February 25th, 2012. Sometime around 4pm, I think.
It was actually like that overused moment in bad made-for-TV films when you see the main character’s world spin on it’s axis, or their vision narrow into the classic tunnel. But they have a point because when I saw the policeman’s uniform through the glass panels of my front door my world span on its axis and my sight narrowed so much so that all I could see was the uniform and all I could do was howl like an animal while our friends held me upright in my hallway while everything fell apart. The poor policeman didn’t know what to say aside from: “I take it you’ve spoken to someone already.” I hadn’t but it didn’t take a genius to work out why he was there. I had spent the last hour in a panic phoning the hospital because my mother-in-law had woken me from my baby-induced lunchtime sleep at 2.45pm in a state because she had had a call from someone attending to Colin in the street and they had asked her whether he had diabetes. I knew and she knew there and then it was not good because why would a paramedic call his mother to ask such a question if the person they were attending to were awake to this world. So there it is. That is how no one ever actually told me in plain English: “Sorry love but your husband is dead.”
The whole day is one that I can replay and replay in my head. I can take myself back to the very moment I last saw him alive and try to relive it second by second but some parts of my memory are sketchy. I can’t remember our last words to each other and just thinking about that makes me weep again and again. I see myself and I am sitting on the sofa practically pouring yoghurt into our 22-month-old Evie because she had fallen asleep in the car and we decide that I should try to entice her into cot for her lunchtime nap with at least some food in her. I don’t know where baby Isla is. We’ve been calling her the difficult child ironically. She eats and sleeps like a textbook Gina Ford baby and so she is probably already snoozing somewhere. We are late back from our shopping trip. Colin is running around the house shouting “Nic, have you seen my trainers/my red shorts/my tennis racket. And as usual I am calling back up the stairs with the locations of each item he requires. He needs to leave at 12.15 to meet Chris for game of tennis. So he is on the hop, framed by the doorway of the living room and he is looking happpy to be allowed to escape childcare for an hour. |He iis keen to get going. I think I said “see you in an hour” but I can’t be sure. As he goes he makes some comment about why it might be a little longer. I remember being a little peed off with this new arrangement as I am feeling quite charitable that he is getting an hour off at all. But I can’t remember every bit of this conversation and I so want to. And most importantly why can’t I remember if I said goodbye?
It was a normal Saturday morning, as far as a Saturday morning can be normal with a new baby and a toddler in the house. We’d been out for dinner the night before. Well actually, this was not normal. Isla was nine weeks old and as such our social life was restricted to tv dinners and me going to bed at 9.30. But our lovely neighbours and friends Paddy and Liz had insisted we take some time for us so were babysitting the girls at their house. I think they had been witness to a few ding dong arguements between us in the preceding weekends and were keen to allow us time away from the stress of being new parents again. We’d been to La Gazette in Balham, London and we’d shared all Colin’s favourite foods – oysters, cote du boeuf and creme brulee. We had talked about our future. Where to live, what we will do. I had asked Col if he remembered the girls’ births and he’d spoken at length about how they were sooo different. Gosh it was an evening I dream about now and wish I had known it’s significance.
Anyway, we came back to Paddy and Liz’s to pick up the girls and we all admired the nine week old Isla and he joked about getting me some life insurance and going to Beachy Head!! And then we laughed and took the girls home. Col kissed Evie’s head the whole way home as he always did when holding her and we transferred them to their beds. And then we went to ours. I kissed his shoulder and said “I love you” and we went to sleep together for the last time.
In the morning there was a bit of text kafuffling to organise arrangements for a trip to Northcote Road with Paddy and Liz and he did say isn’t it weird that I can now get hangovers after three glasses of wine. I shrugged. Then off we went for a morning of cafe trips and and and normal banter. It was lovely. The sun was shining. But we had a schedule. He had to be back for tennis.
Drive home. We sang loudly accompanying Evie’s CD to try to keep her awake. She fell asleep. He joked that that was it she wouldn’t go down again but poor me I would have to deal with it as he was definitely playing tennis. Got back. I fed Evie. He rushed around getting his stuff and then – did we say goodbye? Oh I hope we did.
I was so pleased after he shut the door to be able to organise a double nap of our girls. I thought I will just put my head down too. And that’s it. That’s when my life changed. I was off duty. Napping with with Isla beside me and I sometimes feel if only I had been awake it would have been different.
The phone was ringing. That’s what woke me. And then Evie cried out for Daddy. She’d been doing that for weeks because in the last weeks of Isla’s pregnancy he was always on Evie duty. But darling Colin wasn’t there and he never will be again because within an hour or so I would be answering the door to a policeman while his best friend Ed, his wife Emma Jo and our lovely neighbour Liz would be holding me up and holding themselves together while my world turned on its axis and my vision tunneled as I learned that our world, my world and our babies world would never, ever be the same again. Oh God. What now?