A Dispatch from Widow Twankey

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Me, last night.

I’m in love with a dead man.

Head over heels, lindy-hoppin’, hells-a-poppin’, TomKat-couch-jumpin’ in love. With a dead man. I think about Him and my heart swoons.

I remember the night we met. He was wearing a blue turtle neck jumper, blue jeans, and smoking a Marlboro light. He smiled at me and I was hooked.

“Mother,” I said to The Long-Suffering One that same evening. “I’ve met the man I’m going to marry.”

And I did, four years and a small amount of petulance later. (“Well, when ARE you going to ask me to marry you then, for fuck’s sake?!”)

So in all of this – this being truly, madly, deeply in love with a dead man – where could there ever be room for anyone else? And furthermore, what sort of head-banging masochist would put up with being in a relationship with someone who was still in love with said dead man? Particularly one with a small child, a red wine addiction and a habit of unexpectedly breaking down in the throes of grief?

I have been forced to consider this question this week, after a good friend who only cares for my well-being, called me Widow Twankey and instructed me to ‘get a life’. I would have preferred a comparison with a more romantic heroic lead, but I suppose if the hairnet fits…

She said it in response to my admission that I’m lonely and might quite like a friend who is a boy. Her outburst was tempered with humour and red wine, but based on the adages relating to these two concepts and truth, I kinda know she meant it. Others are probably thinking the same, of course, but lack her eloquence to express it.

So, in considering this question, here’s where I’ve got to. I’m in love with Mark. And we exist together in the impenetrable love cocoon that I have created inside my head.

I’m just not sure how to go about letting anyone else in.

Season of misseds and mellow fruitfulness

Mark loved Autumn, and here we are in the throes of a spectacular one. Yeah, yeah Mother Nature, rub my snivelling snout in it a bit more why don’t you? As if I don’t miss Him enough.balanced_seesaw-001

And golden leaf-flurries and abundant hedgerows notwithstanding, I am really missing Him at the minute.

It’s been a gruelling couple of weeks and I need His opinion on things. He countered my skewed world-view with His own skewed world-view, thus producing one perfectly balanced individual.

When you’ve had ten years of living side-by-side with someone – farting, burping, giving birth in their presence – it is impossible to reconcile the fact that they are suddenly no longer there. Entire chapters of your life are swallowed up in that furnace at the crematorium. Exclusive vocabulary, mannerisms, points of reference, all gone up in smoke.

I actually went to tell Him something the other day, unable to staunch the flow of the first few words before they came out.

“Remember: ‘Did you drawed that’…?” I began. (It was a line from this book, right, and… ahh, forget it.)

But I was talking into the wind. Of course, He wasn’t there.

Generally, we agreed on stuff, so I think I know what His counsel would be relating to issues of the day. (Although not the sexual allure of Jenny Agutter. We never saw eye-to-eye on that.)  And besides, I have a raft of other counsellors now, from my Counsellor with the capital ‘C’, to my friends, family and the odd individual who pipes in with an opinion every now and again. But that voice – His voice – is conspicuous by its silence.

So here I am, perched on my side of life’s see-saw looking up at the empty space where my foil should be.

At least the weather’s good though, right?

Scenes from the Boden catalogue

Someone hell-bent on covering up their drinking habit from their wife has filled my recycle bin with empties. Yeah! I found them yesterday when I couldn’t fit my own shameful stash into the little green box.

They’re definitely not mine; they’re San Miguel bottles and l wouldn’t touch that piss with yours.

That said, it’s been half-term this week, and shorter days coupled with protracted child’s DVD viewing seem to legitimise earlier drinking. I’ll confess I’ve lost track of how much I’ve consumed, what I’ve consumed and where I’ve consumed it. But San Miguel? Hmm.

October half-term always brings out the worst in widowed me.

Kids seem to be running round everywhere shouting for their daddies; and daddies seem to be running round everywhere after their kids. It’s like living out scenes from the Boden catalogue.

I probably wouldn’t have noticed the ubiquity of dad-child interaction before Mark’s death. But these days my eyes appear to be set to Instagram mode, where every scene featuring dad and offspring has a soft-hued, nostalgic edge.

And dads seem to be so much more interactive since Mark died. They’re feeding rabbits at farm parks, whizzing down slides, singing loudest at music groups. They’re taking time to hone their Hallowe’en costumes in order to engage in door-to-door widow-baiting with their apple-cheeked families.

What happened to the good old days of mother as the primary carer? Prior to Mark’s death I rarely saw a dad. Farm parks were the domain of women and cake. Mother’s was the only voice you heard at Joe Jingles. Between Mark and me, I was the one with the repetitive slide-burn.

I swear, it’s enough to turn me to San Miguel. God, perhaps they were my empties after all.

The Man

A simple flowchart for troubleshooting a broke...

A simple flowchart for troubleshooting a broken lamp. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I stink.

No really, I do.

I haven’t showered in 48 hours due to the fact that my boiler broke down on Sunday, and despite earnest button-pushing and knob-twirling and attempting to decipher flow-charts in the manual, I have had to call in The Man.

Prior to calling in The Man, two other Mans came to look at it – partners of women-friends, each with varying degrees of competence in boiler button-pushing. One of them even had the front of it off and was poking around with the PCB. (The something-or-other Circuit Board, apparently. He did explain but I dozed off. Standing up, with my eyes open.)

Once he conceded he couldn’t fix it, the second Man agreed to call in the current Man on my behalf – mainly because I hate dealing with this shit, I don’t want to try and understand it, and ordinarily I would have left it to my husband to sort out.

As if this weren’t enough, I have faced the triple whammy of car tax, insurance and licence renewal this week. Where Mark enjoyed the challenge of finding the cheapest quote and the timely submission of inane DVLA bureaucracy, the whole process fills me with dread.

This year, I decided to take it in stages. First, I diligently wrote on my chalk board the words: Tax. Insurance. Licence. They taunted me for a week, before I decided to ask other people what I needed to do.

Anyway, they’re done now. I’m taxed, insured and licenced to within an inch of my life. My boiler is being fixed as we speak.

I am, for all intents and purposes, (and with the assistance of loving friends and family) coping with this hand I’ve been dealt, one task at a time.

But in some areas – the everyday tasks of real life – I really wish I were being cared for by my own Man instead of someone else’s.

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.

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.

‘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?

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.”

Shits n’ giggles

Public Toilet

Public Toilet (Photo credit: ilovebutter)

This blog used to be all about shits n’ giggles.

You know; drinking beyond excess. Frolicking with the Plumber like a reckless youth. Buying loads of ‘things’. The comedic potential of dog ownership. A right old barrel o’ laughs.

I’ve noticed, and also had it pointed out, that it’s become increasingly maudlin as time has gone on. I assure you, it ain’t intentional. It seems to be the way grief is leading me. The first few months were like, whoah! What the fuck is going on here? Suddenly, from being in a relationship with the love of my life for ten years, (married for five), I am, for all intents and purposes, single.

What does this mean?

He’s not here, that’s what it means. And I can do whatever, or whomever I want! I don’t have to ‘check’ if I can go out with the girls for a night. I don’t have to ‘run it by Him’ if I want to go away for the weekend. I can sleep with whomever I choose, without explanation. I can spend money on whatever I want, (He never would have agreed to half the shit I’ve bought since He died). I can now make decisions about my daughter’s future singularly, without having to seek a second opinion.

In short, it’s back to ME, ME, ME. Freedom, George Michael-style. (With the exception of that unfortunate public toilet debacle.)

But actually. Erm. I don’t like it. The ‘fun’ is over.

You can come back now, love…Love? Love?

Hymn to Him

Hello keyboard my old friend. I’ve come to talk with you again.

You're so cool. (Except perhaps in those wellies)

You’re so cool. (Except perhaps in those wellies)

And tonight I just want to riff about my husband. Thoughts of Him occupy me so completely, but I am unable to express them to anyone but this multi-buttoned musketeer. The words form on my tongue but come out stutteringly, meanderingly, without flow or point.

Besides, why would anyone want to know about how I was always so proud that it was HIM I was going home with at the end of a night?

Or how when I first met Him we used to sit smoking roll-ups til morning, stubbing them out in a Lambrini bottle, which became a brown-silted graveyard for fag ends?

Or how He played ‘Romanza’ on the guitar with the devotion of a father nurturing a child? And how we used to sing together, to our daughter, ‘Dream A Little Dream of You?

How He introduced me to JJ Cale, War of the Worlds, Robertson Davies?

Or how He spoke in a low, deep voice – slowly and without pauses?

How He drank Black Sheep bitter and would always order beef curry at the Chinese?

How our last words before bed were always: I love you pet.

How He was without doubt the most courageous and beautiful human being I have ever met, and I still can’t believe He’s gone?

“…I look back and am amazed that my thoughts were so clear and true, that three words went through my mind endlessly, repeating themselves like a broken record: you’re so cool, you’re so cool, you’re so cool.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vzR4Agcsuh8