It was my niece's 30th birthday this weekend, so her lovely beau Adam organized a birthday party for her at their home in the countryside of Suffolk.
It was so good to see my family altogether. But it was also hard to go. Because he wasn't coming along this time. We'd had such a good time the last time we all got together in Suffolk, so I felt quite anxious about going. Anxious that I would get upset and let all my hurt out in front of them all.
But it was fine. Of course it was. I was safe with my family.
The only downside of the weekend is that it has made me question whether I can actually uproot and move to Australia. I still want to go, but they are going to make it hard to leave. But as my (ex) brother in law Ray said to me, "it's only a day away."
It was wonderful to see my old BIL and meet his new wife Hoodi, who is half French, half Middle Eastern origin and whose family has many connections to old royalty over there. She is a real character. And when Hoodi and my sister were talking away and getting on like houses on fire, I turned to my (ex) BIL and said, "be afraid, be very afraid." And we laughed our heads off. It's great to have him back in the fold.
It was however, equally not wonderful to see how ill my BIL Ray is. It frightens me to see how he has aged. The last time we met was four years ago and he and Cliff spent an evening propping up the bar, getting along famously, both looking fit and well, and today ...
Frances and Adam were hosts extraordinaire, and they really did run the party like a mini-festival which was fun. I couldn't quite grasp that my niece (and god-daughter) was 30. I mean I'm 30! How the hell can she be? Wait no ... I'm 46 dammit.
When the fireworks went off I really struggled. I thought I was going to fall apart, but I spotted my nephew, who has always felt like more of a younger brother to me (due to there only being a 7 year gap) and I simply walked over to him and put my arm around his waist and he hugged me close till they were over. His fiancee didn't understand the significance but she could intuitively see that I was battling and she just cuddled and kissed me because she knew she should. And I was fine. Dry eyes. Not only that Adam gave me a sparkler to play with (he recognizes a 3 year old in an adult's body when he sees one!)
I had a great time, and will be back to visit them when my big sister has moved to Suffolk too (in a month). It's just easy with them, you know? I really do love my whole family, the whole extended family, and I know how lucky I am.
I did the weirdest thing though. It's the first time I've done this. I woke up during the night and in my mind I imagined how the evening would have been if Cliff had been there. I knew that there would have been certain things that he would have said and done and it made me smile in the darkness. Then I cried softly for a while. And I was fine. Acceptance is alright but the grief that accompanies it is pure unadulterated grief. No holds barred. It is purer. The flames lick you. And you let them.
I still cry for Cliff every day. But I control the timing of it these days. When I'm away I like to cry in the shower because it's less messy. My sister banged on the door: "you ok? you've been a while?" *Smile* "Yep, just putting my jeans on, be down in a bit." And I was. With a genuine smile on my face.
I love my family. All of them.
Which is why I howled when I drove away ... but only for a bit.
I'm getting there, baba.