European travel is a nightmare – feeling like it gets more problematic every year. No similar excuse for the English sites. But it just didn’t feel right. Should I really put our son through more grief when he was still so young. No right or wrong answer here. We all need to do what’s best for our close ones and ourselves here. Unfortunately just like most things, just like European travel for us, it seems to get more daunting the longer it goes on.

Have I missed the best time to do it?

That feeling is making feel very anxious at present. Will we ever get round to doing what we have to do? Was life really supposed to be this vexing…..

Black and white

Black and white. Don’t worry this is not a post about my so called football team.

There is so many grey areas in my life. So much appears to be unclear, uncertain, ambiguous. But there is black and white. No ambiguity about being a widow. Well actually that’s not strictly truein the eyes of the government I am not actually defined as a widow – well like on everything else, they can stuff off.

Another black and white issue in my life is being a single parent. No getting around that. Currently it’s me and no one else. I am the parent, the legal guardian, the teacher, the school liaison officer, the cook, the chef (OMG), the snack maker, the cleaner, the money earner, the making ends meeter, the worker, the gardener, the shopper, the clothes mender, the thing finder, the voice of reason (ha,ha,ha), the trip planner, the censor, the nurse, the pharmacist, the shoulder to cry on, the person to shout at, the present buyer, the diplomat, the planner (wow), the fixer, the Aspergers expert (🙀🤯), the dyslexia specialist, the Xbox fixer, the person who punches the WiFi router, the telephone receptionist, the purse keeper (the Accountant is really the last person who should be trusted with this), the entertainment organiser, the dishwasher, the relationship counsellor, the tidy upper, the you got enough layers on voice, the worrier, the hairdresser and the kick them out of bed bad guy.

I hear people frequently talk about single parents as like a curse of society – Enjoying the easy life – Sponging off the state – Non stop trips clothes shopping, coffee shops, gyms and nights out. I’m sorry they have no idea. It’s hard work, never ending, full time commitment. It’s incredibly isolating. It grinds you down.

BUT ultimately it’s one of the most rewarding thing you can ever do. It’s so worth the sacrifices.

Red

Definitely red, definitely a blueberry plant. It’s quite a few years old. I bought it from a local garden centre about 13 years ago. It was heavily discounted and looking very damaged. Clearly it was close to being binned. I kinda felt sorry for it. Since then it’s been a plant that keeps on giving.

It’s nice to have those things that give you so much in life. I tend to find that the best of these often come from quite unusual routes. Not the way I would naturally imagine they would come from. That kind of makes them even more special.

This blueberry came into my world at about the same time as Hawklad. Both were about 1ft tall. Thirteen years later the plant has trebled in size – Hawklad is now double its size. Well at least I’m still taller than one of them….

This morning I was thinking about some of the other changes the plant has seen. Yes the obvious one with the loss of a key team member. Aspergers. Much less visitors. Much less hair on my top. Too much hair on top of Hawklad. A mad dog. The Apple Tree is more unkempt. A mole and badger have become nighttime visitors. Some nutter starting doing yoga next to the poor plant. Far too frequent storms battering it these days. The nutter sitting outside talking to the plant but now with a decaf coffee – just not the same. People walking their dogs in the farm field but now wearing masks. Hawklad talking about 4 generations of Xbox’s now. Four different cars. Three different lawnmowers. A sandpit replaced with a football goal. A garden shed replaced with a weed patch.

Yet the blueberry plant is still here. Still giving. Not bad for something that was close to getting rejected and binned.

Definitely red, definitely special.

Tomatoes

Sometimes it’s the little things….

I’ve just started my fifth year on my grief journey. A journey I would must definitely would rather had not started but now I’m on it, well I might as well make the best of it. And that’s what I am trying to do. For several years it was a nightmare. Just awful. But over time things have slowly moved on. Now it’s definitely good weeks and bad days.

I still get so many reminders of the process I am going through. Many of those are repeated experiences but every so often I still find new reminders.

I was checking the garden for things I could harvest for tonight’s meal and I came across these small tomatoes. Then a thought struck me. There was a time when this was not something I would do. Yes I would grow the tomato plants but that was it. My partner loved tomatoes. She would go out every day I see what could be picked and eaten right there and then. Those days have gone and now the ripe fruit sits and waits for me. That thought made me sad. But life has to go on. Hawklad would like a few fresh tomatoes on his plate. He currently doesn’t feel comfortable touching items outside so it’s down to me. Life goes on. Pick some tomatoes, think of my partner then it’s time to get on with living. Time to focus on the here and now. Find happiness in the world around me. It is most definitely there.

Pointing

One of the advantages of exercising first thing in the morning is once I’ve finished I get a chance to enjoy the view. It always amazes me how damp our ground can get when we have had no rain for days.

Clearly it’s very easy to feel damp. The weather can cause such sudden changes. It like life and the soul.

I was putting together a post for tomorrow. A Swiss Sunday post. Looking through some photos. Then I came across one. Looks like one of those family photos. I’ve cropped this one down severely. The photo is my partner sitting next to our son on a bench.

How had I missed this photo for so many years. It’s from 2015 and our last trip to Switzerland. The last day of the trip. My partner was not very well and on a lot of medication. We didn’t know how ill she was. The doctors didn’t. Exactly one year later she was in a hospice and she was gone a few days later.

Finding this photo shook me in two ways.

Firstly this might be our very last family photo. The last photo of Hawklad with his mum. Don’t think there was another photo with my partner in. I had never thought about that . Never thought about the last photo. Well this is probably it.

Then there is one more thing about this photo. A completely forgotten memory. It’s what my partner is pointing at. I think she knew what was on the horizon. That afternoon we randomly seemed to get onto the subject of where she would like her ashes scattered. She is pointing at one of the places . A rocky outcrop overlooking a beautiful lake. It wasn’t a serious conversation. Our son helpfully suggesting some interesting places to consider. I didn’t take it seriously. We surely had many years to go. Finding this photo has really shaken me. As I say I had forgotten about the photo. I didn’t know she was actually pointing at where she wanted her ashes scattering.

I really don’t know what to say.

One thing is that it’s a beautiful location.

I wasn’t sure about posting this at all. But what did convince me was one thought. You just don’t know what is around the corner. Don’t assume you have time. If you have dreams to live, don’t wait, try to do them now.

Lost Stories

That’s a leaf that clearly has a story to tell.

We all have so many stories to tell. Wonderful stories. Stories that tell us about life. Characters. Events. Even reveal things about ourselves.

It’s sad when those stories are lost. When the are lost they are lost forever.

I’ve lost so many people in my life. Friends, grandparents , parents, even my partner. All had stories to tell. One of my biggest regrets is that the importance of stories didn’t sink in until far too late. Not until they had left this world. So many stories went with them. All I can do now is just shake my head at the thought of how little I really know about those loved ones. Can I even remember how their voices sounded!

Now I look back and wonder what could have been. If only I had found more time to listen. To ask more questions. To write some words down. Maybe even record them. How treasured would it be to listen to some of those lost voices again, to listen to them tell their stories. Even just to hear those voice again talking about routine stuff. Just before my partner went into the hospital for the final time she left me a voice mail. Seemingly nothing important, can’t even remember what it was about. Why didn’t I save that. Why didn’t I save that last voicemail from my mum asking for some items from the local shop.

These are real regrets. Please don’t make the same mistakes I made. Some mistakes can’t be fixed.

A time to dream

Life becomes really hard when you stop dreaming. When you stop imagining a wonderful holiday, the perfect job, achieving a goal, publishing that book, being with someone, seeing that better life. Whatever the Dream is, they are precious but they are so easily switched off. I’ve been there. It’s a not a good place to be. After I lost my partner, my dreams did switch off. All I saw was a void. Nothing to look forward to. No reason to hope. Nothing was going to change.

I was lucky in that I did have something to drive me on. I still had to be a parent. Actually a double parent now. In effect my life continued because our son needed me. I lived life through somebody else’s eyes. Unfortunately far too many with dreams switched off don’t have such luck. That’s a dark, scary and lonely place to be.

But dreams are always there. It still can be a wonderful life. It’s all about finding a way of switching them back on again. It took me a long time but now they are back. I can see some wonderful dreams again. Now I have to nurture them. Cherish them. Those dream muscles need to be worked out each day. Make them stronger. Make those dreams more real. Fine tune them for me.

Hopefully one day I can harvest them now.

A new day

It is a new day. The world keeps turning.

This is what is best described as a free form post. Just writing as the words pop into my head and then I will post it. No checking or editing.

At virtually this exact time four years ago my life changed. Our life changed. I received that late night phone call. I didn’t need to pick it up, I knew the words that I would here. I was right when I did answer the call. It was the Hospice. My partner had passed away. Even though I knew those words would inevitably come it didn’t lessen the pain. The loss. I called her sisters and her mum. I decided to tell our son in the morning after he woke up. I then just sat. I sat all night. Trying to get my head round life and death. The new situation. My old world was gone. The door had permanently slammed shut on that place. The new one was already starting. But it didn’t feel like that . It was just blackness. No light. No new doors to walk through. Nothing. Such a big part of my life was gone. All those unfulfilled dreams suddenly binned. Nothing. What do I tell an 8 year old boy. How do I raise him up when I am utterly flattened.

Looking back. I handled that chat with our son as well as I possibly could. I bumbled through that next period of my life. Can’t believe how devastated I was but still the world kept turning. I felt like I was still looking for a new door to walk through but I just couldn’t find one. Actually that was wrong. I had already walked through the door, I just hadn’t found the light switch. That took much longer to locate. But it was there all along we just find it when we are ready.

Four years on I am filled with emotions and memories. I still feel that loss. I can still feel that dark chill to my soul which I experienced that night. I feel a deep sadness but I may not mourn today, we shall see. It might be a time for tears but it might also be a time for reliving happy memories. I will definitely remember the wonderful times we had. The ways in which our fallen member of our family left the world she found a better place. But I will also not forget that it is a new day. The new crop of dreams still need planting, nurturing and harvesting. I can definitely today look back as well as forward. Here’s to beautiful memories and new dreams.