That’s what it is

Hindsight and regret is so easy to fall back into. We all do it. Especially when you suffer bereavement. I do it. I could fill a War and Peace size book with all the missed opportunities.

  • The deterioration came so quickly that we never had that last proper conversation. The last goodbye. I guess the last chat was about sorting out her laptop for when she came out after the tests.
  • We never got to New Zealand.
  • We didn’t have that family Santa trip to Lapland.
  • We never got to Chile.
  • We never got round to trying for a second child.
  • The trip to Tibet and Nepal eluded us.
  • I never did get round to putting those shelves up which she really wanted.
  • Looking at the Northern Lights together remained unfulfilled.
  • I never got round to getting the clip of our sons first steps off the broken camera and on to the video so my partner could see them.

Plenty of time to do these. So no rush. WRONG.

But as that line goes. That’s what it is. Until someone invents time travel I just can’t change the past. Maybe occasionally in dreams but when you wake up it’s back to the reality. But this misses the big issue. Yes stuff got missed. I occasionally unintentionally messed up (maybe more than occasionally). We didn’t complete our bucket list. BUT just wait a picking moment. Look at the stuff we did.

  • Switzerland lots of times.
  • That first romantic trip to the Lakes.
  • The two mad cats and a savage Hamster.
  • The three trips to Disneyland Paris.
  • Buying our first house.
  • Those trips to France.
  • All those walks on the North Yorkshire Moors.
  • That trip to the Newcastle match when you almost got run over by the Juventus Team Bus and the Police Horse ate my Mars Bar.
  • That winter we got snowed in with 18 inches of snow. Days of snow fun.
  • The trips to the Peak District.
  • That stay in one of Britain’s most haunted buildings.
  • Skinny Dipping in the freezing sea at Anglesey.
  • That week in the Scottish Highlands and that cottage next to the grave yard.
  • That walk up Snowdon.
  • That mad evening at a Blues Brothers New Years Eve Dance.
  • The trip to the French Grand Prix
  • That week in the Gypsy Cottage In Northumberland.
  • The concerts. Even Ronan Keating – twice.
  • Getting to see some of the Olympics events.
  • Producing our beautiful son. The single most perfect we both ever did.

Too many great memories to mention here. That’s the stuff I should be focusing on. The memories which should be on permanent replay. You know what – we had a hell of a ride. That’s what it is. Thank you.

World Mental Health Day

Every 40 seconds someone loses their life to suicide.

Too many die in silence. We need to continue to change our society. Progress is being made but not enough. A stigma still exists about Mental Health and Suicide. In my country you die of a heart attack but you commit suicide. Commit is associated with crime. That’s just wrong.

It’s time for change. It’s time to make it ok to talk. The more we talk the more acceptable it becomes.

I suffer from depression. It comes in waves. When I was young I hated being me. That’s still with me today. Two big things have stopped me becoming a suicide statistic. HOPE and LOVE. Both give you the strength to keep walking through the dark times. Just a fraction of either is all it takes for many.

So today and everyday let’s try to give that love and that hope to others.

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.

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.

Autumn

Autumn is upon us. Everywhere you look the signs are clear.

The hedgerows are brimming with fruit. Intricate cobwebs everywhere.

Most of the swallows have now departed starting their six week trek to Africa.

Yellows, browns and reds are starting to dominate the foliage. Trees letting go as sad leaves fall to the ground. Soon the fruit in the hedgerows will be gone.

It was the time of year my partner loved the best. She loved the colours and the reflective atmosphere. A time she could walk quietly and just think. Now I walk the same paths. Today I was struck by one thought. My partner would have been looking at these same autumnal sights. Countless generations will have been looking at these sights. As much as you think the world has stopped because of your personal tragedy it never does. Life continues. The never ending cycle of life. The empty branches show the fleeting nature of life. Leaves fall but they will be reborn again. So should you – in your own time. When the time is right – it’s time to live again. It’s time to find a new way of blooming.

For me I’m still in the existing stage. I don’t tend to have personal dreams anymore. For years we had shared dreams. When my partner left us those dreams died. Now my dreams are my sons dreams. I exist because of my son. I live life through my son.

At some stage I will transition into the next stage. When I start to live for me. When I start to dream again. It’s strange how Autumn which is a time of life coming to the end of its cycle has sparked these thoughts. But maybe a better way to look at Autumn is that it’s a time of letting go before you start again. Rebirth. Yes that works better for me. It’s a time just before you live again.

The important stuff

Dad can we go somewhere tomorrow.

Where do you fancy?

How about the New Forest.

Sorry too far for day trip it’s a 6 hours to just get there.

How about Skye.

I so would love to son but it’s a full days drive.

How about Stonehenge.

Sorry that’s a 5 hour trip.

Ok let’s go for the Lake District.

It’s going to be busy.

How busy.

Busy.

Ok let’s go when it’s bad weather. Much quieter then. Let’s go to the coast. I know that will be busy but let’s avoid the beaches. Let’s try the bird reserve. Sadly it will be quiet as people for some reason prefer sitting on a bit of sand to than watching nature.

So it looks like a 1 hour drive to the coast then. We will set off early morning just in case of unexpected crowds. That’s the price you pay for trying to find quiet locations during the summer school break. Must admit I’m a little gutted that it’s not a trip to the Lake District. Not been in ages. Thoughts of mountains and lakes.

Then a bit of a grief wobble. We are now within 2 weeks of the dreaded anniversary so I am a bit all over the place. We both loved the Lakes. Maybe it’s because it feels a bit like Switzerland. Not massively but just enough. The grief wobble was about how few times we made it across there. Definitely twice maybe three times. That’s not enough times in the 18 years we spent together. We never found the time. What a waste.

But then just a picking minute. Let’s turn this thing around. The important thing is not the limited number of times we made it there. The really important thing is that WE DID GO THERE. The great times. The beautiful memories. The picnic with stunning mountain views. The stunning mountain walk. Waking up to the smell of freshly baked bread in the little hotel. Laughing hysterically as we got lost in a forest. The bottle of wine next to the Lake. The romantic meals…..

That’s the important stuff. Yes the anniversary marks the end of our journey but it was some journey. It really was.

So tomorrow it’s birds. Another memory. Arriving at the reserve and realising I might have been a bit of a numpty. My job was to bring the binoculars. Unfortunately I remembered our sons toy ones but the proper ones were really helpfully still sat on the kitchen table. Ops. My partner needed the patience of a saint. The most organised person in the world meets chaos.

What’s the odds on the same thing happening again. Suspect son will be less forgiving.

Real

There is a scene at the end of the third Hobbit movie where Tauriel pleads after the death of her love

Why does it hurt so much?

With the telling response from Thranduil

Because it was real.

This is a bit of movie padding as it’s not from the book. Tauriel is not even in the book. So it’s not canon. But frankly I don’t care. It’s a rather fine movie and the sentiment can’t be faulted. It is hauntingly true.

Before 2016 I never noticed this movie exchange. Now it never fails to get to me. How often do you experience real love and yet it passes you by. You seem to miss living in the moment. Take things for granted. Assume you have time. Plenty of time to get round to the important stuff after you have ticked off the mundane tasks. The tasks expected of you. In reality you may have little time. Putting love off proves to be little more than a foolish role of the dice. A gamble where the debt can never be paid off. Suddenly when it’s ripped away from your grasp love becomes so vivid, so obvious ,so painful. Yes it’s real but now it’s not just a memory. Your moment has gone.

It’s a stabbing pain. A pain etched in memories. I have a few particular memories which are like the most vivid photographs ever. All real and all so painful. Yes painful but they are about love. Real love. One is from a Swiss trip before our son was born. We were on a boat on Lake Thun. I had gone outside to take a photo. The image is me looking through the window and seeing my partner smiling back at me. Every time I see that memory a bit more of my soul dies.

Why does it hurt so much.

Because it was real.

17 years

These two beauties have been with us for 17 years now. My sister gave them to us as a house warming present. Along with two garden gnomes!!! My partner loved the plants but she hated with a passion the idea of garden gnomes. To save them I had to hide the two chaps under the hedge. I was supposed to have taken the sledgehammer to them. As the hedge grew the gnomes got increasingly buried within the branches. Now they are completely lost. Must have an expedition to find them one day.

The two plants have been stars. All those years ago I dumped them in two large plant pots and that’s it. Never touched them again and every year they deliver. It’s really poignant that they are still here and yet my partner….

I remember having a long chat with my partner all those years ago. Sat outside with a bottle of wine looking at these two small plants. Do we plant them or put them in containers. If we put them in containers we can bring them with us when we move. Our small bungalow was not going to be big enough for the family we were about to hopefully start. Stay here until the second was on its way and then move. However even back then my partner was always reading the property pages to find that dream family house.

17 years later I am again outside looking at the two plants. How times change. The wine is replaced with a herbal tea. A large part of the lawn has disappeared under a trampoline. The hedge is much bigger. The same two chairs we sat on 17 years ago are much more weather beaten now. The garden which was filled with conversation and laughter back then now feels a very lonely place this afternoon.

Soon the school bus will be heard and family life with recommence. The rest of the day will hopefully be filled with questions, dreams and smiles. It’s family life but certainly not the one we dreamt of 17 years ago.