A Glass Half Full Decade

I took some snaps of Audrey one morning before school, she was beaming in full uniform and a little rucksack on her back. Rex and I dropped her at school and returned home to wait for Bibi (Grandma) to come. Rex was watching back-to-back Paw Patrol whilst I emptied the dishwasher and tidied the kitchen as best I could in the 20-30 minutes I would usually have before my mother-in-law Sarah arrived to watch Rex whilst I went to work in a cafe for 3-4 hours.

Ten minutes late was not unusual. I felt relief to be quite organised and ready for Sarah’s arrival. Twenty minutes late was unusual. But calling people when they are late and might be driving could add to their stress, so I didn’t do anything for a bit. I’m not sure what the order was particularly, but I know I called her mobile and home, twice. I sent a message via What’s app and a text. I messaged a friend to see if they had heard she wasn’t coming.

When she was around 30-40 minutes late I was definitely panicked, but I didn’t want to worry my husband Ted, so I called my brother and asked him what I should do.

I’ve relived the events of this particular morning in October more than I would care to. Recounting the details to shocked friends, watching their eyes widen when I say “she just didn’t turn up”. The fear that one day, someone might suddenly not be there. Well on that day, Sarah was no longer there. Ted and I have no parents, the children have no grandparents (well, one great grandparent – my 100 year old nan!).

When I recount the deaths of my father, Ted’s father, my sister, my auntie, my mother and now my mother-in-law… well I do feel like people may view me as the grim reaper. Our little (evidently getting smaller by the year) family is a happy one though. We feel so grateful to have each other and many wonderful friends to get us through these times, but, there has been a lot of death around us.

It’s now 2020. People are summarising their decade with weddings and travels and new jobs. I can see mine in two ways:

On the one hand, 2010: the year my father died. 2011: the year Ted’s father died. 2012: the year my sister died. 2013: the year we had a disabled child. 2014: the year I was made redundant and had a miscarriage. 2015: Audrey started therapy to learn to walk. 2016: the year we had Rex and learnt what exhaustion really means. 2017: the year I was made redundant again, the year my mother died. 2018: my brother was undergoing treatment for cancer, I was in therapy. 2019: the year Ted’s mum died.

Or I could look at it like this…

2010: I ran my first 5K.

2011: Ted and I got engaged.

2012: Ted and I got married and had an amazing honeymoon in New York.

2013: Ted ran a marathon. We had a beautiful baby girl!

2014: I started a new job.

2015: I got pregnant with Rex. We moved from a flat to a house.

2016: We had another beautiful baby! Audrey learned to walk (and so did Rex at 10 months)!

2017: I spoke to trainee midwives for the Down Syndrome Association’s ‘Tell It Right’ campaign. I met some significant new friends.

2018: Audrey became a model and started mainstream school, I started freelance writing.

2019: Audrey became a TV star. I got a new job working for a charity I care about. My Nan turned 100 years old.

We have definitely experienced more than our fair share of death, but we’ve had our fare share of good fortune too. We hope that 2020 sees us find a new home and that everyone we know and love remain in good health.

Belated Happy New Year!

 

 

Good grieving ?

Me and my mum, end of 79/early 1980

Around 2 weeks after finding out my mother had 2 months to live, she died. The decline was fast, you could say “at least she didn’t suffer any longer” or you could say “how cruel that she was taken from you so quickly”, either way, we lost our much loved mother, grandmother, aunt, sister, daughter and friend on 3rd April 2017.
The funeral was on Friday, which was 25 days later. People say “That’s a long time to wait” and “Oh I’m sorry it’s not sooner” but I liked the time. I don’t understand the rush. Between death and funeral there is a sense that you have not yet let that person go. Once the funeral is over, it’s all over. And yet it’s not.

I’ve been functioning normally. We had to move house and I’m currently job hunting. We have two children under four, so functioning was the only option. Yet friends were concerned, was I really ok? Was I bottling it all up? 

It felt like there was a movie moment expectation that I should be a bawling mess on the floor. But I was having coffee and singing nursery rhymes with the kids. I was clearly not ok because I was seemingly ok.

So what is the answer? Should I be in tears half of the day and should I ensure that’s when someone is around to see it? I actually started to wonder if I was grieving properly… But look, I’ve done this before, I’ve lost important people, but I didn’t have children then. You can certainly afford yourself more wallowing time when you don’t have two children under four. And anyway, grief is different for everyone.

You can pause it a bit. I guess you could say that amongst the singing nursery rhymes and answering job interview questions I’ve had my “moments”. Random tears, random staring into space as stuff runs through my head. She really has gone. 

When we first found out Mum was dying I had decided that at 3 and a half, Audrey would forget her and that would make life easier. No explanations, no upset. However, I’ve realised that actually, Nanny can “stay alive” a little longer in order for Audrey to lock her in. She recognises her picture, she knows her voice (I still have some voicemails on my phone) and she knows her house. We arrived for the funeral and the kids were hanging out at Mum’s old house with Bibi (paternal Grandma) and some friends whilst the ceremony took place. Audrey looked around the living room; “Mummy? Where’s Nanny?” a poignant moment and of course it brought forth a tear, but honestly I was pleased. My clever little girl knew where we were (Nanny’s house) and she asked a reasonable question. I don’t need to keep telling her Nanny is gone. Because Audrey will keep her alive for me. As will Rex. The next generation. Their Nanny-inherented-eyelashes fluttering at me everyday.

My distractions.