Seeing Him Dead and Alive

As I journeyed in my taxi  to my sister’s 40th birthday in Edinburgh on Saturday night I felt utterly alone and lonely. I have noticed this before. After years of going to events as a couple and returning home as a two, well, it just feels odd. I knew I had to shake myself out of my maudlin mood so I did what I have from day one. Since Colin died one of my coping mechanisms to keep me sane is to conjure up images of him in my mind’s eye whenever I need to feel him near. Perhaps this little trick  in itself is a sign of the madness brought on by my grief at this loss and I am therefore far from sane. On the day he died I saw him lying reading in our bath in Huntspill Street while I took the longest, hottest shower to wash away the hideousness of the day. Just as I could see the empty bath before me I could also fill it with him with the many images I had of him lying in it reading (it was one of his favourite luxuries to lie until prune-like in our bath reading his many books).  
In the days after his death I had to rely on family to put our babies to bed but when I finally did it for myself again, a few evenings after he had gone, I sat on the chair in Evie’s room reading her her bedtime story while pretending I could see his beady eye looking at me through the crack in the door. He used to do this if he got home from work early enough. He liked to survey the domestic scene of me snuggling our bathed little girl and talking her through the pictorial feast of her favourite book Each Peach Pear Plum while she interjected with her observations, ‘dummy, bunny, tootootoot trumpet’ without interrupting us. He would then break in at the last moment to delighted screams of ‘Daddy, Daddy’ and he would grab an enthusiastic cuddle for himself and get the final glory of putting her in the cot. 
On  the day of his funeral we had to follow his coffin in that awful hearse and I thought I cannot even bear to look ahead of me and imagine him in that wooden box. He is not there. I had been to see his body at the funeral home and I needed to not think of what I had seen that afternoon because that corpse was not the terribly alive man I knew and loved. Instead I looked out of the window as we looped a ridiculous journey to Putney Crematorium and I let my head conjure up Colin as I remembered him. I saw him throwing Evie over his shoulder as we passed one Common or another. He was wearing his black wool jacket that I loved him in (I’ve kept it) and he was laughing, open-mouthed with joy at his little girl. In another instant I saw him in his stupid, ill-fitting beige puffy jacket that I hated because he wore it so badly. It was hanging off his shoulders because it was only ever done up halfway and he was tugging at his hair, trying to bouff it up and create his infamous moussed style on a day that he’d not used a skoosh of his Shockwaves (he is the only person post-Eighties that still bought the stuff I am convinced). In another moment he was in his shorts and green T-shirt dragging his flip-flopped feet while talking on his mobile. I saw him pushing Isla’s buggy making faces for her and I saw him walking comedy quickly with a tennis racket while smoking a cigarette because he would have been running late for whoever he was meeting. I just went through a Roladex of moments in my head that would stop me even thinking about that coffin in front of us.
Nearly eight months on and I still do this on a daily basis. I imagine him in our new house trying to lie out in the new bath while complaining it is too small. I can see him in the garden with the girls. I can see him walking into the kitchen in his grey coat and pinstriped suit after a day at work standing at the fridge and grazing on celery and raw carrots even though dinner is on its way. It’s weird but it helps me feel less alone in this big old house with two little people.
After that cab journey to the bar on Saturday evening I made myself imagine him walking in front of me  down Edinburgh’s cobbled streets. He was wearing a black shirt, jeans and his toddler-style lace-up shoes. I know so many people reading this will be able to see him wearing this, his familiar night out attire too. Anyway, every so often throughout Jo’s birthday do I let myself envisage him standing at the bar insisting on buying a large round of hideous shots to get the drunken drunker and instead of feeling maudlin I felt quite happy and normal and surrounded by lots of family and friends. My first normal, large social gathering all done and ticked off.

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