Time Marches On

I have booked today off work as I have a couple of big things to do : Firstly it is the first time that I will meet Joshua’s teacher for a proper discussion about him, his behaviour and his progress as there is an Open Morning at school. I have made a list of my questions that have occurred to me over the last few weeks about his last year at school.We are only allocated a 15 minute slot and I am the first of her class parents, so I must try not to talk too much so that she overruns all morning, but that might be quite a challenge as Joshua is one of my favourite topics to talk about and I like to know all about the times when I am apart from him.

I specifically asked for the first appointment of the day, so that I can then drive over to meet my sister as we are going to see the solicitor this afternoon to sign off Mum’s estate paperwork. It feels as though I have not seen my sister for forever,so much so that I had to check the calendar and it has been almost a month, but it felt much longer. So we have long overdue hugs and face to face catch ups, as they are always better than telephone calls. But after that famine, it is a feast as I will see her again at the weekend for my niece’s birthday party, so that is a bonus. My mobile phone reminded me of her birthday party last year yesterday, as it sent me photos of our smiling mum in my sister’s conservatory. So it will feel strange that she is not there this weekend as she always made the effort to get together for her grandchildren’s birthdays. I imagine that these family parties, with her empty seat, will get easier as time passes, but for now , each one is a milestone and we have Christmas to face yet, when our festive spirit will be seriously challenged.

When a loved one dies, or another traumatic event such as days spent in a special care baby unit, when you emerge out of the other side, it always feels so strange that the rest of the world is carrying on regardless, they have not been impacted by the same blow as you and their life seems to be continuing on normally. That is a shocking revelation at first: But then you realise , especially if you spend a lot of time around hospitals, that families are experiencing bad health news and loss every day of the week and that you are not the only one at all who has felt that isolation at all. In fact it can be a bonding experience, if people share their experiences of grief or there are support groups for families who’s lives have been devastated by a particular diagnosis , prognosis or condition and strength and support can be found there.

But for now, we just do the best that we can everyday ; I try to be kind to people, as we really have no idea of the  worries and concerns that they are facing, and so a smile ,kind word or sweet treat might be just the thing to improve their day and distract them, if only momentarily.

Life and Love

We had a family birthday party for Mum yesterday in the same restaurant that she enjoyed on Mother’s Day in March. My husband had worried that it would be upsetting to return to the same place and he had suggested that it was better to leave the happy Mothers Day memory there, but I was adamant that this was the best place to celebrate Mum’s birthday, somewhere with memories of her there. There were 11 of us in the party all together, with two of Mum’s sisters and their partners, one of her nieces, both of her grandchildren and her daughters and son in laws, so it was quite a party.

We had driven over in the morning and we all arrived around the same time in the sunshine, so we had drinks in the restaurant’s garden while we hugged, toasted Mum and perused the menu. The food was all delicious and the chatter and laughter was constant, so it was a perfect birthday lunch. There were fewer tears than I had expected, I only wept when I was touched by the card and bottles of wine that Mum’s eldest sister had organised, as she was not with us. Somehow the time flew by , while the waiting staff had not rushed us at all, it was time to go when another family arrived for their evening meal and we were still sitting at our lunch table!  So we moved back outside for our hugs and farewells, then all headed off home.

We had decided against taking Joshua to ” Granny’s house” as he has not been since her funeral and then it was heartbreaking when he was looking for her in all of the downstairs rooms, assuming that he would find her in the next place he looked. How do we explain to him that she is not there any more, that he will not see her in this life again? We have not really come to terms with it yet, so how can we expect him to understand? But maybe I am just protecting myself, his track record of moving on is pretty good, he shows no real signs of missing his Grandpa and Grandad that he has lost in the last 5 years. As I have said before, Joshua is about the here and now and he appears to believe that out of sight is out of mind. While he would give Granny a huge bear hug if she turned up – she was always one of his favourite people – he does not appear to pine for her. Maybe Joshua could teach me about loss, perhaps he has the right idea : live and love for the moment.

9/11

I am expecting this to be an emotional week as Mum should have been 80 years old on Wednesday , so this will be the first big anniversary that we have had to face since she died over three months ago now. My sister and I booked the day off work some time ago, knowing that we could not concentrate on such a day and knowing that we needed to be together to mark Mum’s birthday. We had originally planned to meet up together for lunch and retail therapy half way between where we both live, but now we have changed the plan and we will be at Mum’s house together all day. We plan to make a start on sorting through some of her things but I insisted that we also have a celebration lunch out in her honour, and we are confident that Mum would approve of this plan – she would want us to get a move on on house clearing and she was never a fan of shopping!

Such an anniversary has got me thinking of past birthday celebrations, as we always make an effort to get together around birthdays in our family. Increasingly Mum did not want gifts that she had to find a home for, so last year, we three went to Harrogate for a weekend for her birthday treat and it was the best gift idea. We three spent some quality, fun time together and we laughed until our faces ached. On that trip for her 79th birthday, we were trying to persuade Mum to plan a bigger, brighter weekend for her 80 th celebration. She threatened to go abroad alone if we threw her a surprise birthday party. Yet now, here we are, without her – it does not feel real even now. I wonder how long it takes to properly sink in? I imagine that it is the brain’s way of protecting me from the pain of grief. Mum has appeared to me in two dreams now and again, I think my sub-conscious must be trying to adjust to the loss while I am sleeping.

The 11th of September for the last 18 years has always been a significant date in the news and for the families of the Twin Towers disaster, but in our family, it was always an important date and never more so, than now. As a child, Mum’s birthday was really exciting as it meant just over a fortnight until my own birthday – Mum’s birthday cards were never on display for long as they had to make way for my cards. This , our first year without her to celebrate with us, will be tough and emotional, but we will toast the very special lady that she was, together, and celebrate her life in style.

Tearful Times

I have never had a stiff-upper lip but I have always worn my heart on my sleeve. I have always shown my emotions and yesterday was yet another emotional day: It was the last parent coffee morning at school, so I took Joshua into school, leaving my husband digging a grave for our beloved dog, Max. As we arrived at school, I saw so many children carrying in flowers and chocolates to thank their teachers for their year in school. I had brought some home-baking for the sixth form staff to enjoy together as our thank you.

The core group of parents attended the coffee morning and we discussed a wide range of topics, including how everyone felt about the long 6 week summer with their children at home. For many of those there, it was a matter of survival and they were already counting the days until September, Most of them were planning days out rather than a holiday away somewhere, so it was refreshing to hear from one single Mum who was looking forward to some quality holiday time with her teenaged son. I am firmly in that camp, Joshua will enjoy some lie ins followed by some days out with Yorkshire Grandma, then we will have our fortnight’s family holiday together in August, which I am counting the days until.

Part way through the coffee morning, two sixth formers brought me their scrap books to sign as they were leaving the school : I browsed through their books, admiring the photographs, and wrote messages wishing them well for the future. I was very touched to be asked but as soon as they had left the room, my tears flowed uncontrollably  as I will miss those young people who I got to know pretty well over the years, but of course, that will be Joshua this time next year, so all that emotion came crashing down on me.

After coffee morning, a group of us Mums had arranged to go out for lunch to celebrate the end of term – or to ‘mark the end of freedom’ as one of them put it! In the morning I had not felt that I could join them, even though it had been my idea. But I decided to have a starter with them and then leave early in the end and I am glad that I did that. It was a lovely restaurant and we had a good time, so I am hoping that it will become a tradition as we all need some time and treats just for ourselves.

I left after my delicious and filling starter, to help my Husband lower Max into his grave and then cover him up and plant a rose on top of him. Sadly we have quite a pet graveyard in our garden now , so he is placed next to his two brothers and his Mum. So of course we both cried during that process, so by the evening I was wrung out and I do not think that I had any tears left to shed. For me, crying is a release and I cannot hold back tears when they need to flow, but I would have thought that there would be a limit as to how much I can cry and I must have got close to that limit over the past 8 weeks.

The Past Tense

One of the things that I find hard to remember, even almost 8 weeks after Mum died, is to use the past tense: I wanted to write that she has a safe in her house, but then I changed it to had and then I got myself in a pickle. When I call people like her credit card company yesterday, they asked my  relationship towards Mum and I explain that I am her daughter, then I correct it to I was her daughter and then I get upset as I will always be her daughter, whether she is alive or not. Perhaps I am overthinking my use of language, but it is something odd that I still struggle with. Maybe it is because I am trying to override 52 years worth of language when referring to Mum and that is difficult to do. I can recall when I was first married, after being together for 13 years, I found it awkward and intuitive to call him my husband, as this was not a word I had ever used.

Mum has a safe in her house but we did not know the combination ; we have been trying to open iton each visit to the house, having three attempts before it locked us out. We were not sure what might be in there but the solicitor advised us to employ a locksmith to get access to the contents, whatever they might be. So after my meeting nearby yesterday, I went back to Mum’s house where I met the locksmith. He tried to pick the lock and then finally, he drilled it out. He called me upstairs to open the safe and we found lots of documents hidden away in there : Mum’s missing passport, every PIN number she had been sent by the bank, her senior railcard, a wax seal and  a silver £5 coin. So that was a relief that it was not empty and the mystery was solved.

I then began to look in a few drawers that I had never looked in before and I became lost in old photographs and a lovely poem that my sister had written to our parents thanking them for the childcare support that they provided for my young niece. I spent ages engrossed, sitting on the landing floor, reading Mum’s progress book, and reviewing gorgeous black and white photographs of her  growing up. Then I found some pictures of me and my sister, where, apparently, we look like our children. This trip down memory lane gave me a real sense of family and of time moving on. I saw in photographs, that our grandparents and parents had now gone, that my sister and I were now head of our family and that our offspring were the future. Mum had done all that she could to prepare us for this time by clever financial planning, by leaving her paperwork in order and by de-cluttering her house as much as she could, so now it is over to us to do the right things as she would have done.