It’s funny how holding onto things has given me comfort over six years. I recently packed up our lives, put everything in boxes and moved. For happier times already, really good times and so beyond where I thought we could ever be. In the process though I noted how many things of colin, of our old life, have been simply around us as we moved forwards over the past six years. These have been a comfort. If the girls say ‘I need something of Daddy’s to help me go to sleep’ they’ve been on hand – photos, T-shirts, sweaters, coats, panda – they were all hanging there in my closet and in or on my bedside table.
I’d done my research. I didn’t need to be told. Those things were good for my girls to have on standby for them to connect with a dad they couldn’t remember. I packed them meticulously so that in our new life they would still be at arms length for those ‘moments’. But what I hadn’t addressed was me.
I haven’t written a post here for so long. I’m happy. I’m happier than I’ve been in so long it’s not something I can put in words. I’ve held onto dates. I’ve held onto friends. I’ve held onto his driver’s licence and his passport and travelled with them every time abroad. But most of all, it seems today, I’ve held onto the car he most likely had his last moments in.
We had a car. It was small and old. A Volkswagon Golf. Colin, Evie and I fitted it ok. But when I was pregnant again with the bump that became Isla we thought of the future. When we bought our new family car in December 2011 it was our future. Little did we know when we signed all the paperwork that in 13 weeks Col would die, most likely last moments at the wheel of that car.
I’ve adored that car. I’ve told so many stories to the girls about daddy and that beast of a Nissan. I’ve held the driving wheel on bad days and thought his hands held here for those last moments…. so I am close to you/him.
Today I sold it. It’s been a journey. I was so happy to sell it after a lot of salesman rubbish. But ultimately I have just said goodbye to something very solid that was ours. Something I could see us in with our kids even when he wasn’t there. Goodbye my car. Goodbye old car. Goodbye ‘our’ car. I’ve taken photos. You can’t hang it in a closet. You can’t be in my bedside table to comfort the girls. But they weren’t sad today. It is me who has these connections to things. If they need a T-shirt they still have one. If they need panda he is still there. I don’t need to keep the car he died in to keep him alive….But I did take one last photo to remember. Our time. Our future. It changed hon, But I will always love you. x
This little note explains to me where my little girl’s head is at. She’s been having a dip and I have had so many questions in the last week about daddy…was I there when he died, what did he look like dead, am I really like hin
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.”
When you think about it you can measure your life in Christmases. I can and I am sure most of you can too. I can remember my first Christmas that I can physically remember in the toys that we all got. Sindy furniture for my sisters and a bright yellow Snoopy hat for me. Then there was the year of the rollerboots. There was the year of the salopettes that we all put on when the snow outside got deep enough to run out and play in them. I remember the Christmas I got a Commodore 64 with cassette games of Daley Thomson’s decathlon and Hunchback. There was the year I got a Yamaha keyboard, suggested by Dad and I taught myself to play Nick Berry’s Every Loser Wins by ear. I remember the last Christmas with both my paternal grandparents. I remember the first Christmas without my Bampi and how my Gran was without him there. I remember the endless games of Trivial Pursuit when it was the first year it came out. I remember a year of dumping the olds so we could watch Take That on MTV in a separate part of the house because our lives depended on seeing it.
Christmas is only one day of the year but it marks every one of our years because we lay such importance on it. It is also etched in our memories because we take such a lot of photos of everyone we are enjoying it with so as the years pass it can be a marker of what we have had and what we have lost. In childhood it was most definitely about the gifts received and what was under the tree. As the years have passed, for me, it has become about the people I spend it with and the people that are no longer here to spend it with. The gifts are background noise to the most important part of the season for me.
Isla was born exactly four Christmases ago, on Christmas Eve. It was the only Christmas I would spend with her and Col and Evie. My parents had come down for her arrival and so were there when Colin and I brought her home from hospital on Christmas Eve. It was a special Christmas anyway but now in retrospect it was so much more than special. It was unique and out of this world as within four years two of the special people I shared it with have gone. Isla and Evie are no longer the tiny beings they were and are walking and talking mini people and mum and I are widows. How odd.
There was that first Christmas without Col my family rallied and we got through. A case of shingles and two cases of chicken pox were an added bonus to an already difficult time but we got through.
Since then I have measured Christmas by the strength of my parents to ride me through it and the amazing addition of Cameron and his boys to our whole brood.
This year is another shaky one. Dad has gone and mum is surviving. We are all holding on as we make it through the endless cheer. My heart has broken numerous times for my girls, and for me, as they appear as Angels or Mary at Nativity plays and I wish Colin back if only for those moments.
My photos this year will lack two of the most important men in my life but I have to see the postives and be glad that have three new men in the form of the wonderful Barrie boys.
I wish love for all those spending their first Christmas without an important person in their life. Tick this one-off and you’ll find the next one – not easier just different. Christmas is forever changed but it is what it is. A day. Enjoy it if you can and if you can’t – well just count the hours and minutes and get on through. I had several duvet moments on my rookie year. I am not ashamed. I am human and those ghosts of Christmas past sometimes do get a little much. Even this fourth year down the line I still feel a bit knocked for six by it. Good luck my bereaved followers. Good luck.
Here’s a link for some that might need it…
On the last day of 2014 Evie, Isla and I decided that this sunrise was our present from Col. Perhaps he is sending us hope for the new year and toasting our successes in 2014. I hope so because I have still not had my chat with Mr Campbell that I wished for this Christmas. Wishing everyone who is grieving a loss some hope too for 2015. It is hard to leave the year that you lost a loved one in and know that the whole new year that stretches ahead of you is one completely without them in it. This is my third without Col and I am facing it knowing that I can make things work without him but I still wish him to be a part of it. In Isla’s words: “Daddy made that pretty pink sky. I love my Daddy.” Note the present tense. Love that. xx
For the last two Junes I have wanted to scream very loudly, ‘hello world, not everyone has a bloody daddy anymore’, at every Father’s Day display I saw in shops. I wanted to shout at the tv ads, ‘don’t forget him this Father’s Day…ha fat chance’. More extreme though I wanted to go mad on Facebook with nasty ‘poor me’ comments on everyone’s lovely posts about days spent doing special things and pics of daddies and daughters and even daddies and sons. I was being a bereaved cow. I couldn’t really see beyond my own loss. I wanted the world to feel the same miserable way I was – a widow weeping over my babies’ efforts of Father’s Day cards made at nursery which were never going to go the real recipient but were made for me or grandad instead.
Continue reading “Happy Father’s Day”
This week a radio show asked me to voice my opinion on the subject of young children and how we should deal with them dealing with death. I am not sure how relevant I really was to an argument that had arisen from writer Carol Sarler’s feature in the Daily Mail, where she puts forward that there is a certain element of grief pornography going on on the streets of Edinburgh that has seen the parents of young children in the Drylaw community allowing their kids to take along memorial teddies, flowers and notes for tragic Mikaeel Kular, the little Edinburgh boy who was found dead last week, and place them at a makeshift but growing shrine to the three-year-old. I actually agree with her on that fact. I wouldn’t take my child along to such a gathering but then they didn’t know him and it would more than likely frighten them to know even a fraction of what seems to be the story behind his awful death. However, there are those children that did know him and those that went to nursery with him and they need to find something to help explain the inexplicible or somewhere to hang the feelings that they are now feeling about a boy they knew but ‘bam’ is no longer here. So this is where I disagree with Carol. The discussion on the radio didn’t get particuarly heated on the parts that I heard. We all agreed it would be wrong to take a child along that didn’t know Mikaeel, especially a very young one, because why bring death and the emotions it brings with it into their lives unless they did.
But death did rear its ugly head in my girls little world a long time before anyone would want their kids exposed to it . I would love to wrap my children in the warmth and ignorance and love and cocoa that she suggests but I can’t. So I suppose I did get a bit riled when Bereavement expert Ann (I think) suggested waiting Continue reading “Discussions, Death and, er, Disney”
Recently, Evie has started this habit of standing in front of me, relaxed and conversational, with her hand down the back of her pants. This is not learned behaviour I can assure you. But I know someone who used to do the very same when he was around. Isn’t genetics a funny old thing? Aside from hanging out with his hand in his boxers while holding a nonchalent conversation, Colin was also a terrible tease. He teased everyone about everything. Isla is developing the same trait. Her latest trick when you ask her for a kiss is to walk towards you all puckered up. Just when you commit yourself to her snotty pout she turns on her heel and walks away, laughing as she goes. It’s hilarious. Well, I think so. And when I said at Col’s funeral that the only way to get through was to see him through his girls, well I didn’t know it would be so literal. Everyday there is another little Colinism coming through in each of them. But perhaps I will train Evie to take her hands out of her pants. It never worked on her father but you never know.