Dave Myers’ hair as a metaphor for bereavement

Dave Myers’ hair isn’t the only tragedy of Saturday nights.article-2438145-185958B600000578-5_634x521

I bumped into a fellow widow in Sainsbury’s earlier (we get around, us widows) and we were discussing one of this blog’s favourite subjects – the tyranny of the weekend.

She agreed that the sagging void represented by the upcoming 48 hours was one of the worst things about finding yourself without a spouse. (That and the fact that your entire world has shrivelled to resemble melting Tupperware.)

A typical Saturday night for me is role-playing Timothy Lumsden with my Mother – but Timothy if he had a mobile phone and a drink problem. In fact, my Mother has been staying with me for a while for reasons I won’t bore you with here, so the Sorry! theme has extended throughout weeknights too.

And Mother has been observing. Clocking. Taking notes.

And she has brought it to my attention (through the medium of furrowed brows and mother-daughter telepathy) that I spend most of my evenings texting people and draining wine. While my daughter wears a groove in the laminate with her scooter.

Having thought about it, this is definitely a post-Mark’s death phenomenon. Endless messaging was not a feature of our evenings as a couple. I don’t even recall what we did in the evenings actually. Just existed, together, I suppose. Then retired to bed with our comics.

Now, I seem to rely on it. Live-streaming the outside world into my lounge has become part of my widow’s safety net. More evidence, if any were needed, of a regression to a sort of petulant grief-induced teenager-dom.

Mother has now moved back into her own house.

But I can still hear the sound of the brows knitting together through the wind…

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Things You Don’t Tell Your Mother

There are certain things you don’t tell your mother.

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Keeping me at arm’s length with a broccoli floret

Like how, when you were seventeen, you crashed her car into the gatepost while she was away in France and had it fixed out of your savings before she came back.

Or owning up to the true extent of what you got up to at University, and how little of it involved academic study.

Even now, close as we are, there are things I don’t tell my Mother. Partly to save her brow from further angst-incurred furrowing, but also because I have good friends and a counsellor with whom I ‘talk out’ my fruitier escapades.

Of course, when it comes to my own daughter, I like to think she does, and will, tell me everything.

Being five-years-old, this currently involves information about her latest bowel evacuation and news that she doesn’t like broccoli, (although she did tell me the Great Fire of London was in 1666 the other day, which really was news to me).

One thing she doesn’t discuss with me though, or even mention much these days, is Daddy. And I don’t push it, because I might cry and not stop, and she might end up as she usually does, wiping my tears and telling me everything will be OK.

I hadn’t thought much about this until I dropped her off at school this morning and her teacher asked for a ‘quiet word’.

Seems she’s been mentioning Him a lot at school. In the dinner hall. In assembly. She’s confided in staff that she’s sad that her daddy is dead and that she misses Him. She has sought comfort in the arms of teachers and dinner ladies.

I spent the rest of the morning ulcerating about this particular conversation starter. Arguably the most important and interesting of conversation starters for us to elaborate on, yet she keeps me at arm’s length with a broccoli floret.

She witnessed His death. She continues to witness the fall-out from His death. So why hasn’t she sought comfort from me?

Perhaps she’s trying to save my brow from further furrowing too.

The poisoned fish finger

Fried fish finger

Fried fish finger (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A friend entrusted me with her two daughters yesterday, thereby making me custodian of three little girls under the age of six. For an hour. Until their daddy came to pick them up.

Looking after other people’s children always makes me skittish as I am convinced that I am cursed and that they will fall foul of a falling Acme piano or a poisoned fish finger whilst in my care. These two, however, miraculously survived, and their daddy duly came to pick them up.

Hearing kids and their daddies interact always sends my heart into fluster, and I have to concentrate on not a) bursting into tears or b) shouting ‘Oh for fuck’s sake!’ in a really childish manner. Last night was no different.

“Have you got a cuddle for daddy?” he asked them.

“Yeah!” Within seconds they were trampolining on him, using him as a set of monkey-bars, swinging from his ears etc.

The moment reminded me of when Mark used to come in from work: the tail lights of the car edging into the garage, the shriek of ‘Daddy’s here!’ (me), the sound of the heavy car door slamming and then the sight of his face at the kitchen window, invariably contorted into some ludicrous expression.

When my friend’s husband arrived, I wanted to cuddle him too. I wanted to nuzzle my nose into his starched work-shirt collar and loosen his tie, and ask him how his day had been. I wanted to watch him flick through the post, then go to the fridge and help himself to a beer. Then I wanted my daughter to hug him and feel the sense of warmth and security that a returning parent brings.

Instead I kissed him sagely on the cheek and watched his reunion with his girls.

Turns out my daughter felt it too. As they were leaving, I heard great wails coming from outside. I ran out, gathered her up and asked;

“Whatever is it? Acme piano? Poisoned fish finger?”

She buried her head in my shoulder and cried: “I just want my Daddy.”

Photographs of dead relatives

This is you and your daddy

My Mother is a keen curator of what M used to call ‘photographs of dead relatives’.

Sepia miniature of unidentified raggy-arsed forebear? Mother’s all over it like Old Etonians in Parliament. She’s got the census from 1743 and worked out it’s a great, great, great uncle’s love child. She’s been on a pilgrimage to an outpost north of Inverness to visit the grave.

The significance of this ancestor differs among family members – most couldn’t give a monkey’s, but for others (well, my Mother), they are an important part of the jigsaw of family history.

I’m doing some historical research of my own at the moment, for a piece of writing I’m doing about Newcastle. This morning I’ve been in the city looking at other people’s raggy-arsed forebears in a collection of photographs from 1860. In one or two of them I thought I recognised myself – the bone structure of the face, the slightly hooded eyes. It is possible, I conceded, that I may be looking at a forebear without realising it. It is certainly conceivable that I am related to a Geordie fishwife, somewhere down the line.

Being in Newcastle always brings out a yearning for M, but I have begun to notice that He has started to take on saintly, almost mythical status in my mind. Thoughts of Him infuse everything I do.

It struck me today, as looked at the photographs and wandered around the Quayside, trying to absorb the history of the place, that M is now ‘a dead relative’. All that remains of Him for my daughter are scant memories (if any memories at all), photographs and some personal effects. I can record, recount, curate and archive His life until my fingers bleed, but for her, He will always be in 2D.

Yes, she looks like Him. Her kids will probably look like Him. Her kids kids will probably look like Him. He ‘lives on’, as people keep telling me.

But the fact is that He has already become a photograph of a dead relative to add to the pile.

The Duchess of Hazard

I am the Fun Police.

At least as far as my daughter goes. She wants to take her scooter down a slight incline and I’m there, sucking my teeth on the sidelines, hardly daring to look. She wants to do star jumps on the trampoline and there’s my face, moulded into the mesh like a bank robber.

Yesterday, a group of us went to Newby Hall. Fun central, as far as kids are concerned. Water fountains to jump in. A lake to paddle in. A zip-wire to…zip down.

All potential death traps. Lynn Faulds-Wood has got nothing on me.

Water fountains = slip hazard.

Lake = drowning hazard.

Zip-wire = one way ticket to paraplegia.

Friends will testify that I have always been on the cautious side. (Except after a few beers – then I’ll do owt). However, since M died, I have become convinced something is going to happen to take my child too. In fact, my buttocks have been permanently clenched for eighteen months.

Prior to this, it was my own health which caused me anxiety. Everything took on catastrophic significance, from headaches (brain tumour) to athletes foot (skin cancer). It was a psychological unhinging which was attributed to M’s sudden illness and near-death in 2008. Finally I was told I had ‘Health Anxiety’ by my weary-eyed GP, who just wanted to satisfy me with a diagnosis of some description so that I would fuck off and leave her alone.

Since M was taken from me though, my anxieties have been transposed onto my girl. To the point yesterday where I was so caught up in worrying, I forgot to take her bathing suit and she refused to go into the fountains nude.

Instead she stayed close to me, wrapped up in the safety of the towel.

This is not a suicide note

In a tragi-comic twist, my Granny died five days before M.

Me, writing a message down for Granny on the whiteboard, as she couldn't hear.

Me writing a message down for Granny on the whiteboard, as she couldn’t hear.

She was old, tired, she’d had enough. She was also much beloved.

M and I cried together when we heard the news. Little did we know that by the end of that same week, He’d be gone too.

The day after Granny died, Dad told me: “It’s sad, but life is for the living.”

I took it as one of those perfunctory statements that people make in such situations. Didn’t give it much thought, got on with the task of living. For the next four days, at least, until my world would shockingly and without warning become utterly un-liveable.

Dad’s statement has been on my mind lately though. I understand what he was saying, but does living really exclude the dead?

In a purely physical way, yes it does. But M is still so much part of the fabric of my life and that of my daughter, I can’t condemn Him to that other land. His presence is felt in everything, from the food we eat, to the TV we watch, to the choices we make about the future.

I still grapple with a need to conceptualise the two worlds (living and dead) and their relationship with each other, which is why I cannot yet inter His ashes. I need a physical remnant of Him to remain here – a box of dust to act as a bridge between the two lands.

In the early days after M died, I wanted to die myself. Not to ‘be with Him’, because I don’t believe that’s how it all ends up. (If it does, however, knowing my luck I’d be stuck with Whitney Houston, who died on the same day. Christ, imagine that warbling in your ear for the ever-after.)

I wanted to die because the pain of losing Him was so intense, I just wanted it to stop. Many widows I know felt the same.

I never actually attempted to end my life though – mainly for fear that I’d end up in a series of botched attempts like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day. But also because I have a responsibility to myself and those still living who love me. Plus it isn’t the answer to all this. I’m not sure what is.

But given that we’re all heading that way in the end, and seemingly there is no logic or forewarning from the Reaper, my revenge is to live.

And to live well. Cheers!

We’re (not) going on a Summer holiday…

English: Victorian postbox Second one seen tod...

English: Victorian postbox Second one seen today, on a pebble-dashed wall in Upper Chapel. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Everyone I know is either a) on holiday or b) going on holiday shortly.

It’s the school summer break, see. And the law states that families must ‘vacate’ in some shape or form during this period.

My line is: “I don’t like holidays. I’m frightened of flying, so I’d rather stay at home.” And I’m sticking to it.

(The truth is, I’ve got no-one to go away with, even if I wanted to. Which I don’t, right, because I don’t like holidays and I’m frightened of flying, so I’d rather stay at home. Who wants an Italian piazza when you’ve got a row of pebble-dashed houses to look out onto whilst drinking your vino tinto?)

I probably sound ungrateful. Lots of people don’t have a chance to go on holiday, even if they have a spouse to go with. But the fact is, I don’t give a shit. I’m full of red wine and self-pity tonight, and this blog is GETTING IT.

I don’t want to go to Corfu with a friend. I don’t want to ‘do’ a Haven holiday in Whitby. I want to be doing anything, literally, anything, with my husband and my daughter. Even looking out on a row of pebble-dashed houses together would be peachy-keen.

The ‘holidays’ stretch out before me; a flabby surplus of time. Friends and family are fucking off to have fun with the people they love most in the world. They’re packing suitcases, ulcerating over whether they have enough swimming attire, running to Primark in a panic to get their last-minute lounger-wear.

Me? I’m happy to stay at home, because did I mention that I don’t like holidays and I don’t like flying?

I also love pebble-dash.