Grief is a tsunami of treacle

I think I did grief a disservice last night; I made it seem too soft, too poetic. I neglected to mention the brutal punches in the stomach, leaving you gasping for breath, unable to envisage a life when it didn’t hurt [and feeling guilty if it didn’t] What are the tears for; the absence? The memories? The memories which will no longer happen? The things unsaid? The reality? The broken jigsaw. The people left behind.

Grief is a tsunami of treacle. Grief is not an option. Grief is a constant exhausting battle. It hits you again every morning, when you wake and re-remember. Grief is angry. Grief is putting on make up and going to work and smiling. Grief becomes a part of you and a part of your daily routine; lingering, all encompassing; swallowing that lump in your throat and simply surviving. Breathing.

I can’t see the screen for a haze of hot tears. I’m listening to Lukas Graham’s “You’re not there.” This song was on the radio as I got in the car after registering Dad’s death.

Time can heal your wounds if you’re strong and standing tall
I’ve been doing all of that, it didn’t help at all
They say, “You’ll grow older, and it’ll get better still”
Yes, I will, but no, it won’t
They don’t get it cause

You’re not there

Grief makes you question your existence and mortality; it shatters the ambivalent notion that death happens to others people, far from now. Grief makes you wonder what its all about; why we’re here; and what happens in those moments between life and death, and beyond. I think back, inevitably, to that Tuesday; the blank expression; the brutality of the CPR; those moments when someone ceases to be someone, and becomes a corpse. It’s those things you think about at 3am when your heart is thudding and your mind is filled with the unanswerables.

People everywhere are walking around with this, in Sainsburys, at work, in school, at the park … carrying on, yet weighed down by loss, by sadness. Life must’ve been so carefree before; so content. I’m back there, walking down the path at the allotment, oblivious. That Tuesday hadn’t been the best, but I could tell you every detail of the drive to the allotment; putting on my boots and getting out of the car. Little things, insignificant things. Those crocheted prayer mats in the little room in A&E. The sweet tea; the beige book with lilies on the front about bereavement.

It’s 15 weeks ago tomorrow. I just counted.

 

And so it continues…

Last Tuesday was the first Tuesday since January 10th when I didn’t check the calendar to ensure I knew how many weeks it was since Dad died. At a guess I’d say 15 or 16; but I don’t suppose it really matters. As the seasons change, the image of finding Dad on that sunny Tuesday in January, begins to fade – or rather not provoke the terror it once did. The heart thudding nightmares have, for the moment at least, disappeared; replaced by dreams of Dad alive and well. I’m not entirely sure which is worse.

I’ve found the past week or so rather heavy and sad. I’m not sure why. It would be Dad’s 66th birthday next Sunday, and this could be playing on my mind. Another first on the inescapable conveyor belt of firsts. Gone is the raw, numb horror of the early days of grief; and in its place is a deeper, lingering “forever sadness” that he’s not here and never will be. As time goes on there are less things where he left them, less tangible connections to the man who was such a huge part of our lives. Occasionally I forget, and think I must tell Dad or ask Dad, or wonder why I haven’t seen him. Sometimes in town I still catch the back of someone I think is him, and for a moment this has all been some sick joke. It is disconcerting and exhausting. I wonder how we’ve got through these months; constantly reminded of his absence. Freddie has new clothes, new toys, another mark on his height chart. Freddie no longer says “Gandad” when I cook a curry; and I realise this is it – the unpredictable and unforgiving cycle of life, of death, of love and all the chaos inbetween.

There are days when I’m constantly battling to push out of my mind my reactions that day. If only I’d arrived sooner; if only I’d been better at initiating the CPR. If only I’d seen it  happen. If only he hadn’t been there, helping me.

I had a bit of a Facebook rant earlier [I used the C word on a Sunday; Mea Maxima Culpa] about these months really showing me who cares, who has my back, and who is prepared to be by my side on this journey no matter what. Likewise, I am now fully aware of who doesn’t care. True colours are known. Freddie is my priority. My funny, cheeky, ever growing Freddie, who counts to 10 and rides his balance bike in the park. His Grandad would’ve enjoyed so much sharing all these firsts with him – and instead we’re embarking on our year of firsts without Dad….

 

Two year old you

Dear Fred,

17156074_2103858033173957_1695764839204359995_nToday is your second birthday, and whilst you’re spending some time with Daddy, I wanted to write a Blog about 2 year old you.

It was wonderful watching you and your friends enjoy your birthday party yesterday; clambering around on the soft play, eating “choo choo cake”, singing songs and generally having lots of fun. The only thing missing was your Grandad, who helped Momma plan the party – and was looking forward to it very much. In the car on the way to the party as I told you all the people who would be there, you repeatedly asked for “Gandad,” and Momma had to explain once again that she too would love to see him, how it was very sad, but how I was sure if he could, he would be there in spirit. I’m writing this because whenever you’re reading this Blog, Freddie; you will probably have forgotten the wonderful memories and times you shared with your Grandad. But yesterday you asked for him, and I know he would’ve loved your party and been so proud of you. Yesterday was the first big event  without Grandad around, and Momma did need a couple of glasses of wine at the end of the day.

So, two year old Freddie….

LOVES…. Thomas the Tank Engine, Postman Pat DVDs [you’re already quite au fait with changing the DVDs yourself in the player], chocolate buttons, Weetabix for breakfast, collecting the eggs from the chickens, playing on momma’s phone, driving your mini car – especially reversing when you’re supposed to go forwards!; Percy cat – who you call Lala, singing “twinkle twinkle chocolate bar”, Tots Rock on fridays, morning and bedtime “boobie”, reading books on Momma’s lap, going down the big slide at the park, bathtime bubbles … Your favourite meal of the week is chicken curry; the hotter the better…

DISLIKES …cleaning your teeth, eating the eggs you like to collect, sitting in the buggy …

17155674_2103857676507326_6559896394241886088_n

0,1,2

You are such a fun, cheeky little chap – forever making me laugh.It is incredible that you’re 2 already. I look back on the day you were born with such wonder and amazement, and always will. You rocked my world, little boy. Momma was pretty naive going into a pregnancy on her own, unsure what everything entailed. These have been the best two years of my life, and even in the present sadness, you keep me going and remind me of what’s important.

So bring on more adventures, little boy. You are so loved.

Momma xx

 

The little things…

Yesterday it was a chocolate orange in Tesco Express, sitting nonchalantly on the shelf. I’m not a fan myself, but Dad loved them and always had one at Christmas, on Fathers Day and his birthday; a Dad tradition. And there it was staring at me, reminding me that he wouldn’t have one again … that I wouldn’t buy him another. I’m getting rather good at stifling the tears now, so managed to pay for my petrol without sobbing; but it was another stark, insignificant reminder of the finality.

This morning I was cleaning my car – which is quite a mission given my soon to be 2 year old and the clutter of toys and hats and coats and mud, and chicken shit encrusted wellies. Anyway, there in the footwell was the newspaper from Tuesday 10th January – the day Dad died. I’d bought it that morning as a friend and I were collecting holiday tokens. With everything that happened afterwards, I’d forgotten all about it … couldn’t bring myself to throw it away. The day when my “before” and “after” line was drawn … when things changed forever. I have a growing amount of paraphernalia from that day; little pointless things that now have so much meaning; Dad’s receipts from that morning, the medical packaging found at the allotment, the newspaper..

This evening it was marking a new height on Freddie’s giraffe chart in his bedroom. The last measurement had been made on 5th January, when “Gandad” was still alive. Another stop the clocks moment,of which there are plenty. My little boy is growing and his Grandad can’t see it.

And so it continues. I think the adrenaline from the past [nearly 6] weeks is beginning to leave me and a malignant exhaustion has set in. A dark realisation that the present; the now; is hard. There are simply no words to describe it [so why, you may ask, do I try?]. Sleep remains difficult, and often I’m woken with the deep pounding of my heart in my chest as my subconscious relives the events of that Tuesday. It seems cruel that even sleep doesn’t offer respite. This afternoon when I’d failed miserably at napping whilst Freddie was with his Dad; I found myself at the allotment, sitting on the decking, watching the chickens, beside the funeral flowers which are still looking lovely. Some mummy friends have joined forces in project allotment, and it is there that I feel closest to Dad … where he last walked, the air he last breathed. It was an unfinished project; and making a good job of it means a lot to me.

I have realised just how big a part of my life Dad was. I always knew it, and always appreciated it – but I hadn’t quite comprehended the huge gaping void now so obvious. I listen to old voicemails, just so I won’t forget his voice. I miss his phonecalls, his presence, his companionship. I miss watching him be Grandad.

If you’re reading this, Fred, in years to come – Mummy’s sorry if she has been sad these weeks; if you’ve caught her crying in the kitchen or lacking the amount of energy she usually has. I’m sorry for not knowing what to say to you sometimes when you still stand at the window waiting for your Grandad or “Gandads car”. One day, my darling, you’ll understand how hard it all is – but for now, know that your cheeky smiles and snotty kisses, are keeping Momma going…

The things I’ve learnt…

The main thing I’ve learnt over the past three and a half weeks, is that grief is messy and individual, sporadic and intense, all consuming and desperately illogical. This morning I found myself crying as I threw away an empty shampoo bottle. When I bought that, I thought to myself – everything was okay, Dad was here. The new shampoo represented a moving on, of sorts… and so it is with so many things. Today I took Fred to the park next door – where Dad walked most days. It was a bright sunny day, and I longed for him to share it with me. Oh Dad, I thought to myself … four weeks ago today we were walking in this very park,together.

I returned to the allotment a couple of days after Dad’s death. It was something I had to do. For one, I wanted to find his glasses, which the paramedics had placed in the shed. I also found some medical packaging for adrenaline injections and airway tubes. I brought them home with me because they seemed so connected to Dad’s last moments. They remain in a cupboard in the kitchen. It helped, in some ways, seeing  a quiet, peaceful allotment without the horrors of that Tuesday afternoon, which will be forever etched on my heart.

I have learnt that there is a lot to organise when you feel least like making decisions and organising anything. There is a lot of waiting, for coroners and death certificates, being placated with “it’s a busy time” [poplar time to die, evidently]. Then the funeral arrangements, the photos for the order of service,  the writing of the eulogy which I hope to be able to deliver on Monday … it seems never ending. People to tell, phonecalls to make, things to tick off another list. Gin to drink.

On Wednesday I went to the Chapel of Rest to see Dad for a final goodbye. I didn’t go to have a chat to him -because I could do that anywhere…. but it was important for me to have a different last image to the one I had. I was so nervous; perhaps because I worried I would be left with a worse image. Ultimately it was the right decision to go. I’d taken the photo Dad carried around in his wallet,of him and Freddie in the park;and a card the nuns had given him in Calcutta, with a Mother Teresa prayer on it. I placed those in his hands – it somehow felt fitting that he’d always carried them around, so they should go with him. He looked smaller, but he looked like Dad; and his nails still had soil underneath them. He’d have liked that. I gave him a kiss on his forehead and left with a sense that he was okay, wherever he now is.

I’ve learnt who my friends are these weeks; the friends who’ve cooked Freddie meals, done my laundry, sent virtual hugs, adminstered real ones; held my hand as we walked into the Chapel of Rest, made arrangements to be here for me tomorrow and monday; phoned me, listened… these are the little acts of kindness you don’t forget. Just as you don’t forget the people who haven’t done any of those things and have interfered and involved themselves in disagreements then take offence when I tell them to fuck off. Grief is raw and raging; grief provokes arguments. Essentially, different people are coming to terms in different ways, with the fact that however much we don’t want it to be true – Dad isn’t coming back.

Last year when Dad was in hospital awaiting a heart transplant, one evening a heart was found. Ultimately the surgery didn’t go ahead because the donor heart wasn’t healthy enough; but I spoke to Dad that evening on the phone – and there was an unspoken understanding that this could’ve been a last conversation.  He told me at least three times to “look after that little boy”. I told him that I loved him.

And so it is that my little Freddie is the ray of sunshine to get me through. My little Freddie who has a new photo memory book of his dear Grandad, and still looks confused when standing at the lounge window asking for “Gandad Momma, Gandad?”

Monday is nearly here… and the last thing I can do for my dear, kind, courageous Dad, is to stand there and read my eulogy …because he deserves that….

 

My Dad, My Dad,My Dad

I  never imagined I would be writing this Blog post; the grief is raw, the haze is thick. I’m writing this now, as every Blog post I write; for Freddie. I need Freddie to know what a wonderful Grandfather he had; how much we loved him, and how much he adored his only Grandson. I need him to know how devastated I am that on January 10th 2017, the year he had professed would be “a really good year” just days earlier – he left this world; and left me bereft and inconsolable. I need to write every detail before it fades from my memory. I cannot be the same person today as I was yesterday. Cathartic?

Yesterday afternoon I was meeting my Dad at the allotment; he was helping me [okay, he was pretty much doing] the roof on my shed. It was a bright, mild day; he had phoned earlier and asked if I needed any shopping [milk and bread please Dad]; we agreed to meet at the allotment, and I looked forward to seeing him. I arrived, changed into my muddy work boots, and made my way down the path. I got halfway before I realised something was wrong. It was too quiet, something didn’t feel right. On the decking was something grey; it was my Dad’s anorak, and my Dad was wearing it; slumped there on his back. I think I screamed “Dad”, I pulled out my phone and dialled 999. I screamed that I needed an ambulance. This wasn’t good, I knew it wasn’t good. Was he breathing? I cried that I didn’t know, that I thought they were too late. Could I see his chest moving up and down. No. No. No. I remember the operator telling me to take a deep breath. “It’s my Dad” I screamed, knowing in my heart that he was already gone. His face, his expression – it wasn’t him anymore [yet now that’s all I can see; somebody tell me how to unsee it?]. Somehow, I tried to follow instructions; the zip was stuck on his coat, I couldn’t move it to reach his chest;my hands were shaking. I needed to be brave. I remember pulling his coat and jumper up and  thinking this was wrong. This was my Dad. I sobbed, thinking I’d be sick. And then I saw a figure  a couple of plots away; a man I’ve talked to on occasion about planting things and chickens. I screamed for him to help me.Next thing, he’s following the operators CPR instructions whilst I’m running to the local school for their defibrilator, repeating the code I’ve been given all the time. I’m wearing these big clumpy boots and I can hardly breathe for panic. I’m trying to run but I can’t seem to move fast enough;I’m cumbersome and flailing. I remember the dryness in my throat as I periodically yelled “help me,someone help me” until a teacher from the school came to meet me and fetched the defibrilator once I’d correctly remembered the code. The run back was longer, I contemplated ditching the boots and running in my socks. I’m back on the decking, with my Dad splayed there, his chest being pounded by dear Andrew, whose brow is drenched  with sweat. He tells me not to watch, to go and wait for the ambulance.

I run back to the gateway, yelling at the ambulance which has gone the wrong way. I’m really sobbing now, telling them they’re too late. “It’s my Dad” I keep saying, interspersed with “Oh my God”, “he was on his own” and “No,No,No”. I’m sitting in the mud rocking, willing it to all be a nightmare. A policewoman is there, tapping my shoulder, asking if I want to sit in her car. “He’s gone” I tell her, remembering what I saw. The paramedics  are working on him, Andrew returns my phone and says they are giving it 25 minutes. It can’t be real. This is my Dad; my beloved, kind, generous Dad. We were meant to be laughing and talking, and making plans for raised beds.

We have the blue lights flashing in the police car as we follow the ambulance. I feel sick. It’s mostly silent, other than a call to my aunt to check she’s with my mother; telling her the bare essentials; that I found my Dad collapsed at the allotment and we are on our way to hospital. I’m ushered into one of those family rooms with crocheted prayer squares and multiple boxes of tissues. I don’t know how long we were there for, but it seemed an eternity. When the doctor arrived, he didn’t need to tell me the outcome. I’m handed a book on bereavement, and I ask for my Dads things; his watch, his stuff, his £7.48 change in his pockets, his wedding ring, his keys. Did I want his shoes? I don’t know. Do I? I don’t think I want his shoes. I give this question too much thought,unable to quite take it in.

We don’t have the blue lights on on the way back. I’m trying to work out how to tell my Mum, who is home packing a hospital bag for my Dad, who she presumed had tripped on something and injured himself. The kind policelady comes in with me. I hide the booklet on bereavement and the envelope inside my jacket. “I’m so sorry” I said, “there was nothing they could do.”

I try to close my eyes and I’m  there, walking innocently down the pathway to the allotment. In my mind everything was perfect until I see the anorak, his outline;lying there. My Dad,my Dad,my Dad. I can’t yet cry; can’t yet think -it’s just the location; the vacuum of my discovery.

I find  a bag in the back of my Dad’s car with my milk and bread,and some juice for Freddie. He was always dropping things in for us; and it struck me as I carried the bag up the stairs to my flat, that this would be the last Daddy care package I would ever receive. Never again would I see my Dad, hear his voice, enjoy his company. I find myself looking at innocuous object thinking “the last time I used that my Dad was here, things were normal.” – and things will never be the same again.

This journey of grief is in its infancy. I don’t know how I will get through it; but my little boy – the apple of his Grandad’s eye, is my reason for plodding on in the fog. My Dad was such a good man; he helped me so much; to his last breath he was helping me. I couldn’t have asked for more,and whatever the future holds it will be lacking something incredibly special.

 

 

2016 – mixed, but survived …

For this first Blog of 2017 I’m sitting in bed with a mug of hot Ribena, whilst my teething snotty little boy naps in his cot – his faithful kitten curled up beside him. It’s quite nice, being snug in bed listening to the rain pitter patter against the windows. I was meant to go to Cheltenham racing today, but it hasn’t happened, and I’m not overly disappointed. My bets are placed though, and I may catch some ITV racing action later. I saw in 2017 around a log burner with good conversation and company whilst Fredders successfully slept in a travel cot upstairs [the kid is getting good].

We survived Christmas relatively unscathed but the lounge is now even more like a Smyths Toys outlet.

2016 seemed to rattle past at an alarming speed. This time last year I still had a baby, and now I have a bustling soon to be two year old – who never fails to make me smile. My heart could burst at the fun, the cheekiness, the giggle, of this little boy. This little boy whose feet grew a whole size in a month and is now sporting a very grown up size 7.

2016 saw the acquisition of an allotment, 3 [now 2] chickens, Percy Pickle the cat, a new car, a week in Woolacombe, a week in Pembrokeshire, days at Badminton Horse Trials, In the Night Garden Live, ThomasLand, the Safari Park. It saw Freddie starting a new wonderful nursery [Mayfield House, I love you], Freddie’s first Cambridge Formal Hall, his first proper pony rides [and a donkey on the beach at Weston!], winning “best dressed bear” for Bear Grylls at the NCT teddy bears picnic, and finally learning to SLEEP for more than 2 hours in a row. On the downside, we had a long, difficult summer with my father incarcerated in the QE awaiting a new heart. The long car journeys and the anxieties watching someone you love so poorly, was quite stressful – and I’m very glad to have Dad home again. Mum was diagnosed with Parkinsons which has also taken its toll.

It’s not always easy, this single parenthood malarkey; but it’s definitely worth it. I can hardly remember what it was like not to have Freddie in my world …

Hello 2017 … lets do this.