The Seven Year Bitch

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Re-enacting scenes from Sorry (photo: http://www.bbc.co.uk)

Today I am picking the carrot out of the fact that I should have been married exactly seven years.

What would we have been doing? Probably popping the cork on a nice bottle of red. Settling in to watch Masterchef. We may have ordered in, but that’s not a given.

I’ve said before that M and I didn’t place much stock in anniversaries of any kind – birthdays were about as excited as we got, usually marked by a card and, if He was very unlucky, a home-made, and therefore deflated, Victoria sponge.

Instead, we lived by my granddad’s old adage; ‘Every day’s a Christmas day’.

Not much would have been different today, actually, except for the company.

As it is, I’m re-enacting scenes out of Sorry, where I am a sort of female Timothy Lumsden, having my dinner served to me by my Mother who then does the dishes afterwards. Fortunately she is far cry from Lumsden’s mother, and tolerates my shameful bad language with characteristic equanimity.

I have glanced at the photographs on the sideboard of this time seven years ago and it feels as if I’m looking at a different couple. That bloke wearing the big smile and the tails, next to that bird in the long dress. Figments of some distant lifetime. How is it possible that the day depicted would signal the start of just five years of marriage?

I have spent the day trying to put a name on the hollow space within me. It’s the part which paints a grey wash of sadness over everything. Sometimes it’s so grey it’s opaque – other times it’s cygnet-coloured. But no matter the hue, it leaves everything slightly out-of-tune.

I can only come up with one name for the hollow space.

His.

Happy anniversary, pet. Wherever you are.

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Brace, brace!

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As someone who has a morbid fear of flying , what better programme to tune into last night but ‘The Plane Crash’, a documentary about a Boeing 737 which was deliberately crashed in order for engineers to see what really happens at the point of impact?

Aside from feeling a sense of vindication (yeah, OK, so it’s the safest form of travel, but Christ look what HAPPENS when something goes wrong!), there was a moment which, for me, provided a perfect visual representation of what grief feels like.

Crash test dummies were placed around the aircraft; some were strapped in, some were left untethered, some were placed in the brace position, others sat upright.

Cameras filmed from inside the cabin and caught the action within at the point of impact. The experts who examined the resultant footage agreed what we all already knew – braced, with a seatbelt fastened was the best position to adopt in the event of a crash.

What the footage also revealed though, was what happened to the dummies who were in the other positions. The poor bastard without a seatbelt was found wedged under the seat in front, folded backwards in a contortion worthy of Houdini.

But it was the guy who was sitting upright who could have been the poster boy for the aftermath of death of a spouse.

He looked forwards, unswerving in the face of the glass, luggage, wires, trays, pieces of fuselage which tore through him. His head ricocheted off the seat in front, whilst debris melted and fizzed all around. Unbelievably, the engineers believed he probably wouldn’t have died. The severity of the head injuries, however, could not be ascertained.

Adopting the brace position in grief is without doubt the safest option, but I’m starting to realise that looking forwards and facing the onslaught is a necessary part of the journey. I have done that very thing today with my counsellor. Lifted my gaze and felt the impact of the debris.

As with all catastrophic events, however, the severity of the head injuries cannot yet be ascertained.

Him and her

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This is Him, and her.

Hello. I’m having a glass of Rioja at the end of one of those ‘Oh sweet Satan’s ball-sack, I’m a TERRIBLE mother’ days. Will you join me?

I have had the emotional resilience of Wensleydale cheese today (crumbly, for all you non-Northern-English people). And I’ve been unable to toughen myself up.

And my child has both a) witnessed it and b) had to stay at my Mother’s whilst I spent time collapsing on the bed at home. It sounds melodramatic, but I swear, today, I’ve not even been able to THINK about, you know, Him, without going all Wensleydale.

I don’t know why it hits you like this. Anyone? Anyone?

If I’d even tried to compose a post earlier I wouldn’t have had the energy to press the buttons on the keyboard. Fortunately, Rioja has the same effect on me as spinach has on Popeye – it makes me strong to the finich.

It’s the school holidays and I’m up to my ears with the sound of kids shouting for their daddies. I’m sick of people rambling on about going on holiday together. I’m weary of people complaining about the forthcoming fortnight they’re going to have to endure with their husband and kids. I’d sell a kidney for the chance of a holiday with just Him and her.

“Are you cryin’?” My daughter asked me, as tears powered down my cheeks.

“Uhuh.”

“‘Cos you miss Daddy?”

“U”- snort- “Huh”

She doesn’t say anymore than that these days. She just goes and gets a length of toilet paper from the bathroom and clumsily tries to stop the flow.

And I thought to myself today – with no level of profundity whatsoever – I thought, nothing really matters. Nothing.

All I want is you, Buble. Can you hear me?

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.

Please send back my leg-warmers.

leg warmers photo from flickr by iluvrhinestones

leg warmers photo from flickr by iluvrhinestones (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sudden death of a spouse is fucking rude.

It waltzes into your life without invitation and gives you no opportunity for recourse. I want to tap it on the shoulder and say, excuse me but…fuck off. Can you come back in, say, 50 years time? And give us warning next time?

It brings to mind those excruciating moments when one ‘breaks up’ with a boyfriend. The build-up. The announcement. The returning of items which held so much weight at the time:

“Please send back my leg-warmers and the Belinda Carlisle album, asap.”

Sudden death affords no such luxury. One minute, the love of your life is alive. The next, they are dead. You have no chance for discussion, no build-up, no demands for significant items to be returned. Indeed, you are left to look through things belonging to your beloved and decide what is significant or not.

When M died, there were a couple of boxes of memorabilia I’d never seen. Not that He’d hidden them from me – we just hadn’t got round to them, as a couple.

I asked my oldest friend in the world to come and sort through them with me. Contained within were photos, letters and pictures that revealed a whole other side to my husband.

“What’s this photo of?”

“Who is this?”

“What does this mean?”

We spent an evening trying to decipher His life ‘before me’. Of course, we reached no conclusion. There were no answers, because the only person who could provide them was gone. So I have boxes full of unanswered questions in my loft.

I wish I had a few moments just to ask Him about the contents of those boxes. What? Who? When? Where?

But this is the nature of sudden death. It gives you no time.

Fucking rude.

A Head Full of Funk

The Inconsolable Widow

The Inconsolable Widow (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There are certain things that only widows know. And like any exclusive group, we like to keep our knowledge to ourselves.

This is mainly because people outside the group don’t have a clue what we’re going through and rather than get irate about their reactions (last post notwithstanding), we don’t bother them with the detail. But really, there’s an underground revolution going on. Widows are communicating via closed fora and private coffee meets all across the world. It’s like the Resistance, with cappuccinos and Kleenex.

At the risk of being cast-out, I’m going to share one pearl of received widow-wisdom. It is known as…’The Six Month Low’.

It is the point in widowhood when friends have stopped their cross-country pilgrimages to see you, their daily pep-texts have dwindled to once a week. This isn’t a criticism. Lives must go on and just because M was a central part of my life, I can’t expect the loss to be felt with the same sense of perpetuity by anyone else.

Six months is the point at which you feel at your lowest ebb. You have to reach into the pit of your resources for the last remnant of strength to pull you through.

Except, here’s the thing – for me, it didn’t happen. Six months was no worse than four months or nine months. In fact, I’m about to propose a new timescale theory: how about eighteen months? Because actually, today, as I approach eighteen months without M, I’m feeling a mixture of rage and heartbreak, and wondering if I can carry on.

I’m so fragile you could break me with a breath, and so angry I could kill someone. I’m feeling the loss in that space between my shoulder blades and in the joints of my fingers. My bottom lip won’t stop wobbling. I’m scrabbling about in the pit of my resources and emerging with nothing.

I am aware this is liable to change. After all, two days ago I was all for living it up. I guess what I’m trying to say is that timescales don’t work. It’s not an illness from which one recovers. This will go on and on.

Today I’ve got a head full of funk. Tomorrow it may be the musical type instead.

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!