If your going to be a tree this is not a bad place to take root. Not a bad view at all.
Hawklad’s Granny thought so as well. One hundred paces away lies our garden and in a few weeks her ashes will get scattered there. In a quiet corner overlooking that view. It’s taken a while, a pandemic happened.
My mind goes back a few years. After my partner died, her mum would come out to see us every Sunday. She would always look out over that view. One Morning she quietly said
‘You don’t mind if my ashes are scattered in that corner.’
Of course not.
‘You are planning to weed it…..’
So my project over the next few weeks is to weed that garden corner. Clear the nettles on the other side of the fence. Clear that VIEW.
Another year and another anniversary. Time passes. It never stops. It never stops.
These words will go live almost 5 years to the minute when I received that call from the Hospice. That conversation has faded into the mists of time now. I remember just a few words “I am so sorry”.
The first two anniversaries were so tough. I was in a bleak place. I couldn’t understand why my time had stopped but the world kept turning. It never missed a beat. How could that be possible. One thought dominated. Why her, why not me. The wrong person went. Over an over, the same thought. I was kinda rooted to the spot. No dreams left intact. Living purely through the eyes of our son.
Now it’s 5 years. What does an anniversary feel like now.
More like any other day. Does that sound bad….Even for me time doesn’t stop. Yes some moments spent remembering. Maybe not enough moments. But I know now. Those times have gone. The good and bad times. Just memories now. Time has moved on. I have moved on. New Dreams. Time moves on.
I won’t lie to you. Yes I still sometimes think -‘maybe it should have been me’. But……There is a phrase that can grind on me but in this case it’s true.
It is what it is.
Yes it is. That’s how it’s worked out. I can’t change it.
Memories are in the past, locked in time. I need to deal with today. Yes it’s an anniversary but it’s also another parenting day. Time doesn’t stop, even on an anniversary. Yes hopefully time for memories but also time to dream.
So how does this anniversary feel. Important YES but i realise it’s just about the past. Important but not as important living. So what does it feel like. It feels like today. It feels like the gateway to the future.
Memories will come but forgive me I need to dream first.
A small family trip to the moors. A carpet of pink.
I’ve always considered my family pretty close knit. No conflicts. No splits. Yes we got geographically spread but we still kept in regular contact. Regular visits.
Then three things happened .
Mum left us…..It wasn’t until she was not there anymore that I noticed that she was the gravitational force that held us together. We would frequently meet up at her house. We would have family get togethers but these usually happened because of mum. We would make the effort because of mum. Now that force of attraction has gone, the family meet ups are becoming less frequent and fewer turn up when they do happen.
Lockdown……The less frequent meet ups STOPPED for over 18 months. One sister who I would see really frequently has ended up not seeing Hawklad in over 2 years now…. Brother its 3 years now.
Time……As time passes we develop our own worlds. New families.
So we had a small meet up today and it felt strange. We should have had plenty to talk about, lots of catching up to do. It never happened. Even though we were physically close there still seemed to be a distance. Even Hawklad felt it. He pulled his hoody fully up – that’s a sign that he wasn’t comfortable. That never used to be the case.
When will the next meet up be, who knows. Zero sign of getting all the brothers and sisters together. The last time that happened was my partners funeral. The slow drifting apart of my family is sad but it feels kinda inevitable.
No one likes to be the odd one out. Or is it in the ‘roll down the hill competition’ one clever hay bale has picked the better racing line. I certainly would need a mighty fine racing line to win any race. The pinnacle of my athletics career was at school. For some reason in the inter schools tournament I had been picked for three events.
Cross Country – that was purely on the basis that in the school trials most of the other boys absconded just after the start and headed for the sea front amusements. I didn’t abscond but I did manage to get lost. However that feat still got me a place on the team as unbelievably getting lost still got me third place. Yes it was a rough school…..
Shot Put – I was the sole representative from the school as I was the only boy apparently trusted to not use the heavy ball as a weapon…..
And then there was the 100 yard sprint (not metres as the caretaker didn’t have a metric measuring tape). Can’t remember what possessed the teacher to pick me as I have the acceleration of a sleeping snail who has been superglued to the floor. We practiced starts and I remember the teacher screaming at us to remember to ‘GO on the B of the Bang from the starter gun’. I never found out how the school got hold of a gun – I assume it was confiscated from a pupil…… The three boy sprint team became a finely drilled starting unit. Unfortunately on the day of the school tournament, the sprint was started with a whistle and us three boys just stood there like lemons as the competitors from other schools raced across the finishing line.
At least I was not stood alone ….
AND I’m not alone as a single parent. Currently there is something like 2.8 million other single parents in the UK. I’m also not alone in being a widow. 6.4% of the UK population are widowed.
Another cool and breezy Yorkshire summer’s day. The kinda day that always works better with black and white.
It’s five years to the day that I found out from the Consultant that my partner had weeks to live and was likely never to regain full consciousness again. From that day life changed. Not a gradual, planned change. This was a sudden, seismic explosion. Almost everything seemed to cave in. Nothing would ever be the same again. Those doorways onto my then current life slammed shut and locked forever.
The one single thing that kept me going back in 2016 was Hawklad. I had one job now. Give him the best possible childhood I couldpossibly manage, on my own. At that stage I was living purely though my son’s eyes. Change had to somehow work for him .
Life was now different. Unplanned. Very much unscripted. It felt like that the life that had gone before was a more protected. More manageable. This new world seemed very real, very scary with no protection. But I guess that’s change for you. Often it’s too easy to have a change of heart. Avoid the consequences of change. Stick with the your current hand. But in that bleak 2016 moment, sticking with what I had was not an option. Change was happening and there was nothing I could do to stop it. That’s such an unnerving feeling.
Life has changed for me. There was nothing I could do to stop that. Some of that change was awful. Soul destroying. In the immediate aftermath most things felt that way. But now five years later the change that was forced upon me has largely worked out. And whisper it, much of the change has been positive or was in practice badly needed anyway. And yes in some really important areas things are actually better now than they have ever been.
If I wander around a graveyard I notice the old headstones. The stones that have been weathered for centuries. The etched names now gone forever. .
My mum told me once “Just put me in a cardboard box and bury me. Then get on with your life. “
Bereavement and loss is an individual thing. Each grief journey is different. It took me a few years to figure mine out. I probably spent too much time living in the past and not enough time getting on with my life.
But now the balance feels better. Much more time focused on today. But each day I don’t let those names fade. Those that I have lost and yes I include pets. I find a quiet place, maybe the garden at night. Then I spend 5 or 10 minutes and recall great memories. I say those names out loud.
This way I don’t forget to live but I also don’t forget.
As I’m writing this, it is almost 5 years to the minute that I last spoke to my mum. She was in hospital and planning to go home. Ok the doctors weren’t planning on her going home for another week or so, but mum was stubborn. A battle of wills was brewing. I can’t remember what we talked about that evening. How often is that the case. I can remember being given a shopping list to fill her home refrigerator – remember she was going home.
We didn’t see the overnight relapse coming.
Yes I really miss her. My sibling do as well. She was the gravity that held us together.
But I’m not sad. Not today. She would have used a Yorkshire cricket expression – ‘had a long innings‘. She did. Lots of great memories. Lots of smiles. That’s what I see now. And today lots of ‘tea and biscuits’. That’s exactly what you got every time you went to see mum. Within seconds you found a biscuit in your hand, as if by magic. Even if you were on a diet that biscuit founds it’s way into your hand. Followed by a reassuring ‘that diet can start tomorrow, how about a piece of apple pie…”
Looking over the Vale of York I was pondering life. Pondering the wonderful things that I already have and what extra wonders might still come my way. I can definitely still dream big.
If you had asked me back in 2016 and 2017 I would have scoffed at the thought. Grief cruelly robbed me of many things including dreams. My dreams require a vision of future. Back then I could see no future, just a black void. I could only live through my son. It was his future and nothing else. Give him the happiest childhood possible. One day he would leave home and for me, that was it.
But with time dreams did come back and when they did it was like a dam bursting. I could hope again. I could see positive futures. Yes the old dreams are gone but new and very different dreams have replaced them.
Hope and dreams might be hidden but they are usually there somewhere. Maybe it just needs a bit of time and a period of pain. Maybe they need a chance meeting or a seemingly random event. But when dreams are rediscovered they might just be better than ever.
There’s a chap in the village who is an artist. A really really good artist. Has exhibitions. He has a talent for creating beauty. Even in his garden. He lets his garden go native. Will occasionally tidy it up but mainly just let’s nature sort the rest out.
Well this is what happens he does this…
This artist lost his partner a three years back. It really hit him hard. His world fell apart. Yet over time he has got going again. He has returned to making new art. He’s carrying on. He would give me a progress report every time I walked past his garden with Captain Chaos. Whisper it – the Cap likes contributing to this nature show in his own very unique way…. We talked about sitting down and having a longer chat.
Hopefully over the next couple of months I can pop over and he can show me his studio. We can have that coffee that has been on hold since the pandemic swept the world. We talked about doing this 15 months ago.
The 6 week summer school break is only a month away now. Not long. 30 days. Lots to do in that time. Even more after today.
Hawklad has decided that he wants a stress free as possible summer. Summer is difficult as he can remember the summer of 2016. First day of the summer holidays his granny died and then as the school returned he lost his mum. So summer can be tough even without his current anxieties levels.
Stress free means reducing exposure to those triggers that can escalate his worries. And what is one of the most common triggers. Movies and TV shows. I’ve frequently talked about how often story lines involve death, illness, broken families……
So I have a task. Compile a list of movies and shows that Hawklad can watch which are SAFE. No sadness, no illness, no bereavements. 6 weeks is a long time, so it’s going to have to be some list.
Here’s my list so far
Alvin and the Chipmunks
Wallace & Gromit
Kicking and Screaming
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Night at the Museum
The Lego Movie
Fantastic Mr Fox
Big Mommas House
The Office (US) but avoiding a couple of episodes
Any suggestions greatly appreciated. Remember no triggers. For example The Guardians of the Galaxy – top movie but just NO to the start…. For example Mary Poppins Returns – great movie but mum dies…. For example the Disney movie I’ve forgotten the name of at the weekend , really good apart from the one line about a serious illness.