Today Evie scootered her little heart out on one of her most prized Christmas presents. I was so proud as she tootled off into the distance. What makes me sad though is that moments like those are sometimes the ones I miss Col most. He would have been so enthusiastic and overjoyed yet absolutely fearful for her head, her limbs and her beautiful little face. I miss him most when the girls do something that is probably run of the mill to the rest of the world but to two loving parents it marks an amazing achievement. There is something quite indulgent between two parents when their baby a. finds its hands b. says a word c. claps d. scooters her little heart out that others can smile and nod and indulge you a little but there is nothing quite like sharing that moment in time with the person you made that little person with. I can only think I will keep having these moments for the rest of my life with Evie and Isla. There will be school nativities, school reports, exam results, weddings and so on and I will always feel that I don’t have that person to nod and smile with quietly knowing that we two brought that person up and helped make them who they are. That is something that breaks my heart again, again and again. Oh and again once more.
I used to say to Colin I had a whole host of ‘future memories’ that would make our life – Evie in her nightie on holiday sitting on our knees on the veranda of the villa we got engaged at, knowing she should be in bed but laughing at mummy and daddy arguing over scrabble (it was a holiday tradition), Evie and Isla playing together on the beach as the sun went down or the four of us cycling for bread on a French break (ridiculous I know but we did always think we would have those idyllic holidays in the French countryside because that was one of his most memorable childhood trips…to some sort of piggery in the middle of nowhere). Now I know I will have those future memories (perhaps not the pig farm bit but the school things and hopefully the rest too) but they will be mine alone and not his and that makes me weep as I am now.
So Christmas came and Christmas went. It is strange that it all felt so normal yet so unreal to not have Colin with us as we ate, drank and made merry with the questions from the new Pointless boardgame. However, it almost felt like it marked a change in my perception of life. The last 10 months have been an unreality where I have suspended the actuality of Colin no longer being here. I know he is not but him not being there on Christmas Day really brought it home to me that he isn’t coming back. I don’t know where my head thinks he has been hanging out for the majority of the year but I realise that day to day I have been kidding myself that this situation is not permanent. And it is and however sad that makes me feel I have to accept it and move on. I have to pat myself on the back for getting through what really has been the worst year yet of my life (Queenie your annus horribilus in 1992 didn’t have a patch on my 2012).
In this weird limbo between Christmas and New Year the media is going Review of the Year crazy. It is driving me slightly nuts. Between the jubilee and the Olympics, it seems the whole of the UK had a rather fabulous time in 2012. I didn’t so I am going to do my alternative Review of the Year so I can try to start believing that perhaps 2013 could be a slight improvement.
New Year’s Day 2012 – Got Mastitis. Colin and I sat in a Doctor’s waiting room in Clapham to be given the drugs I needed to stop the hideous flu-like symptoms rampaging through my body. By 9am we were sitting outside a chemist waiting for it to open and Colin bought us crisps (he always bought us crisps for the car) to keep my strength up. He read the document the nurse gave me for husbands who really don’t understand Mastitis. He spent the rest of the morning trying to be understanding but by 5pm had a meltdown because Evie had tested his patience somewhat in a supermarket and my tomato soup had boiled over. He had a terrible day, really, while I lay in bed sure that the Mastitis had developed into Meningitis, drama queen that I am.
January 2012 – Body wrecked with childbirth. Husband now mortified by the lotions and potions I send him on quests to retrieve from any chemist he passed on his way home from work. Eventually got told by husband that he was bored of me being ill! I screamed I wasn’t ill I was pregnant and had subsequently given birth, if he hadn’t noticed. I told him I was bored of him not understanding how hard it all was to have two babies under two and a husband that didn’t pick up his own pants or cleaned the sink of bristle of a morning. Argued to the point that I hissed like a beast from the corner of the kitchen floor while he bent our only large serving utensil and told me I was insane with hormones.
February 2012 – Valentine’s Day we were both determined to make up for January’s hideousness. So cue a Waitrose Meal Deal for Two, champagne and chocolates, a silver heart charm from Colin and I stayed up past nine for the first time in seven weeks. Lovely.
24 February – We go for our first dinner out. We laugh, we reminisce, we make plans for our future and we just have the most lovely, lovely time. Not one nag from me and not one wind up from him. We hold hands and we talk about our girls and the holidays we will have with them, where we have been that we would like them to see (I am keeping this list in my head so I can do those holidays with his girls).
25 February – Colin dies.
26 February onwards – I keep on keeping on by the skin of my teeth.
I am angry. The doctors in the first weeks after D-day did say this was stage two of grief. Right there between disbelief and acceptance. Damn it I thought I had got to acceptance but no it seems this month I am mostly angry. I am angry at wasting my life at Yodel and Royal Mail depots searching for the bike parcel that Santa is meant to be delivering on his sleigh come December 24th only to find that it had been delivered while I was at Yodel’s delivery office (why did they not receive the pick up booking I did through the very frustating automated telephone service????); I am angry at the fact that I thought I had put a wash on in the machine while I wasted my life at Yodel and Royal Mail delivery offices but hadn’t pressed the button for go, I am angry that the radio keeps playing Mud Lonely This Christmas because I am; I am angry that my Christmas cards say only three names; I am angry that Colin died and wonder permanently if he could have prevented it by not being obsessed that my having a baby (and eating a lot of communal chocolate chez Campbell) had had an effect on his waistline and so needed to play tennis that day to get it back; I am angry that I am having to sort out a mouse infestation at the house that was our home in London; I am angry that someone has been super insensitive and I am angry that that person has not had the balls to turn around and apologise. I am almost as angry as Evie was with me at 4.30am this morning where she beat me into submission and I allowed her the ipad to watch Charlie and Lola on repeat until 6am just so Icould get some sleep. I think I could say this succinctly. I am angry that life has taken this turn when this time last year my body was gearing up to give birth and my husband couldn’t have been happier and now he is not here and I am on my own feeling quite rubbish about the whole thing. Scorn, anger, the most lividness that you can imagine, rage…complete and utter fury – all of the above Just Don’t Cover It. But don’t worry if you run into me I will of course be doing my usual ‘face to public’ routine and you will get a smile and a laugh. Just don’t piss me off though because who knows what might occur?
Last night I woke at midnight with a bloodcurdling scream from Evie’s room. At high speed I ran through and she was hysterical. I didn’t know if she was fully awake or not but when I tried to comfort her she screeched at me, “Get away mummy. Get away.”, before launching herself out of the cot into my arms. But a millisecond later she was off on all fours screaming again: “Get away. Leave me alone.” I followed her silently and watched as this animalistic beast launched itself through doorways and into walls and through to my bedroom. She found a resting place between my bed and my bedside table ( a very small space indeed) and started throwing things off it. When she grabbed my photoframe of Col and I stepped in. You see I have had this a couple of times during the day in the last couple of weeks but never at night. And there is no point in even touching her, going close or trying to grab her and cuddle her in until she calms down. I have to let whatever is going through her brain run its course. But when she grabbed that photo I moved forward saying: ” Darling, please give that back to mummy. It’s precious and you’ll ruin it.” My wee upset bundle of beast went quiet and then like a child possessed once more started screaming, “I want to ruin it. I want to ruin it.” It was horrific. There was my two-year-old consumed by anger wanting to throw my precious photo of her Daddy and I around the room to’ruin it’. I have no idea what it must be like for her but there is something going on in that little head that needs exploring. Anyway, it got worse. I managed to wrangle the photo from her as she started squawking that she wanted to bite me. And wailing that I should leave her alone. So I did. Calmly saying I was getting into my bed and when she was ready for a cuddle then she could join me. This was a ridiculous suggestion of course (????) or so I learnt as an Evie-shaped missile launched itself at my head. I don’t know how she managed it but mid-launch she must have grabbed my iphone from under my pillow and her hand held it as it connected with my cheekbone at high velocity. Agony. I know she didn’t actually mean that but my squeals of pain finally brought her to out of this weird possessed state and she clawed her way into a cuddle. It was most bizarre. But it does make me want to say to people who witness, or who I tell of Evie going through, her recent spate of tantrums, those that helpfully tell me, ‘Oh I don’t know what to suggest my child never went through a tantrum phase”: “Oh and did they go through how to cope with a dead father at two phase?’. I am angry for her that she doesn’t have her father to see her grow up so how must she feel when she isn’t trying to be positive for her sad mother?
Tonight she was more settled even before bed. We’d obviously had conversations through the day about why she had been so upset but as far as I can tell she doesn’t really remember it. But my theory tonight was to engulf her with reassurance and love. One of her Christmas books has the Christmas story and when it came to the star that led the shepherds and the wise men to wee baby Jesus she pointed at the star and told me that it was like the one that sat above her and Isla in the sky that had Daddy in it. Goodness knows what I will do with her wee head going forward but bless her she went to sleep singing a mumbo jumbo version of Silent Night. I so hope it will be and so does my puffy cheek.
This time last year I was preparing for a new future with two children and my husband. I had Christmas all booked up via M&S and Amazon, practically by the end of November. Our due date was December 28th so I wanted all preparations sorted by first week of December, just in case. Colin was irking me with his last minute contributions of what we should have bought Evie and his many Godchildren. I was easily irked at this point in pregnancy so this was no surprise. Whenever it was slow at work Col was quite google-tastic so everyday there was another thing he thought I should have bought or sorted pinging its way as a link on email. It made me mad. I would give my whole left arm and a part of my leg to be feeling that this year.
It is impossible not to draw comparisons this year as I go through the motions of Christmas prep. Everyday I sink lower into the depths of this weird despair. Everyone looks so happy. I am getting Christmas cards for ‘The Campbell girls’ or ‘The Campbell family’. I don’t feel like a family. I feel like Evie, Isla and I are broken and not worthy of the label ‘family’ because we have one major family member missing.
I keep weeping and Evie is seeing me sadder than I have been. But you know what she has begun to have it sorted in her head. Yesterday, she asked me: “Are you sad?”. I replied: “Yes my sweet, I am a little today. I am really missing Daddy.” I was flabbergasted when I asked her if she missed him too. “No,” she replied with a matter of fact shake of the head while sticking pieces of paper together. I was all set to be even more griefstricken thinking that she had forgotten him or had been able to move on. But no, she simply said: “I’m with him everyday.” Astounding. I need to take a leaf out of her book as I head for some horrific milestone dates: Isla’s first birthday, Christmas, New Year and beyond to the anniversary of his death.