ROFL?

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ROFL!!!! (credit: imgur.com)

I was in London for a few days earlier this week and, as always, being away from the Motherland made me antsy.

Mainly because of The Big Buildings and All The People, but also because I am convinced that I am cursed and that a plague is poised to descend upon my house as soon as the train wheezes out of Darlington. (And not least because of the price of a plate of bacon and eggs: Ten pounds fifty, written like this: 10.5. I mean, come on!)

In my post-sudden death of husband angst, every time my phone wolf-whistled at me from my handbag I was convinced it was a text informing me that a key family member or beloved friend had been hospitalised or was deceased.

And news like that would come through via text – after all, it’s how I delivered news of Mark’s death to most of my friends. Which in retrospect seems heinously crass, but then, so is sudden death.

On hearing the whistle, I scrabbled about frantically among the receipts, bobbles and dog shit bags only to find it was my niece sending a picture of a puppy wearing a onesie entitled: ROFL!!!!

But aside from the terror induced by incoming messages, my phone also caused me to weep like Gazza this week with its tyrannous predictive text. Whilst searching for my Mother’s number (something I don’t have cause to do when I’m at home, bring that we’re attached at the hip), I entered the letter ‘M’ on the keypad. The phone helpfully suggested:

Mark Mobile

The number I had rehearsed for ten years came up on the little screen. I haven’t had the heart to erase it.

Erasing it, you see, indicates that you are somehow further towards the holy grail of Acceptance. But whilst my husband still exists on my phone and online, He continues to have a sort of metaphysical presence.

Which deluded as it may seem, is preferable to no presence at all.

ROFL.

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Every girl’s dream

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credit: zendirtzendust.wordpress.com

When I was a kid, I wanted to be a botanist and marry Jordan from New Kids on the Block.

Actually, the botanist thing was just a smoke-screen. I mainly wanted to marry Jordan from New Kids on the Block.

My daughter told me yesterday that she wants to be a squirrel when she grows up. Heady dreams for a five-year-old, but who am I to burst her bubble?

“Red or brown?” I asked.

She looked at me as if I’d just shit on the table. “Pink.”

Dreams change. For me, Jordan Knight was usurped when I discovered real, live men who didn’t sing everything in falsetto and wear their hair in a wisp.

Botany was replaced by the realisation that I had left University with an entirely use-free degree and a beer gut, and at this point any job would be a bonus.

Many of my grown-up dreams died along with my husband though. I wanted another baby, for example; I wanted a long and happy marriage. And we had shared dreams, as couples do. We wanted to see the cherry blossoms in Kyoto together, to move to France, to finally finish the Mad Men complete series box set after months of concerted viewing.

But in all that, I don’t ever recall envisioning myself as a pill-popping, thirty-eight-year-old widow with a small child and a drink problem. Unlike Don Draper, it was never part of the plan.

Not content with all its other insults, that bastard Widowhood blunders in and steals your dreams too.

This is life after death

I’ve got a feeling it’s going to be one of those days.

A wobbly-lipped, can’t-think-about-my-dead-husband-without-wanting-to-claw-my-own-eyeballs-out type of day.

Daft posing. I cry because I miss Him so...

Daft posing. I cry because I miss Him so…

They come and go, days like these. Most of the time, it’s like living in a kind of remission. But then one unremarkable Monday you wake up to find yourself being assailed by a hairy-arsed, sabre-toothed grief demon intent on juicing you to make emotional soup.

Why today? Well I dreamt about Mark pretty much all of last night. Images of Him spooled through my brain like a film reel. And even though I kept waking, the movie didn’t stop. It resumed as soon as my head hit the pillow again.

And I sobbed in these dreams, because I somehow knew that in the morning He would still be gone.

My daughter woke up, naked and small, and I cradled her in the crook of my arm and kissed her face and told her I loved her more than anything in the world. She lay there awhile, being kissed, then asked for Shreddies.

This is life after death. This is the fabled ‘New Normal’. (There’s an expression for the Grief Bullshit Bingo sheet! Cross it off, quick!).

Today I just need to leave my assailant get on with his attack.

Tomorrow the remorseless fucker will no doubt be juicing someone else.

Ways to spend an idle moment

Wobbly-Headed Bob resolves to commit suicide.

Wobbly-Headed Bob resolves to commit suicide. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I love catastrophising, me. It’s one of my favourite pastimes. If my molars aren’t clamped together in angst, there’s something wrong.

Furthermore, I like nothing more than spending an idle moment picturing myself receiving bad news. Before Mark’s death, the worst combination of words anyone could have said to me were: “Mark is dead.”

In my reverie, on receiving this news, I saw myself, a sprawling, dribbling mess on the floor, unable to speak or move. I wept and wailed, pummelled my fists against my chest, and implored sweet Satan to explain why he had inflicted such sorrow upon my house.

Sometimes in my reverie I even went so far as to throw myself into the grave alongside my beloved, but that was only during a particularly tedious Powerpoint.

One thing I never envisioned myself doing though was looking at the stout little paramedic who delivered those very words and saying: “Right.”

I honestly did. I said: “Right.”

And then I made a cup of tea.

The reason I mention it is because last night I watched a documentary about the murder of Anni Dewani. Her husband, Shrien, is implicated in the death and whilst I have no idea whether he did it or not, a piece of footage was shown in which we see his reaction when he heard the news that she’d been found dead.

He is in a hotel corridor when he takes the blood-chilling call. Minutes later he is seen holding his hands up to his face and is led into his hotel room to be given a sedative. Then an hour later, he is seen prowling the hotel corridor on the phone to a friend, laughing and joking. What kind of maniacal psychopath would be LAUGHING after hearing his wife had been found dead? Surely that fucker wears guilt like a shroud!

Thing is, when I received that dreaded news, I was a dot-eyed, blank-faced caricature of what I always envisioned I’d be when faced with a statement of this magnitude. I may have laughed. I definitely drank. I didn’t, though, as I recall, cry. Not for a few days anyway. I didn’t break down and I didn’t commit suicide.

What this says about the Dewani murder I don’t know.

All I’m saying is don’t judge a griever by their laughter.

‘In the Event of my Death…’

English: Sir Winston Churchill.

English: Sir Winston Churchill. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you are lucky enough to still have your spouse intact, I have a question.

Do you ever discuss, you know, the D word? Is ‘death’ part of your warm, couply vocabulary, or is it one of those subjects like exes and the fact that it took him SO FUCKING LONG to propose that is never broached?

Even after He was critically ill, and the click-whoosh of His mechanical heart valve kept me awake at night, my husband and I never discussed what would happen in the event of the other’s death. It was taboo, I guess because it had almost been reality and neither of us wanted to think about the what ifs.

Besides, that Registrar in the hospital, the little fella with whom I high-fived like a fucking cheerleader when I saw him months later in the heart clinic, stated quite clearly that Mark ‘would have a normal life span’ post-surgery. So why would we spend time as a couple talking about, you know, the D word, when we had three Mad Men box sets to get through?

After the unthinkable happened, I spent a considerable amount of time and money amassing books on the subject of grief and how to deal with it. I wanted an answer to this devastating conundrum I was suddenly faced with and I convinced myself that titles such as ‘I Wasn’t Ready To Say Goodbye’ and ‘After You’d Gone’ were key texts in achieving this.

Whilst they work for some people, I quickly realised that they weren’t going to do much for me. In fact, no book can tell you how to grieve, or how to get over the death of your spouse. There is no antidote.

One book which remains well-thumbed though is entitled ‘In Loving Memory’ (sent to me by a friend in the aftermath). This morning as I was hunting for some sage words to help me get through the day, I opened it at a quote by Winston Churchill. It is an excerpt from a letter to his wife and is entitled ‘In The Event of my Death’.

“Do not grieve for me too much,” he writes. “…If there is anywhere else I shall be on the look out for you. Meanwhile look forward, feel free, rejoice in Life, cherish the children, guard my memory. God bless you.”

Oh to have been Churchill’s widow upon reading those words! He had given her a steer, given her permission to move on. Stated his wishes for her life from beyond the grave.

Stuck out here as I am in this vast ocean of grief, I can’t help wishing Mark and I had had that discussion, that he’d lent me that guiding hand.

For I’m lost. What would you want me to do, love?

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?