Nor do we have two heads or carry leprosy. We walk among you unnoticed until normal little everyday things force us to fall apart in public and reveal ourselves. This is my place to vent my frustrations, wallow when I need to and discover a new future because the unthinkable did happen and my husband died suddenly at 38 leaving me and our two little babies under the age of two behind.
The sun is shining. I’ve just done a lovely run. And my head was making me giggle internally as I trotted around a glorious Edinburgh. It’s the girls. Everyday I see little things that make it quite clear these are the offspring of myself and Col. There is no mistaking it. So as I ran I was making a list of what these lucky (hmmmm) little girls have inherited from their parents. The people in the cars doing their morning commute may have been wondering what was making me grin so inanely as I ran. Ach well. Here are the lists.
Fungal infections (Evie has a rampaging case of ringworm on her back just like Col used to get on his hairy torso)
Open mouthed guffawing (Isla has her dad’s smile and laugh)
Nonchalent pant rummaging (Evie loves to stand with her hand down the back of her trousers while holding a conversation)
Teasing (Isla has her daddy’s wicked sense of fun)
Big brown eyes (both girls have Col’s gorgeous, soulful eyes – I love it)
Singing (Evie is an enthusiastic if a little tuneless in her efforts, just like Col was, but what I adore most is that when not sure of the words in a song she makes them up. Ah I remember so well car journeys while Col belted out random lyrics to MOR classics from Phil Collins and the like )
Reading (Isla is a voracious reader. Five books before bedtime is a record. Her dad used to have a similar appetite for reading and could get through five or six dense novels on a week’s holiday)
Tantrums (both girls can throw a fabulous strop just like their mum)
Dramatic tendencies (Evie doesn’t get a graze or a bruise without demanding a trip to the hospital. Col used to joke that I had a hotline to my own personal advisor at NHS Direct – he called her Maggie for some reason)
Love of shoes (Isla can’t get enough of them)
Competitive spirit (Evie has to be the winner. This actually comes from both Col and I but Col was a better loser than I was and unfortunatley Evie has taken after me. She’s not in the least gracious when it comes to losing. Where did she get that foot stamping, door slamming behaviour from??????)
These are just a few of the elements I see in Evie and Isla that prove the girls are mix of Col and I. They’ve got the best and the worst of us both. And it makes me laugh except perhaps when I am faced with all my worst traits coming back at me in a perfect storm of pre-schooler naughtiness. Now what’s lovely though is there are a few Cameron-isms coming through amongst the Colin-isms and Nicola-isms. It’s early days but I love that Isla makes kissy kissy sounds when she sees a doggy just like Cameron does. And Evie has a smiliar way of answering a simple question in a confusing way like Cameron. It’s difficult to explain but suffice to say ‘Yes I don’t’ as a response is annoying yet endearing…Hmmm. No doubt more Cameron characteristics will creep in amongst mine and Col’s within Evie and Isla giving another edge to their personalities. Sweet.
Evie’s having a tough time right now. Night terrors and lots of questions about where exactly is daddy. It started a few weeks ago when I told her I was going away for a few days for a wee holiday and she would be staying with her Grandma Pat. Her immediate reaction was to cry and tell me that she didn’t want me to go because I might not come back. When you hear things like that your heart breaks into a million tiny pieces all over again. In her experience of the world people that you love, and love with all your heart because they are your whole actual world, can simply vanish in the blink of an eye, or indeed an afternoon snooze. So of course she doesn’t want mummy to go away for a few days because she might not come back, that happens.
While I was away she had some night terrors and my sister and my mum had to cope with it as Evie screamed and then just sat not awake and not asleep in the corner of the room, staring. Now since my return she’s been having more nightmares and she’s been calling out for daddy in these dreams. Aside from a finger trapping accident in the back of the car a couple of months ago, Evie has not called out for her daddy since the day he died. And that’s the case despite the fact that up until that D day he was her number one go to in the night due to an arrangement between me and Col while I was in late pregnancy and subsequently had Isla Baby. I’d happily been substituted for Col as her favourite person to see through the bars of her cot.
I wonder what she dreams of that leads her to shout out for her him in such fear. Is she losing him all over again in her unconscious imagination? Is she scared of him if or when he visits her in her sleep? Does he appear to her as he is in the photos I show her? Or does she have real memories that recurr? I dont know any of these answers and the tears are bouncing off my keyboard here. Arghhh. Just when you think life is back on a copeable, even keel, and perhaps even showing promise at being good again…well, things like this knock you for six because you realise this is a life sentence. My girls, and so many others like them, will always be going through a stage in their grief. Currently for Evie it’s working out what death means (and thank you Winston’s Wish for the kind woman who reassured me that I am saying and doing the right things in my hour-long phone ramble last week). Isla, well at nine weeks she didn’t really notice Col’s disappearance because her nappies still got changed, she got her milk every few hours and she got looked after with love, I think, but soon she’ll be faced with the realisation that her wonderful little status quo is not quite the norm and will start her wee journey of grief that may or may not take a different path to the one that her big sister is now on. And it’s hard for me because I like to fix and move on but in this situation you simply can’t. I can’t sweep their grief or mine under the carpet and start again. That would mean forgetting what we’ve lost and it’s my mission in life that none of us ever forget Colin. But we do jog along into our future without him and that future holds so many significant dates that he won’t see. This week all the Facebook pics proud daddies took of kids going to school…well my stomach lurches knowing Evie and Isla will have a different kind of experience of that moment and there will be one huge big hole in that morning. That’s just the start of it. Graduations and weddings, 18ths and 21sts…the list is endless. But actually I know it’s the normal days, it’s the growing up around what’s supposedly normal and seeing difference, that will have Evie, and Isla too down the line no doubt, asking the big ‘death’ questions and screaming out for daddy in the dark of night.
Yesterday at nursery pick up Evie was anxious to find a picture she had done because she wanted to take it home for me, not put it in her nursery work folder. It is the one attached to this post. It’s her version of a normal family portrait and it had me weeping in the car home. Evie, Isla and I take defined forms while daddy seems to be floating off with his scribbly no face body heading skyward. She talked me through the picture in the classroom and when I smiled and said, ‘Is that daddy in the sky?’, she was quite adament. ‘ no. That’s him here with us.’ What do you say to that?