- My little girl loves to write. I find scraps of paper everywhere. I usually bin an awful lot. This one struck my heart as it explains her mindset this week and why I am getting so many questions about Col and what he was like. And even how he died. I will always answer honestly even if it breaks my heart.
This time of year does tend to smart and this year more than ever. My email inbox is clogged up with chipper Father’s Day gift ideas and my phone keeps pinging me clever ways to treat the men that are no longer in our lives. Popping to the supermarket to top up on essentials is like running a gauntlet of reminders of all the cheap tat we don’t need to buy this year, next year or indeed ever.
Evie’s loving practising her new reading skills everywhere we go – road signs, sides of trucks and everything you pass in shops. This week I’ve seen her walk that first aisle in Tesco and take in the cards and the messages so I wasn’t really surprised to have a big old chat with her yesterday morning. At nursery the girls have always either made me a card or made a wee picture for Grandad and they’ve never seemed particularly sad about that. However, this year this year there is no Grandad, no Poppa and, of course, no Daddy. So Evie was deliberating over what she wanted to do if her class did a Father’s Day activity: “I could make Grandad a card and laminate it so it could go on his grave but then how would we stick there? Miss Taylor has special Sellotape that might stick but what do we stick it to?”
I suggested punching a hole in it and tying it on with ribbon but was met with disgust so she pondered some different ideas: “I’ll maybe just make a card for Daddy and we can put next to his photograph or perhaps I just make Nana a card because she’s lonely all on her own.” Everything I said to these options was wrong even though I was only saying ‘you can pretty much choose any of the above my love because they are all fine plans and make total sense in a situation that will never really make sense to any of us’.
I decided to call in outside reinforcements because it was clear that Evie and I were clashing as only her and I can particularly when she is feeling a little at sea about something usually grief related. So I wrote a note to Evie’s teacher explaining that she was obviously uptight about any activities that might be done at school. Help.
I love Evie’s teacher. Due to some strange and awful fate Evie is one of three children in her class grieving a daddy. in response to my scrappy note Evie’s teacher wrote the most beautiful little note back to me and also took the time to speak to me and Evie about the planned activity. So instead of a straight Father’s Day card Evie’s class will be doing an activity where they are asked to think of someone special to them and draw and write about them. It’s a lovely solution and Evie bounced down to school this morning full of beans about today’s Creative Hub. And hopefully those dad’s of the class who are all still here won’t mind too much…perhaps their partners will need to run to Tesco because there’s certainly some wonderful Daddy tat to be picked up at a reasonable price tag. Evie and I can totally vouch for that.
As for Isla? Simple: “Mummy for Father’s Day I am going to make a toy for daddy to play with in the clouds. We will need to put it on an aeroplane so it can fly up to him.”
I remember a week or so before Evie was born, standing in the empty but newly decorated nursery looking at the softly washed baby clothes and imagining what parenthood would be like. How would we do it? I imagined the wee thing that would come home from hospital and fill those clothes, sleep in the empty cot and be clipped into that carefully selected carseat. How would we cope?
How could I imagine that five years down the line I would be in the car, about 400 miles from the home I was nesting in, discussing with that wee thing, the one that came home and became the thing that wore those clothes, took hours to settle in that cot and who only seemed sleep soundly in that carseat, and her little sister Isla what it would be like if daddy weren’t dead.
Isla: “Why is daddy in the sky?”
Some days I wake up and my head is fizzing with who I am meant to be that day. Of course the first and most important role is that of MUuuuuuuuuuummmmmmmy. I don’t tend to be awake before the small people that require that job from me are and I clock off late so this one is all consuming. And these guys are needy, with the most sub-roles that stem from the main position, and they pay the least but, well the way they pay makes up for that because their ‘I love you’s’ and snotty kisses go a lot further than money somehow. Unfortunately though I still have to earn money so I have to expertly juggle like most modern day women do.
Those other jobs? There are many. Housekeeper, dogsbody, accountant, cleaner, businesswoman, writer, car maintenance woman, taxi service, chief bin taker-outerer, secretary, damage-limitation consultant, peace-negotiator, entertainment manager, The Fun Police, educator, school liaison officer, HMRC tax expert, admin assistant who doubles as the phone hanger-on-er-er, decision maker, content editor, nutritionist, cook, washerwoman, fashion writer, retail journalist, landlady, B&B host, blogger…
The one thing I am not is a wife or indeed a wife and mother. That’s what I signed up for. This was meant to be a team game with two people bringing their core strengths together to make and form two perfect people. Instead my shot at parenthood has been a very individual sport. I have support from the wings, amazing support, but the star player is on her own for much of it because those little people, well the only other person they would have do all those jobs in their lives, he has gone. My mum tries, my family try, Cameron does a great job but ultimately the buck stops with me and sometimes I wake up wanting to go back to sleep again because it is all too much. But unless I get a Calvin & Hobbs Duplicator machine then it’s onwards and onwards for me.
It was Evie’s first ballet show this week. She was a bunny. She was cute. She was sooooo happy. That night after the show in her bed though she told me she felt sad on the inside. She’s said that a lot recently. She’s feels all cryie is how she also puts it. Once again I feel helpless as she tries to express what she is feeling or why. The audience that evening of the show of course was filled with proud parents. Mums and dads. The one person I wished were there couldn’t make it but his mum took the honour of the second tickets Evie was allocated for her debut performance. Cameron wanted to come but he had duties to put my other daughter to bed. And bless him for that.
I can put myself back in those first seconds, minutes, hours, days and weeks after I lost col whenever I let my mind go that way. It’s just not something that ever dulls. That pain. It’s unforgettable. That loss, that emptiness, that indescribable feeling that the one you loved, the one you shared your hopes and dreams with, the one you wanted to grow old with and look back on life with, has vanished without trace. I remember looking around me, through our house, the rooms he walked in, sat in, slept in, stood and munched celery at the fridge in, the stairs he left his trail of clothes on, the bathroom he forever forgot to rinse after shaving in, the shower he drew ‘I love you’ in the steam in, he was everywhere but nowhere. I could see him but only in memory. He who was so much my present and future was now only my past. Unless you’ve gone through it it is quite simply unimaginable. An old friend lost his wife to cancer the night before last and I keep putting myself in his shoes and imagining her presence but her lack of being through his eyes and I just wish he didn’t have to know how that feels. The sense that her life continues to echo on through their house, their family, all she did, all she achieved, all the people she touched…but why is she in the past tense? ‘Why?’. How can it Continue reading “Echoes of a Life”
I took a cab to Waverley Station in Edinburgh early this morning. In the darkness of the backseat I did my now obligatory confession of widowness to the taxi driver. Every time and I don’t know why but perhaps I find the back of a cab like a widow confessional. Anyways, my taxi driver/widow priest took it in his stride and said he admired me for keeping going etc etc.
I wept like a baby on and off for the whole first day of 2014. Howling once more. It was all down to a misunderstanding and my paper-thin widow-skin. An assumption on a good friend’s part that because much of the time I sound happy and things are good with the new life I am building that perhaps means I don’t crumble anymore, that I’ve moved on so much that I don’t perhaps miss so much what I once had with Col, the life we shared and the friends we enjoyed. So when some of the closest friends Col and I had together gathered on New Year’s Eve it was assumed that I would be busy, happy with Cameron. So no invite came and I was blissfully unaware. And I was happy with Cameron. Of course I was. It was lovely to bring in the new year with someone who has turned my life around so Continue reading “Happy New Year…”
There is a widow site/online community that I am a member of. A place where those who have lost a partner can vent, moan, laugh, weep their way through with others who at least have some understanding of what it is like. In the build up to Christmas the posts are understandably about all the excess pain that comes with the season of joy and goodwill to all men for us widows/widowers. From the small things, the way you’re addressed in cards or on envelopes and who’s remembered to send anything in the post at all; to the difficulties in watching your children in nativity plays singing their hearts out, albeit badly, without their daddy or mummy beside you to share that big fat moment of pride, together; to the larger ongoing issues that come from the expectations of family and friends to be over it, at least for the festive season. To the outsider’s eye (the non-widowed that is) a lot of these posts could be read as self-indulgent moans but to all those reading this who have lost a partner you will get it. It’s hard at this time of year and it’s extremely hard to keep your perspective about you. I know I am lucky to have the girls to watch in plays. There are others who weren’t so fortunate to have that longed for child before their partner died. I am lucky to have wonderful friends and family who still remember us in many presents and carefully worded cards and who don’t mind when my ‘second Christmas as a widow’ bambi legs (it’s how I actually feel – a novice at Christmas once more) mean I have forgotten to buy a gift, not made it to the post office in time or not sent proper Christmas cards…so ie their kindness has not been reciprocated (YET). So I do try to remember that I am lucky when I feel the widow bah humbugs of Christmas wash over me. If I can’t I vent to my widow friend.
I’ve just recorded a radio programme with the talented, amusing and extremely sympathetic Elaine C Smith for Radio Scotland. Entitled ‘Love After Love’ the producer came up with the idea for the series, which will be aired on Radio Scotland in January, after his sister was widowed suddenly at a similar age to me and left with two young children. His sister has been adament since the death of her husband that she could not and will not find love again. I admire her and all who choose the same path. Her family may wish her to be wrong but she has the right to deal with her grief in her own way. I could not envisage a life without love so found a way through to find more love for my life and my children’s lives. But that said I am not fixed. I never will be. But you do what you have to do to keep going in the face of adversity. For me that has been to move forward while still looking backwards so as to remember what I am and who had a major part of making me who I am today – Colin.
Continue reading “Broken, but not beyond repair”