Today I have been travelling on a journey and it has given me time to reflect. Today’s journey was from the unknown area of Scotland near Inveraray and my reflections were on the unknown first time journey of the eighteen months since Selina died, I can hardly believe that the days that have dragged by and the months that have rocketed by have added up to a year and a half, to the day.
Today’s unknown journey started in a drab and dreary valley that the car had to climb carefully from over a rocky and rough road and it felt at times that it was not going to make it or if it did it was going to be damaged. The comparison with the first weeks and months after Selina died are many . It was dreary and miserable, it was hard and rough and it was a battle to come up out of that sad place that at times I seriously doubted I would be able to do.Today like in life I have had many ups and downs (it is Scotland after all) and the weather was not kind with wet and misty conditions added to by the many huge wagons going at speed the other way as well as the slow, careful drivers that kept me back when I wanted to move on faster.Who I wonder are the slow drivers in my life, who has held me back? Luckily I can’t think of any so perhaps I’ve been on the fast road for a while, supported and encouraged by friends a plenty. Lucky me. The unexpected happened today when my sat nav suddenly redirected me through the centre of Glasgow rather than the quick route over the Kincardine bridge and that was quite nerve wracking much like those times in life when you suddenly have to face things you don’t want to and I’ve faced many of these over the last eighteen months. Slowly, with breaks to rest the journey goes on, life goes by, change is accepted and even celebrated, the sun breaks through the darkness in your life and the Selina shaped hole in my heart has less raw edges. It may never heal but it will be, is becoming manageable. Today the sun popped out as I sped down the M74, it got warm, it got hot and then there were more showers. Arriving home it was really warm and then I walked into the house that we loved coming back to and the loss was there, not for long but there like a sharp point digging in. Life like any journey has its ups and downs, it’s problems and it’s dangers but, I am getting through this quite well now, I am in control (mostly) and I know I have loads of help and support. Most people reading this will be Twitter contacts, several of whom I have had the absolute pleasure of meeting in real life and now call friends; My Twitter friends have been and are still the bright sun in my dark days. You know who you are, thank you for shining.
Of late, most of the last year in fact, I have enjoyed drawing cartoons on my iPad using the Paper app by FiftyThree (now called WeTransfer, try and keep up!). These ‘Toons’ started as a bit of fun in fast response to Twitter posts by my friend Pooky H who initially featured in all of them. It soon became clear that there was scope to reply to other Twitter friends in a similar way and so my group of subjects grew. It was from one of this group that I was asked to draw a regular Toon for a writing challenge for aspiring young writers followed just last week by another writing challenge for young and EAL writers. These Toons for writers are something I find both challenging and immensely enjoyable, indeed all my toons for all types of people I find enjoyable (otherwise I wouldn’t be doing them). My very recent purchase of an iPadPro with an Apple Pencil means a better system but also the need to re learn how to do these very quick drawings on the Pro’s very slippery surface. Challenge is good, it keeps me going and as I get more in to this don’t be surprised if you follow me and suddenly get a strange shaky cartoon answering a post of yours. I just react to people’s situations and stories; an example of which is the few few Toons I have done in response to Prof Rachel Lofthouse’s problem with a mouse, Ninja Mouse. More will be done but I am currently at about two hundred or so. I need to do some other work as well.
For some reason or other this is the day I have been hoping wouldn’t come but, come it has and when I look back over the last year I am so thankful for the support I have had, the words, actions, cards and caring from so many people. In real life there are many who have been there this year and now I also have a selection of Twitter friends who have made this a bearable year in new ways. These virtual friends are special in a different way but they are no less valued and no less caring in their constant messages, comments and support. One year since my Selina didn’t make it into the Hospice, one year since the heart was torn from our family and one year of pain, sorrow and great change. This year, 2019, has been particularly bad with its constant daily remembrances of Selina’s last days, the ambulance, A&E, the fight, the weariness, the fading but, I will never forget the afternoon before she died when she was surrounded by her family and her oldest friends; she was resigned, she was as happy as possibly and looking forwards to some peace. The whole year has been one of change for me as I sort out how to do things and change my life from a double to a single one. Recently I have, at last, accepted that for a while now I have been in a mild depression and so am doing something about it via a course of therapy, it goes well and I am finding it very useful and, as you might expect, therapeutic. I’ve had a few holidays and have spoilt myself with things like clothes, technology and living well; this will probably be cut back soon, not the living, the spoiling! Nothing however can fill the empty side of the bed, the empty sofa every evening or the empty chair at breakfast and nothing will ever fill the empty space in my heart. A bad year, a bad week and a bad day but a day I will spend with my two sons as we remember their mam, the one who always put us three first in everything. We miss you so much but it is what it is. Love you.
Having spent New Years Eve 2017 in A&E with Selina on intravenous antibiotics we were then sent home with a prescription. New Years Day began with a hurried search for an open Pharmacy that actually had the antibiotic Selina needed in stock and having found one open in Sunderland I was able to get back to Selina and start her on the course by lunchtime. After a really bad night the next morning began with calling the surgery, a doctor visiting and sending for an ambulance; Selina being admitted to hospital and never leaving means that New Years Day 2018 is the last full day that she spent in this, our home for so many happy years and it was not a good day. Needless to say today is not a good day either and this whole coming period is full of the memories of her fading away in hospital wards and of her very brave but short battle in which a standout and painful moment for me was when, the afternoon before she died, our friend Anne asked if there was anything she could do for her and too weak to speak Selina nodded to me telling Anne to look after me. We all knew what she meant and I am still stunned that her love for me was that strong but then she always put me first. Missing you so much and there is still 10 days to go until it’s one year. Hard times.
The last Photo I have of Selina is this one taken on Christmas day before she died and she was getting better, infections are so dangerous.
This morning I tackled my local Morrisons for a few things. Walking past the dozens and dozens of cars, a veritable stream of steel, all waiting to drive round and round the already full carpark in search of the one elusive space. Inside the store were queues of bulging baskets lined up at every till accompanied by harassed pushers of every age and description, I shopped like a rocket weaving in and out and left as soon as possible – Christmas!
It’s not something I dislike at all, I really like it but, this is my first one without my Selina and the whole thing is boobytrapped with reminders of our times together.
Christmas Eve I used to do constant runs to the shops for this and that and keep returning to a house full of the warm smells of baking, as the worktops groaned with the weight of meat and fruit pies, scones, mince pies and a myriad other things; this year is different, I return to a quiet still and empty house.
Present buying and wrapping is reduced greatly and I do it all.
I have enjoyed putting the decorations up but there is only me to see them. This is all starting to sound a bit glum but having opted to not visit either of my sons for Christmas day itself my plan to have this first Christmas on my own, on my own, has been thwarted! I can’t pretend that I am not pleased this has happened because as the day has drawn closer the memories have too and the thought of sadly sitting alone all day sharing no presents with each other is painful.
I am such a lucky bloke in that two really dear friends have insisted that I go to them for the day. My initial resistance, though weak was definite, but was wiped out by them in a flash. Plans for the day were made in secret to surprise me and shared and changed and altered and finalised and I for one can not wait; I cannot begin to thank these two enough for all they have done over this last year and I Know that they have/will make this as good a Christmas as possible. Bless them both.
As this day, Monday, wears away, I am increasingly aware of the approach of tomorrow. Currently I have an hour and a half to go and I have been having a sort of countdown to tomorrow for the better part of this month. Tuesday, tomorrow or today, whichever, is eleven months to the day that Selina went not to the shops or out with a friend but to God forever. It is strange but, when Selina died in January I seemed to be a lot stronger than I currently am about it and I think that is because of the anaesthetising effect of shock and the adrenaline that keeps you going on auto pilot.As the months have passed I have slowly become more aware of the empty house, the empty rooms and the empty life; an empty life filled with busyness, things to do, people and friends; that last one is most welcome. Looking at things lately I have decided that I am like the colourful skim of oil on top of a pool of water. I live in that thin layer of life floating on top of a deep pool, a pool of emotion, often turbulent, sometimes sorrowful but always full of things that I don’t want, that I don’t understand. The bit you see is the colourful sliver, the I’m doing fine, one day at a time me, the ‘happy’ smiling and fun me, the mask.
I am currently coming up to the last few firsts – My birthday without Selina, Christmas without her and soon the first anniversary of her death. All of these weigh on my mind and I am looking forward to getting past them, I will get past them and I will start to get over things because that is the way life works. The plans for my 70th birthday party this weekend have been abandoned or at least altered drastically (I’m not having one). The approaching festive season will go on and will be enjoyed but in a new way thanks to very good friends. January and the anniversary will be hard but it is what it is. Things are moving in the deep pool under the sliver of colour, things will start to mix together.
Yesterday was a day for rememberance with the centenary of the end of WW1. An emotional day all round and I was in church then down to our small town’s war memorial along with thousands of other folk to honour those who gave everything. Yesterday was hard for me because my tears were for Selina ten months to the day gone. As I sat in church in the morning I couldn’t help but clock watch and as our curate read intercession it approached ten fifteen and as he spoke about prayers for those bereaved the clock hit ten fifteen, the time on Selina’s death certificate. (Death Certificate is an odd name, as if she had won something or passed an exam with flying colours!) The day proceeded to have its ups and downs with the downs being an overwhelming sense of loss; this is becoming more noticeable of late and seems to be showing little or no improvement. I could say missing Selina is becoming harder to bear, perhaps as things settle down the real feelings are surfacing and not being covered over. Yesterday’s ups were drinks, lunch and laughter with special friends as we shared memories of happy times together with Selina and as ever the laughter brought a lift. I value these friends greatly.
As we see from all the rememberance yesterday life goes on for those left behind, those who haven’t yet won their certificate, passed the final exam but, we do not forget, ever and our quiet, silent tears will continue in those moments we turn from the present and look back with much love to those we have lost; they are here now as I type this blurring the screen but as Selina says – it is what it is. Missing you more.