Keeping Him Alive For The Girls

I came back downstairs this evening after putting Isla to bed to be greeted by the longest, most lovely, freshly laundered post-bath hug from Evie. It was minutes long. Amazing. She eventually pulled away, keeping her arms around my neck and her face close to mine, and said: ‘I lub you Mummy. I really lub you.’ It isn’t the first time she’s said the L word to me but it is the first time she has done it so intensely and so unprompted. It was utterly lovely.
I feel such a responsibility to these two girls of Colin’s to keep them feeling loved that everyday I make sure I shower them with hugs, kisses and affection. However, there are times when I scream at them and shout at them in frustration of being the only parent. So with her big brown eyes in front of me, full of adoration, I thought this is it, these are the rewards I have to lap up to keep going. I also know that I have to make a very abnormal situation completely normal for them so that when they reach school age and beyond they have the armour they need to protect them when the questions come their way about why they have no daddy.
A friend gifted me two beautiful memory boxes yesterday (thank you Sara) and it has spurred me on to work out the things I need to put in each of them so both Evie and her baby sister Isla feel connected to Colin. It has been in my head since day one but I haven’t done much about it. There is a huge bag of letters from friends, family and colleagues that need to be organised to go in. Letters that capture him in his life outside of our little family. Letters that tell me that he wasn’t just wonderful to us but quite an amazing colleague, lawyer, friend etc etc.  There are the memory cards that friends sorted to put out at his funeral which had a photo of Colin beaming out at people on one side and a statement asking those attending the service to put down their favourite memory of Col on the other. These have had me weeping and laughing as they have turned up on my doormat so thank you all. Such a great idea, EJ. All these things will go in. However, it’s the other stuff I need to think about. I want to go and buy his aftershave so they can smell him. I want to put in other records like his passports, his watch maybe and cufflinks if I can find a matching pair.
The problem with Colin was that he wasn’t that materialistic and anything of real importance he tended to lose in his kafuffly way. When clearing out our lives to move to Scotland I found endless potions for hairloss, loads of discarded used razors with bristles still on stuck to old washbags and inside his infamous striped dressing gown from 20 years ago, if not longer, (yes I have kept that too), fungal creams and what felt like thousands of squash balls everywhere but there was nothing of note to put in a memory box of any sort.
One friend asked me if I had gone through his clothes yet. Well, if I hadn’t moved to Edinburgh I would probably still be living with all his clothes, shrine-like, in our cupboards so no I hadn’t, which was good because she gave me a massive tip. She’d lost her father young and her favourite thing was to wear a slouchy shirt of his when she felt she wanted to be closer to him. When I eventually did get around to packing up our bedroom and getting rid of stuff I kept so many of his shirts, the T-shirts that remind me of him and that he wore most in any photos I have of the girls with him and randomly his ties. My mum is going to make a patchwork quilt for each of the girls from his shirts and maybe his ties, I will donate several of the softest ones to them both, intact, so they can feel engulfed in a virtual cuddle from their dad as they get older and meanwhile I will wear his T-shirts to bed. Sorted. The rest of his clothes went to a charity shop in Earlsfield the week before I moved to Edinburgh. I think I had left it that long so I wouldn’t be greeted by his stuff appearing in the window of said shop everytime I walked along Garratt Lane. Sod’s Law does exist though because when I was down recently and I stayed with our close friend and neighbour, wouldn’t you know, there, as I walked back from Earlsfield station, was a pair of Colin’s shoes hanging in the window. Great. Anyway, that aside I feel I have kept all that I can for the girls so that as the years go by Evie and Isla will feel that they know enough of their daddy to say, just like Evie said with such conviction to me this evening, that they truly love their wonderful father.

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