Hubby and I ventured out on a date last week. First time in goodness knows how long that we went out, just the two of us.
As usual, when it comes to me leaving the house, he was in the car, engine running. Tapping his fingers impatiently on the steering wheel, wondering why the hell it was taking me so long to get out the house.
I hissed something at him like:
“In the last hour I have….
Fed the kids
Walked the dogs
Fed the dogs
Shouted at kids for not tidying up their dinner plates
Swept the floor
Sorted the laundry
Shouted at kids again about the mess in the kitchen
Had a shower
Washed my hair
Plucked my chin hairs
Despaired at the state of the girls’ bedrooms, hesitated and then simply closed their doors
Threw some clothes on that still fit me
And… Ta Dah! Here I am!”
As I launched myself into the passenger seat, I wondered out loud whether I would need my glasses.
“Don’t be daft!” Husband laughed. “You’ll be able to read the menu!”
But, I struggled. I really did. My eyesight has done a bunk. It’s done me remarkably well over the last 40 odd years, but in the last 6 months, it has gone on strike. Thrown in the towel. If I’m looking at cooking instructions, I have to take a photo and them zoom in to read it!
Thankfully the menus were bigger than my torso (quite an achievement, given the additional lockdown pounds!) so I managed to make out the pizza options. I didn’t bother with the grown-up salads and meats, for I am still a kid inside, despite the middle-aged woman who has hijacked my exterior!
The other news is that the elder two offspring have taken up golf. Now, this is big news. My father comes from a family of passionate golfers. My mother was vice captain of the local golf club and played many competitions. When they were very small, my mum would take Archie and Martha to the driving range and patiently help them with their enthusiastic, aggressive and wild swings. I have some lovely video footage of this, though it hurts my heart too much to watch it at the moment.
And I am thrilled to announce that the boy has caught the golf bug.
“I keep dreaming of my swing and the next shot!” he laughed the other morning, before in the next breath, asking his father whether they could go and do 9 holes that night after school.
I must admit, my heart swelled with love and pride. And then the reality that I can’t let my dad know about this new love of his beloved game, sucker-punched me, as it tends to do when I am not careful.
A friend asked me how I was doing recently. How I am coping with my grief. The honest answer is, I don’t know. I have no bar by which to measure myself. Some days are fine, others are a struggle. Some days I block it out, others I wallow in the pain and revel in how close that makes me feel to my parents. I don’t know how I am supposed to feel. I just know that I do feel. I feel it all. I feel anger at the injustice of it. I feel envious of friends who have one or both parents. I feel cheated and bereft. I feel hopeless. I feel thankful. I feel sad. I feel broken.
I dream about my parents often. In those minutes before I am fully awake, and I can hear their voices and take huge comfort in the familiarity of having them near.
This didn’t happen straight away. It has taken a few months to get to this stage.
In the hours and days after my father died, it was the little things that triggered a huge tsunami of …. I want to call it pain, but it was more like a void. A breathless, chasm of fear…. Small things that I took for granted, that I knew I never could again would blindside me, knocking the air right out of my lungs. Leaving me gasping and taking in deep gulps of air. The ground beneath me was pitching me from one deep gasp of panic to the next. The world around me was seen through a blurry haze. Nothing seemed real. How could it? The rock that had been a constant reassurance in my life, that had formed the foundation of who I am, had been whipped out from under me, leaving me reeling in disbelief and shock.
Those early days soon passed into weeks and in those early weeks and months after dad’s passing, I would lie awake for hours thinking about my father’s last moments, or the last words he spoke to me. The last image I have of him has invaded my thoughts in the deepest, darkest moments of the night regularly since that horrendous moment in time last summer. I have woken in the night full of regret over things I never said to my mum and then have wasted hours with my brain jumping and dancing from one memory to the next. A torturous time of self-indulgence, when the whole world seems like it is asleep and I am within touching distance of heaven.
But over this last week, my dreams have involved just my mother. Her laugh. Her reassuring presence. Her lilting, Scottish accent. Her dark, kind eyes. Perhaps it is because I found an old diary of hers, tucked away in a drawer. A diary she kept daily for several months when she was just 19 and completely head over heels in love with my dad.
It has been lovely to read her words about their afternoons spent together (“just perfect”) and how attentive he was, turning up to see her at work most afternoons. Taking her to the medical ball (“hair appt – (not to be late!)”) and spending New Year’s Eve 1969 together. I struggled to make out the tiny, neat, looping writing. I turned it one way and then the other and then resorted to a pair of old reading glasses I bought from the supermarket last year as I felt my eyesight start to deteriorate.
My sister and I were at my parents’ house a few weeks ago. We met up with my lovely aunt. My dad’s sister was also one of the ladies of the bedchamber (see previous post HERE). We were looking through some old photos I had found in one of the wardrobes.
“They really did have a lovely life together, didn’t they?” Sheila said quietly.
My sister and I looked at the small pile of photos; the ones of us all in the garden at our old family home. The ones of them playing golf in Canada whilst visiting my mum’s sister and her family. Other photos of my parents on holiday together, enjoying the delicious seafood in Croatia and the dancing as they cruised down the Nile in Egypt.
We nodded our agreement. It was too short and I will never not feel robbed. And the last few years were marred by mum’s illness. But, their’s was a true love story. We have so many memories full of smiles, laughter and togetherness to draw on when we need to.
So, my plan over the last few weeks is to focus on this. So when I wake in the dead of night, when the darkness threatens to overwhelm me and I am filled with regret and sadness, I will be trying to focus on the fact that they were lucky. Their marriage was built on a foundation of love. My mum’s diary, filled with excitement and love and teenage hope is testament to that.
Now, I just need to get myself to the opticians so I can read it all properly!