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 …

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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….

 

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.

20 months on; the gentle way

4This photo, taken during a recent autumnal photoshoot, captures the spirit, cheekiness, and character of my little Fred. I can almost hear his excitement! I was so pleased with these photos, taken in the park next to where we live; the park I played in when I was little, the park I walked around when pregnant, fell on my bottom in the ice a few days before Fred’s arrival, and the park Freddie and I have visited most days of his life.

Today this little chap is 20 months old. I remember this time last year being amazed that he was 8 months already …. it is both wonderful and poignant how fast these milestones occur. Daily Freddie is coming out with a new word or expression [he was wagging his finger at Grandad earlier and saying “noooooo”!] – he is already in size 2-3 clothes, and likes to hold my hand rather than be carried up/down the stairs. I concede that he is no longer a baby; he’s a little boy … walking, talking, full of personality and his own opinions [especially about the necessities of teeth cleaning]

Every monthiversary makes me think back to that night in March 2015 when Freddie made his appearance … a night I could happily reminisce about on a regular basis. I still feel so fortunate to have had such a positive, empowering experience of childbirth. It was without a doubt the most defining moment of my life. Everything changed at 4.39am on 5th March 2015. The world gained a Freddie, and I acquired a purpose; a little bundle of squishy newborn to love and introduce to the world. These 20 months have been the best of my life … the most exhausting, the most demanding … and yet this little person who grew in my tummy, has taught me so much, about unconditional love, and about what’s really important. I’ve let him guide me, and as such he is still breasfed and we still co sleep. Some people raise eyebrows and think this is an issue, but it works for us … one day he won’t want boobie anymore, and one day he will sleep in that beautiful room momma painted for him .. until then, I’m quite happy to settle down beside him at night .. even if I will be woken by a hungry, hair pulling milk monster in the middle of the night. These days go so quickly … and from the outset I’ve wanted to treasure it all ….

I wanted to blog tonight, yet realise I’m too tired to write anything of any substance. I couldn’t let 20 months pass by unnoticed though … so now I’ll cuddle up next to my boy, listening to the fireworks booming in the distance … looking forward to the adventures tomorrow will hold.

 

 

 

 

Digging the good life

14457347_2005403863019375_8905010701908896545_nAfter a long summer of driving back and forth to the hospital to visit my poor Dad, I am pleased to report that miracles can happen. He is home. Still on the “normal” heart transplant list, but suitably well enough not to be on the urgent one. This is such a relief for us all, and Dad is feeling ok and enjoying his freedom. La Vie Est Belle. I captured this photo at the weekend, of Freddie and Grandpa inspecting the apples in the orchard. Glorious normality resumed.

I had some VERY exciting news this week; the news that 14469669_2007128326180262_6923977006778968916_nFreddie and I reached the top of the local allotment list, and have our very own allotment! I feel so strongly that I want Fredders to understand where food comes from, and to spend as much time outside as possible. We are lucky to live next door to a big park, so although we don’t have a garden, we have access to a lot of space. Our allotment is a 5minute walk away, and I am already planning our blank canvas. There is an apple, pear and plum tree …. I intend to get some ex battery hens, and create a series of raised beds using wood from my parents old decking. This is going to be a real challenge for me, as it’s all new – but I have a good feeling about it, and I look forward to seeing how it develops. I’d like Freddie to have his own patch, and look forward to sitting in my shed, listening to the Archers, watching things grow – living the good life. Next stop the library for some allotment books ….

Meanwhile, Fredders is 19 months old today …. I’m convinced these months are going quicker …. this week I’ve made 35 Christmas cards with a Freddie footprint design; I’ve wrapped one of his stockings full of presents, and put up my Halloween decorations. I’m sure I wasn’t this organised pre-motherhood. I’m damned sure I wasn’t this tired …. hence blogging once again in bed with a mug of hot milk, beside a warm snoring boy … 20.04 and signing off …

 

 

 

 

Respice Finem

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Punting on The Cam

Life with a toddler is an exhilerating and exhausting rollercoaster of chaos and sticky fingers. We’ve just returned home from a night in Cambridge; it has been nine whole years since I graduated, and there was a special dinner for a retiring Porter. This particular Porter had been known to assist an inebriated me up D&E staircase, akin to what a friend described as Steve Irwin wrestling a crocodile. The least I could do was show up to his leaving meal [sober!]

Freddie was a little star; we went punting on the Cam yesterday lunchtime, and the sun shone. Watching him smile as he marvelled at the other punts, the ducks, the bridges, was just beautiful. I think he will appear on many people’s holiday snaps, as he enjoyed waving to other “punters”. It was one of the most enjoyable afternoons Freddie and I have had together; I felt so unbelievably lucky, to be back in the microcosm of Cambridge, with my little boy. In those moments punting, life was perfect; and I’m sure I will look back on yesterday for many years to come.

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A picnic on the faculty lawn

We had a picnic on the archaeology faculty lawn. The last time I sat on that lawn was on a June afternoon in 2007 waiting for our degree classifications to be pinned to the Senate House. Needless to say yesterdays Pom Bears and cocktail sausages were a whole lot more relaxing. Freddie had an ice cream on Kings Parade, and I bought him a “Cambridge” t shirt from Ryder & Amies.

And then it was back to college, where once ready for dinner, we played in the grounds – Freddie ran with his little “tactor” and revelled in the space and freedom.

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With my mentor/director of studies, Kate Pretty

I hadn’t expected it to be so emotional. I love Homerton dearly; it wasn’t always easy to be there as a student; yet returning yesterday felt in many ways like a home coming. It was wonderful not only to see the people – but the bricks and mortar; the lawns, the same smell in the Buttery, the same pictures hanging in the corridors. I still felt as if I belonged there; and in turn; so did Fred. I didn’t expect to feel so proud – proud of having stuck it out when I might have walked away; proud of this little smiling toddler who slept through his first Cambridge Formal. How amazing, to have experienced life as a Cambridge student. My degree may not be put to its best use; but no one can ever take it away from me. I love the idea of taking Freddie to Cambridge for a weekend each year, introducing him to the museums and libraries; to the bookshops and pubs. I hope he grows to love it as much as I do.

It was such a luxury to eat a three course meal with a sleeping toddler, peaceful in his pram at the end of the table! Intelligent conversation; no mention of nappies or sick, or Ra Ra the Noisy Lion. I could almost feel the rusty cogs of my brain grinding into action! Of course, it was down to earth with a bump when I had to share a single bed with a restless boy who was wide awake at 5.20am. I’m going to hold out for 7pm tonight, but can’t make any promises!