Unbelievably today is exactly one month since Mum’s funeral : in many ways it feels much much longer ago than that, as we have faced so many emotions, and achieved so much, since that day and in the 7 weeks since she died. Today is going to be another landmark day for us : for the last two years, Mum opened up her garden to 20 or so church friends to play croquet on her lawn. She was always anxious about it, would the weather hold up and then of course there was the year that badgers dug up her lawn and would it recover in time for Croquet Day! Several people at Mum’s funeral mentioned that they would now have to find another venue for what had become an annual event in the church diary.

So my sister and I discussed this soon after the funeral and we invited the ladies to hold it at Mum’s house again this year, in her memory. They accepted and it is planned for today. So Joshua is tucked up at respite out of harm’s way and I am baking a cake right now, then later this morning we are heading across the country to Mum’s house. We are having nothing to do with the croquet part, but we have offered to make cups of tea and provide some home baking to accompany what they supply.

I know in my heart that Mum would have approved of our invitation and that she would love to think that her friends were enjoying her lawn once again. But it promises to be an emotional day, when Mum’s absence will be most keenly felt. I am hopeful that being with her friends, sharing memories, will be a tonic, rather than bringing more self-inflicted unbearable pain, but it is bound to be an emotional day, whatever those emotions will be. For most of those friends, it will be the first time that they have been in Mum’s house without her being there, so that will not be easy for them – at least we have crossed that hurdle several times already.

Grief is such a surprising emotion as it is is possible to function with everyday life, but I have found there is a constant sadness, state of loss, that I carry around with me – an unease that something is not right in my life. One of the highlights of today will be to be reunited with my sister as she has been on holiday this last week and we did not see each other the week before either, so this has been by far the longest time apart since Mum died. I struggled last week and I am certain that it was, in part, because my sister was further away than usual, I knew that I could not jump in my car and see her in 90 minutes if I needed to. So we have some hugs to exchange, as well as cups of tea to generate and some moral support to offer and receive.

Let Croquet Day commence, bring it on!

A Friendly Day

I had 5 hours all to myself yesterday, which is rare and I made the most of it. As soon as I had waved Joshua off in the car with his Direct Payments worker, I grabbed my coat and went out. I went shopping to our nearest market town, where I was able to wander in and out of shops of my choice, freely. I collected some DVDs that I had had transferred off VHS videos – our wedding tape from 1995 and lots of footage of baby Joshua. I have not yet dared to look, as  I am expecting some of them to be emotional as neither of our fathers are alive anymore and little fat toddler Joshua, with his young, hopeful parents, will be quite a sight too. I try not to wallow in the past too much, rather to look forwards but there are times when I need to wallow and I wanted these images to be digitally preserved.

We often take Joshua to this market town at weekends so it felt odd to be there without him or his dad. I even found myself drawn to the impressive buskers, thinking how much Joshua would enjoy their music. I deliberately went into shops that he would not tolerate or that were not accessible, just because I could.

After browsing, I then went to my friend’s boutique where we had a perfect combination of each up dating each other on events in our lives and of me trying on clothes. We gossiped and we giggled and I had a lovely afternoon. sharing with someone who understands our struggles due to her having an autistic son. The last time I went to her shop, I had Joshua in tow and we lasted ten minutes as he was throwing cushions and pulling clothes off the racks, so this was a much more fun, relaxing experience.

The time flew by in her shop, so much so that I was only home ten minutes before Joshua arrived back from his outing. He had been out in sea air and so, soon after arriving home, he enjoyed an apple then we snuggled on the settee, while tea was cooking. A couple of hours later, friends arrived for an evening meal. Joshua said hello then retreated to the Den, but he did keep coming out to see what he was missing and he joined us, with encouragement, for homemade lasagne.

So I spent my Saturday with good friends, both with and without Joshua and I really felt as though I made the most of my DP weekend break too. I had got Joshua ready , with his boots on, early and he spent the ten minutes waiting time, at the front door, kicking it, ready to go out – which he has never done at home before. I tried distracting him but he was very clearly communicating what he wanted and when she arrived, he dashed out of the door towards the car, giggling. So that arrangement is clearly working for him now, no more shyness with her, which is lovely to see. Today I plan to visit another friend for lunch, so we will see how cooperative he is there, although we have not yet decided where we will eat, but she has already suggested ‘Donalds’ to make Joshua happy! Lets see how it goes, I am hoping that we can go somewhere nicer but it is good to know that we have it as a back-up plan to employ if necessary. So bring on friendly day, part 2…….

The Host with the Most

We invited a family of friends around for tea last night and when they first arrived, Joshua was dozing on the settee in his Den. But then he soon learned that there was an audience in the house and that they were playing with Kevin, our new puppy, so he appeared to make his own presence felt and to perform. He sat very close to their son, ruffled his hair, tried to steal his glasses and to lift his shirt up, all with a cheeky glint in his eye. He joined us for the meal, which he enjoyed but towards the end , he went upstairs and we could hear from the monitor, that he was removing books from the bookshelf on the landing and throwing them on the floor – another effective attention-seeking tactic! But he was safe on the landing, so long as he did not fall over all of the paperbacks on the floor, as he was shut in so that he could not mess about on the stairs.

Throughout the fun evening, he would breeze in and out, to check what was going on.  I like to think that he was behaving rather like a typical teenager, one that was not going to admit that he enjoyed the company of his Mum’s friends! He repeatedly showed off his new trick, that of dropping gently onto his knees on the floor and kneeling there for a while, then getting up again. He is able to get himself up again, with no assistance, so I think that it must be great physiotherapy for him to encourage that movement. He is so much more agile and flexible, certainly, than he used to be.

He was worn out when they left and asked for ” jamas” and he was asleep within minutes of getting into bed. It seems that all this showing off, is exhausting!

Our Play-date

I had  a lovely day yesterday as I had invited three school-mums and their autistic sons round for lunch. The sun obliged by shining and so I cut the grass and we moved tables and chairs into the garden , so that we could eat outside.Four guests arrived early, which caught me out slightly but the boys went straight out into the garden and found the swing, so were happy enough. The third boy arrived but was reluctant to get out of his car, as this was a new environment for him. I tried leaving his mum to it and I tried tempting him with food, but in the end, after half an hour, she managed to coax him into the house, whereupon he immediately started jumping, as he was so relieved that it was fun and he seemed to adore the garden too. So all three guests were outside, but Joshua was firmly staying in his Den, he seemed rather overwhelmed by the surprise visitation!

We had quiche, pizza and salad outside and two of the three boys tucked in at the table, the third collected his gluten free version then continued running around with it, coming back for more when he was hungry. I bribed Joshua outside with the promise of food, he sat on the rug, waved at everyone, than ran back indoors so he had a plateful to snack on, in private. He was happy enough but not feeling particularly sociable, preferring the company of his Live8 show.

There was quite a lot of grabbing food off the table, for which the mums aoplogised, but I insisted that it really did not matter as it all needed to be eaten up and I love to see a healthy appetite. I enjoyed getting to know these boys better, as I know their mums through my school coffee-mornings, but I have had imited contact with their boys. The whole point of this gathering was that nobody needed to apologise, as we all understood, so it was not like a family party or going out with friends, where their sons might be the odd-one out. One mum put it well when she said ” Don’t worry, he is not going to do anything that will offend me at all!”  There was no need to sit at the table – we had one runner and one recluse!! – so I hope that the mums were able to relax and enjoy the occasion, knowing that they were amongst friends. They have found the school holidays demanding at times, 6 weeks is a long time to entertain these hyper-active boys, but hopefully yesterday was a different kind of day when I tried to make them all, mothers and sons, feel welcome and at home in our home.