I gather up all the random things he said. All the random uneasy feelings I had during 2008. AND PUT THEM ALL IN A BUCKET. This compounds the fact that they may NOT have been random, in fact; perhaps I had been extremely remiss and ignored a clear, CRYSTAL CLEAR MESSAGE. And ignored it. How can I forgive myself for this? YOU DON’T DESERVE FORGIVENESS. This is the sentence and punishment that I impose upon myself.
MEA CULPA. MEA CULPA. MEA CULPA.
You’ll miss me when I’m gone, you know
I might not be bringing you tea in the mornings anymore
Don’t ever make the mistake of going round his house on your own. He may be friendly now, but he’s evil Boo and more than capable of pretending that everything’s forgotten just so that he can trap you. Hurt you. He’s capable of killing you and he’d kill me too if I EVER let my guard down. Do you understand, Boo?
His stocking one of the freezer shelves with microwavable meals for one
Him, seeming to miss our old home-town … or was this because he’d been working on our house on his own for the past year, and was naturally feeling the solitude that this brought with it while I was at work?
His determination and zealousness to finish the house and the fact that this seemed, to me, to outweigh his loss of earnings. My lack of understanding of this. The niggling confusion that this brought me. My reluctance to confront him over it. His spoken intentions to return to self-employed work after the holidays, but adding I don’t think I could do it again (referring to employing sub-contractors, taking on big projects vs. working on small projects on his own or with one labourer). AND ME BEING SATISFIED WITH THIS EXPLANATION instead of probing deeper to double-check that he had no hidden worries or demons OF HIS OWN.
You’ll feel bad later – when I protest that I HAVE to finish a project for work on my laptop instead of going to the builders’ merchants with him to look at materials for the house.
His stamina decreasing over the previous year, so slowly that it was barely discernable, yet I DID NOTICE and casually DISMISSED IT AS PART OF US GROWING OLDER. NATURAL. But it wasn’t, was it?
My own confidence at work had grown to the extent that I could RIDE MY BIKE WITHOUT STABILIZERS. I was sharing my day rather than asking him for his counsel now.
My old demons had been expelled. Confidence had taken their place. He had carried out the “exorcism” and so carefully managed my much earlier journey of coming to terms with how deceptive people, even friends I thought I knew and trusted, could be. He had healed me. He had taught me the most important lessons and they were now familiar and deeply embedded within me. Part of me. Copied and pasted directly from him. Although I still sought reassurance that he agreed with my rationale about anything, even if I felt sure, I was getting ready to listen to my own inner voice - because it was his. The one that had grown, through osmosis, to emulate his. His rebelling against this – you don’t listen to me anymore. BUT I DID. BUT HOW DID I LET HIM BELIEVE THAT I DIDN’T? WHAT DID I DO TO MAKE HIM THINK THAT? It kills me, breaks my heart. I feel like I have betrayed him. Treated him like dirt. He was my world. But I have done something to cause him to complain that I don’t care about his advice anymore. Perhaps don’t even need him anymore. WTF? You stupid bitch. I still want him, I still need him, I still love him. WHAT HAVE YOU DONE????? I CRUCIFY MYSELF.
I’ve lived three lifetimes during my life, Boo. But I want to live for YOU, because of you. It doesn’t matter so much FOR ME. If it was just me, I wouldn’t care if I died tomorrow. Did I make him think that I didn’t need him, or worse, didn’t want him anymore? OMG I can’t BEAR it. No, no, no, no, no. Oh Cliff, I am so, so sorry darling. It’s killing me. My heart is breaking. My beautiful strong husband.
I’ve never shared so much of my life, invested the time to explain everything, to ensure that we survived together. It’s important to me that you understand.
I saw someone today in Margate, and he told me he’d heard that I’d died. At least if we go out down there everyone will know that I’m not dead. YET. Me laughing at how ridiculous it is.
It’s important, next year, I’ll go to that shop in town and get you a decent Christmas card. That’s the only one they had left – alluding to the fact that he wasn’t happy with the card he got me. Usually he bought me one with lovely words inside, a WIFE card. But this bothered him more than it should have. OUT OF CHARACTER. Checking that I knew.
Don’t worry about cooking a big dinner. We can have anything. But I insisted and am so pleased now that I bothered to cook us a really nice proper roast on Christmas Day. Did I know it would be our last one somehow?
Driving home after he visits Dad and Jenny for the last time, the night sky is reminiscent of the clear night skies you witness in the Caribbean, magical almost. We have not seen such a beautiful one since the night we sat on a beach, apart, carefree, intimate, at ease with each other and enjoying each other, having a drink with a view of the full moon through the leaves of a palm tree. The stars were so damn bright and beautiful. I’ll never forget that as long as I live. Was this a gift? Another final taste before disaster struck? Or was it a warning? An OMEN. Look at the sky, Boo. Look at the stars.
Seeing Vicki and Bobert and talking about friends, long-gone, fondly. One of us saying, “I wonder who it will be next” and Cliff scoffing, “probably me”
You wouldn’t have any problem finding someone after I’ve gone, in this house – said in jest, but STILL SAID. Me, telling him off and being serious, “Don’t even say that. DON’T SAY THAT.”
Getting mashed together and listening to a song and him saying in jest, “you can play this at my funeral” and me admonishing him - DON’T SAY THAT.
Watching Forever Young (movie with Julia Roberts) and me crying at the end. Him laughing because I had reacted true to form, then saying, “Oh darling, would you hold my hand when I died? Would you do that for me?” And me sobbing that I would. Oh come here and holding me.
Please God, don’t take him from me – an unspoken but silent plea that I kept feeling compelled to say each time I got out of my car on the driveway, again and again during 2008. I love him so much. Praying for us to have a long, happy marriage together, and to grow old together. Praying more regularly than usual.
The god-awful dream that I had roughly six months before he died. I was at an offsite meeting in Derby. I woke myself up because I had been crying in my sleep. I dreamed that he had died. I’d had to call an ambulance, and he’d either had a heart attack or a stroke, I think. But he was definitely DEAD. And I was inconsolable. More so after I woke up. I had to fight the urge to phone him at 03h00 to check that he was okay, but called him at 07h00, and started crying when I told him about the nightmare, just at the memory of THE DREAM. He consoled me over the phone, and then I moved on. But I do remember him telling me that he was awake at 03h00 thinking and worrying about me, but he didn’t know why. In fact, he had wanted to call me but decided that I wouldn’t hear the phone, or I’d be ugly all day if my sleep was broken. The hotel I as staying in was opposite the Derby Infirmary, so I logically concluded that the ambulance sirens had permeated my dream. But I remember telling two colleagues about it. It shook me up. JUST HOW CRYSTAL CLEAR A SIGN DID I NEED???
Watching The Vikings the night before he had his stroke and almost crying with the emotion, the imagined, yet then; unimaginable loss, picturing it as though it had been my Cliff having the Viking Burial. Hearing the VIKING HORNS play and switching channels because I couldn’t watch it anymore.
Steve looking at me, stunned, when we are at the hospital, when I announce that I want him to have a “Viking Burial” and then telling me, that he and Marilyn had also been watching the movie (The Vikings), and that he had eerily commented to her that that was the way “he’d like to go”. He knows that I cannot know, but why do I seem to be aware of the conversation he has had with his wife?
Cliff telling me twice that it must have been so hard for my parents to let us go whilst maintaining strong eye contact with me (referring to the two times that he had been fostered) as though it was important that I remembered this, THAT I WAS PAYING ATTENTION. (Soon after Cliff dies, I will question, over and over again, if I am supposed to comfort his father with these words, DELIVER THIS MESSAGE, but decide not to bring the subject up “cold”, and only to share this if the conversation naturally lends itself to the opportunity).
Cliff recounting his dream to me about us being in serious danger - in a flood. A mo-fo flood. That he was completely beside himself with fear. FOR ME. Because he couldn’t find me and he knew I’d wait for him somewhere, rather than proactively find a safe haven. He remembered the relief, how happy he was when he finally caught sight of me, I WAS FINE, but he knew that HE WOULD NOT BE. BUT HE DIDN’T MIND. BECAUSE I WAS ALRIGHT. HE WAS NO LONGER SCARED. Another warning given to us in a dream? This upset me because I knew that he’d actually react that way … “so long as I was alright.” He was so selfless.
Me mumbling under my breath, I could kill him, when he has smeared butter all over the fridge and kitchen cupboard doors, hours before he has his stroke. How could I have said that?
That I had told him I couldn’t make his doctor’s appointment for him, just before Christmas, because I was leaving work and would miss my bus. Him asking me for the number and me rushing.
That I didn’t go to the Doctor with him because I was at work. WHY DIDN’T I BOOK AN EXTRA DAY OFF? WHY?
That I didn’t question why he hadn’t been prescribed the best statin on the market and I WORK IN THE PHARMA INDUSTRY.
THAT WHEN HE TOLD ME HIS STOMACH KEPT FEELING UNCOMFORTABLE – BLOATED AND HEAVY - AND MADE HIS BREATHING HEAVY. THAT WHEN HE STARTED NAPPING ON THE SOFA IN THE MORNINGS (AS I SLEPT IN DURING THE HOLIDAYS), INSTEAD OF HIS NORM - DOING STUFF ON THE HOUSE … THAT I DIDN’T FUCKING REALIZE THAT THERE WAS SOMETHING WRONG, THAT HE WAS SPEEDING TOWARDS THE CATASTROPHE THAT HAPPENED.
WTF DID I NOT INSIST THAT WE WENT TO ER AND ME MAKE A FUSS AND GET HIM THOROUGHLY CHECKED OUT? Why?
That I didn’t attempt to give up smoking after the last failed episode, three years previously, so that he could have had a fair shot at doing the same.
That I assumed he would go on forever because he was my rock, my beautiful strong husband.
THAT I DIDN’T DESERVE HIM.
IT’S MY FAULT. YOU HAD THE BEST MAN IN THE WORLD. THE MOST SPECIAL PRECIOUS GIFT AND YOU DIDN’T EVEN TAKE CARE OF IT.
The dogs don’t even come to me when my body heaves with the weight, with the sobs. They know it’s my fault too.
Then I turn almost paranoid and start thinking that he KNEW but hid it from me, to protect me, so we had more happiness together. Tried to get me ready. All the signs are there. CRYSTAL CLEAR.