It’s very early Sunday morning here in Yorkshire. I’m dreaming. I’m dreaming big.
This week I was going through some old boxes that I had stored away when I cleaned mums house out. Looking for some old papers but I quickly got sidetracked. I found an old postcard. Wow, remember them….. It was one I had sent to my mum from my first trip to Switzerland. Many years ago. Pre parenting times. If I remember right it was sent on the first afternoon of the holiday. I used to write quite big as my handwriting is pretty poor. Not ideal with a small postcard. I struggled to fit mums address in the right half of the card. The first few words read of the message read.
“Hi Mum. Here safe. Switzerland is EPIC. I have never seen a land this beautiful, this magical, this perfect.”
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.
It’s just about Sunday morning here in Yorkshire. My mind is wandering in a land which is 1000 miles from here. A land of lakes, valleys, alpine meadows and mountains. A land which can be both peaceful and exhilarating. A place where my Heart wants to wander while living out its best dreams. I give you Switzerland.
A Yorkshire River. A bit of an odd Yorkshire River. It’s not in flood……
In winter the River is often several feet above the top of the sand banks. But in summer the banks provide a perfect place for Swift’s to nest.
As we walked along the river edge my thoughts drifted back to when Hawklad had just started school. It was the start of the Aspergers journey. it was before any expert help came our way. Two parents trying to get their head’s round our family life. We kinda knew he was on the spectrum but what did we know. Expert guidance was still 2 years away. It was such a confusing time. But one of my clearest recollections of that time was Hawklads’s reaction to people.
Hawklad struggled with meeting people. He wouldn’t make eye contact with anyone apart from his mum, dad and grannies. His hood was always over his head and pulled down over his eyes. He would freeze or have meltdowns if an outsider was too near. If he was in a room with others then he frequently would be found in a corner, facing the wall. Outside he would hide behind trees until the coast was clear.
Slowly over the following years things started to change. With so much hard work he became better able deal with people. Not comfortable but he found a way. He developed a slightly wider network of friends. Really close friendships formed.
Today we are walking along The River. We are avoiding people. We came off the path because Hawklad was struggling. The hood was over his head again. We headed in another direction as soon as an outsider came into view. If he couldn’t avoid them then he hid behind me. Down by The River he could hide away. He had the place to himself and he could tell his Dad all about the migrational pattern of Swift’s. It felt isolated but safe to him. Away from others. He’s comfortable with me and his best friends. Others just no way.
It’s Sunday so it’s time to venture again to one of our planets most picture perfect countries. Let’s take a walk down memory lane to Switzerland.
This week we go back to the Summer of 2012. A very different time. On this day our little family made its way to Kleine Scheidegg. An epic high mountain pass in the Bernese Oberland. It stands at over 6000ft, overshadowed by mighty Eiger and Lauberhorn. It’s a dream of mine to one day stay in one of the hotels here on the pass.
This day we caught the train from Grindelwald. It’s a beautiful journey which eventually leads through the Eiger to one of the highest visitable places in Europe, The Jungfraujoch. On this day we where only going part of the way but someone was too busy to notice having a Dr Who adventure to play out.
A meal outside and then it was the long but stunning walk down to Lauterbrunnen.
So we are deep into the Summer School Holidays. Actually in Yorkshire they should be rebranded as the ‘Are you kidding me, is this really supposed to be summer’ School Holidays.
Currently I’m thinking about some of the things Hawklad gets up to and contrasting them back to my school ‘summer’ holidays. Bearing in mind that this was before home computing and just prior to the mass dinosaur extinction. Back then my brain was officially switched off for 6 weeks. Sharks think they are so clever when they can shut down half the brain for sleep but keep the other part of the brain functioning so they can still swim. What’s really special is me shutting all of my brain down for the entire summer holiday and still managing to occasionally get out of bed by lunchtime. I didn’t need the brain to find Dads secret chocolate stash each day. That tin in his garage was always filled with chocolate cigarettes – wow how things have changed. I could also just about name Newcastle United’s upcoming fixtures. That was the sum of my holiday brain work.
Now contrast that with this ‘summer’ holiday. Hawklad is memorising the French kings and queens. He’s learning the outcome of every case that went before the Nuremberg War Trials. He’s also trying to improve his knowledge on UK Sea Birds. He has also been watching every season of the American version of The Office on the TV while at the same time also watching a YouTube series about the Roman Empire on his tablet. Apparently he can only get through both series in the 6 weeks if he watches them at the same time. That’s in between playing online with his friend who has covid and trying to build bridges to the outside world again.
Has he really got 50% of my genes or are those genes just heavily concentrated in his bushy eyelashes.
It’s very early Sunday morning here in wet and windy Yorkshire. A storm is raging and the central heating is on. But I’m awake and dreaming. Dreaming of what is still to come. I’m smiling.
It’s been far too long since I’ve stood on Swiss soil. A place which has been a huge part of my family holidays for years. It is such a place of dreams. So this stormy morning I will dream and yes many of those dreams will be set here.
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.
You might have realised by now. I’m kinda fond of Switzerland. Is started when I was young. As a teenager I was seemingly stuck in a North East English seaside town. Surrounded by pollution and poverty. The world seemed so far out of reach. Yet virtually every Saturday morning I spent so many hours looking at the photos in a battered old climbing book. One of the few interesting books in the town’s rundown library. The book was a gateway to a far off wonderland called Switzerland. Fast forward many years and regular family holidays confirming just how amazing this wonderland was in reality. The perfect location for adventures and living out big dreams.
It’s now been 6 years since my last visit. It does feel like a far off land these days. But I need to go back. I need to experience Switzerland again. I need to remind myself that this world is still a place of wonder.
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.