As the 12 month mark has been passed of course I have now ticked off all the landmark dates that loom in your average griever’s diary. But I have now found myself playing a new game, which is less about calendar dates but more about the passing of time and how messed up it is that it keeps on ticking without Col. So it was Evie’s birthday last week. A day which of course had its own mix of happiness, anger and sadness. But the thing that kept whizzing around in my head throughout the celebrations was that Colin only ever saw one of his daughter’s birthdays. Evie’s first. Wham. Human punchbag that I am, big, bad grief got me on that several times. Then I worked out that at three Evie is only nine months away from being alive longer without Colin than with. Bam. The punches keep on rolling. And so you allow your brain to conjure up more painful facts, at 16 months Isla is only six months away from being the age Evie was when he last saw her. Slam. On my birthday I will be the age Col was when he died. And down. Round two will of course be when I have been a widow longer than I was married. Only about 18 months until that….not that I am counting…haha
Last year, when I decided to run the Edinburgh Half Marathon for the British Heart Foundation in Colin’s memory, on what would have been his 40th birthday, it all seemed like a good plan. Even more so when about 20 others, friends and family, signed up with me. It also seemed a long way off. Now it’s next month. Argh. I am so not prepared. I have silly unequal legs and a flat foot and have been banned from running for two weeks now. I never thought I would say this but I have really been missing my running training. My stupid body has been terribly inconsiderate in getting an injury. Running, music on, clears my head and sets me free. Yesterday I picked up my new magic trainer insoles from my foot doctor and so I am hoping to get back on track over the next six weeks and break through the finish line in about two hours. Hmmmm.
Several conversations with Evie over the past few days are spurring me on. The first took place in the car. Out of the blue, she said to me, ‘Daddy’s heart was broken. But why don’t we send a boy to fix it.’ I was totally taken unawares but replied, ‘Sweetheart, we can’t send a boy to fix Daddy’s heart. His heart stopped working and he died, I am so sorry.’ Determined, Evie continued: ‘But if a boy can’t fix it, can’t we send a grown up.’ Of course, I am now weeping in the front of the car and have no real idea what to say but reiterate that Daddy’s heart stopped working and there is no one in the world that can fix it because Daddy died and his body is now gone and he is not coming back.
Then last night I came home from training and the wee toad was still awake when I snuck in. She saw my gym stuff on and said have you been practicing running for Daddy’s race in the sky. After a bit of questioning it turns out that she thinks all this running training is me practicing for a big sky race with Daddy. She believes he is in a physical place. She thinks that when we go on holiday we can wave at him from the plane and ultimately one day he will come back. My whole thing about saying Daddy’s in the sky has messed her head. She’s so not in a place yet to understand this whole death thing. My friend says her son is only getting his father’s death now he is four so I think I just have to be a little less foggy about what I believe and put it more plainly. Daddy’s spirit lives on but his body has gone because his heart stopped. I am running not because I want to see Daddy in the sky for some big old cloud race (although Col would have loved that – he always liked us to pitch ourselves against each other in silly competitions) but because hopefully raising money for the British Heart Foundation will help stop others losing wonderful people like Colin.
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A widow friend recently pointed out one of her current pet peeves is the occupation box on forms. She detests ticking houseWIFE. And I get it. So your husband pops his clogs and leaves you with two young children. It is not by choice that you’re now just a houseWIFE in life. You can’t get out the bloody house to be much else. And quite frankly you are not just a houseWIFE. You are an everything.
I saw some idiot journalist, step up Martin Daubney, on This Morning yesterday making the point that in a marriage men should do men jobs, car fixing and DIY, and women should do all the cleaning and cooking. He’s treated his wife to a cleaner, bless him, though. God forbid someone places the bereavement bomb under his life but I get the feeling his wife would cope much better if she were the one left behind. Car fixing and DIY isn’t going to get you far when you’ve got children and a house to run. But there’s the rub. There are no gender divisions in the life of a widow or widower. You are not completely a houseWIFE or the key breadwinner. You no longer fit the form. You are absolutely everything. You can’t say ‘you put out the bins once a week’ and ‘ I’ll be in charge of keeping the kids fed and watered.’ Or ‘you bring home the bacon’ and ‘I’ll be the school run mum’. You do it all. You feed the kids, you wake for them through the night, you care for them when they are ill, you do the food shop, you keep the car road taxed, you pay the mortgage, you file all the bills, you make massive life changing decisions on your own, you mow the lawn, you defrost the fridge…you, you, you.
In my house there were jobs that were most definitely Col’s. He did most of the finance and future financial planning and the insurance (thank God) but he also cooked and did his own ironing. I did much of the cleaning (well I organised the cleaner) and I did the DIY. We both worked so we worked out how to carve up getting our child into nursery of a morning. I hated the supermarket and he loved it. We were not traditional and I know few who are these days. I wanted to scream at the smug Martin Daubney as he filled my TV screen and my five minute tea break from Cbeebies with all this ‘Little Women’ stuff. Widowed men and women across the country unite in the face of such idiot TV fluff because we are pretty special, we transcend the gender divide. So scratch out the just houseWIFE box and put God/Goddess of All in its place, beside, simply Employed or Self-Employed add a parenthesis with Master/Mistress of Everything firmly placed inside, because that is what we are. From taking out the bins to bringing up children, we are amazing even though it’s pretty awful sometimes.