Monday, April 13, 2009

16th March 2009 – Cliff’s 53rd Birthday

Upon waking, I immediately say “Happy Birthday, darling” and manage to force myself to get up and face the day.

I tell him that my present to him this year is to attend my first counselling session.

And I do.

I like Frances within 5 minutes of being with her. She is calm, thinks before she speaks and I feel comfortable enough to share my thoughts, feelings and demons with her.

The tears flow as I describe what happened on that fateful day and how good a husband he was to me. But these tears are flowing without the usual accompanying sobbing and despair. I am still talking as they fall down my face. I tell her how I miss him and how much I he meant to me. I describe the shock, and how I was surprised that I was able to be strong for him in his final hours.

She says that she feels like crying for me and that it does seem particularly cruel. She explains that what I am feeling is natural, it is part of the cycle or process that I have to go through and that I shouldn’t fight my feelings. She checks if I am at risk of suicide by asking some questions when I confide that I don’t want to be here anymore.

We agree a future session and I leave there feeling as though I have been relieved of something although I don’t know what exactly. I feel lighter somehow and am positive about meeting with her again.

The sun is shining and I don’t resent it for doing so, for the very first time.

When I return home, I speak to him for the longest time. I tell him that I plan to be as strong as possible and that I will do this for him. I will make him proud of me in all that I do. That it is incredibly hard, but I will remember everything that he taught me, and not give up. That I might not always get it right, but I will persevere, and that it may take me a long time to get there. I tell him how much I love him. I vow that no one could ever replace him and therefore there is no “death to us part” caveat applicable to OUR wedding vows. That I will live the best life I can until it’s time for me to join him. That I hope he is proud of me so far, that I did all the funeral arrangements the way he would have wanted them. I tell him how good his family are being to me and that I wish I had been stronger when he was still here. I thank him for all that he did for me, all that he sacrificed and for his patience, understanding and for being the best husband in the world. I vow to finish the house and not let all his hard work go to waste. I promise to be careful. I tell him that I am so sorry that I didn’t go to the doctor with him and question the meds he had been given. I tell him I’m sorry that I didn’t give up smoking, thereby encouraging him to give up too. I tell him that I hope that I become a good a person as he was and that I will always love him. That I will run into his arms when it’s my time to join him and that I can’t wait. That even though I want to go with him right now, I know that I have to carry on.

Then I clean the kitchen, bathroom, do chores round the house.

Oh dear, there are still about 5 hours till Paul and John are due to come round to keep me company. I wonder what to do. I need to get some snacks and coke but that won’t take long. I have to fill up my time. Must keep busy or it’ll go pear-shaped.

I decide that my car is now my lifeline to the world. For a while I have been losing confidence in the car. Worrying that it will break down while I am on the motorway. I have no illusions about what would happen. I WOULD NEVER GET BACK ON THE HORSE. I have to do something about this, so decide that with my free time I will have a look around the car dealerships – at the second-hand cars – where Cliff took me around just over a year ago, the last time we were looking for a car. I can’t remember where it is, so look in the local paper and the Thomson’s Directory. I find it and plug the location into my Tom-Tom (sat-nav) and off I go.

I feel alien in this place without him. Oh god, I don’t know what the hell I am doing. I don’t know anything about cars and Car Salesmen are NOTORIOUS for being untrustworthy. I feel like a child. I wander around the forecourts alone. No-one comes out to talk to me or tries to sell a car to me and I wonder if they don’t do that anymore.

Deep breath, walk into Audi, heart banging and feeling as though I have a sign over me: SINGLE, FEMALE, WIDOWED, CLUELESS, MUG. I think that he can smell the vulnerability on me. He’s pleasant and takes my information, but doesn’t bother to show me any cars.

I walk around Toyota aimlessly. I don’t know anything about Toyotas.

Swerve round the Skoda forecourt. Don’t think so.

I find myself being pulled, like a magnet, towards the BMW dealership. I feel bad because I can’t help thinking that he might not approve. Then I remember our deal and start smiling.

“If you manage to go a whole year without scratching this car Boo, you can have an SLK or something else decent.”

There’s no harm in looking.

In I go.

The receptionists make me feel at ease and offer me a drink. I ask for Ribena which makes them smile. I explain I have recently been widowed and need a car that I can rely on, but that I have a budget. They ask me to take a seat and tell me that they will ask Grant to come and speak to me.

Grant is good at putting me at my ease. I tell him that I won’t – can’t – make any decision today, as I need to speak to Cliff’s friends about any options. He’s fine with that, and we talk about what my lifestyle and requirements are. I need to be able to put in a dog-cage. No I don’t know the measurements but I can show him. I tell him my ballpark figure – the one I have plucked out of nowhere in reality. I tell him that I don’t want a brand new car because Cliff wouldn’t like it because they depreciate so much in the first few months. I tell him that I have to be able to afford to run it and keep it.

He has two cars that would fit my requirements and we go outside to look at both of them. The first one is the one I will end up buying. It is 8 months old and has only done 2300 miles because it is a demo car. I love it. No, I don’t want to test drive it today. I am too nervous. Next time. NOT YET. He prints off the information, staples it and his card to a brochure, and I tell him I’ll be in touch after taking advice.

I leave there feeling almost daring, COCKY. As though I have just carried out a dangerous commando raid behind enemy lines. I did it on my own. But I still don’t know what the hell I’m doing.

Go shopping and get showered ready for our friends’ visit this evening.

John turns up first and we discuss the car. He gently mentions the van on the driveway and advises that I get a part-ex price for it. He’s only too happy to help clean it and drive it down there for me. He suggests I check how much the insurance will cost on the BMW and I am really grateful that I have people to talk to about this decision, because neither of those things had crossed my mind AT ALL.

Paul arrives and we have a few drinks, talking about Cliff as well as other things. We raise our glasses to him. When I go to replenish my drink, Paul follows me into the kitchen and asks whose drink is sitting on the side already.

“It’s Cliff’s” - and he acts as though this is entirely normal. The drink stays there until they leave me at half past midnight, when they can tell that I am starting to feel tired. I pour it down the drain with immense sadness.

I say “Happy Birthday Cliffy” again; kiss his ashes goodnight and go up to bed, so that I am rested, ready to return to work the following morning.

It’s now 04h00 and I am getting frustrated because I am so tired but I cannot sleep. I try a warm drink, watching TV, reading, doing nothing. NO SLEEP WILL COME TO ME.

By 06h00 I am starting to get really stressed and upset. I am due back at work and there is no way I will cope, even if I fall asleep now.

I start sobbing. The loss is so palpable. I miss him so much and feel so alone. I feel scared, tired and exhausted. DEFEATED. This journey is like climbing up Everest after chain-smoking 50 cigarettes. The doubts and demons and sadness overwhelm me. I can barely breathe due to the hysterical state I am in. I am half expecting the neighbours to bang on my door to ask if I have been attacked. My dogs can’t settle either now and are skittish. When it is late enough to call my boss, she doesn’t answer so I leave her a barely decipherable voicemail and make a cup of tea.

Lay on the sofa. Suck my thumb. Sob, cry, wail, start repeating my mantra of, “it’s not fair, I miss you, I can’t do this … please come and get me” until I mercifully fall asleep for HOURS. I next wake at 16h30 and I am freezing. It’s dark outside and there are no lights on, nor TV. Total deathly silence and pitch black. I whimper, but force myself to move. I WANT TO DIE.

I make myself eat some cereal, have a hot drink, shower, sort the dogs and take myself off to bed so that I can get up for work in the morning.

I must go to work tomorrow or else it’ll become an issue albeit one in your own head, I warn myself.

And I do. And I have learned a valuable lesson. Don’t try and fill your day so that you can ignore what you HAVE to go through. You only delay it. Perhaps make it even worse. Accept the emotions because you can’t delay them forever. I make a mental note to book the day after my birthday, the day after our wedding anniversary and any other key dates, off as annual leave.

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