memories

">

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

It's snowing

I hate the snow now.

It snowed the last morning Cliff was alive, and now ... every time it snows, those flakes just fill me with so much loss and pain.

I miss him beyond words. It is unspeakable.

Not to mention how vulnerable it makes me feel. I can't drive in it. I worry that if I walk in it I will fall and break an arm or a leg. Then what? How would I cope?

Life is so frightening now.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Firework

thanks Jazzystar for sending me this song:

Firework - Katy Perry

he really was awesome, the brightest light in my world.

And he still is.

Tired of juggling


This past working week, I have left the office at the following times:
19h00, 20h00, 21h00, 22h00, 15h30 respectively.
My boss asked me what I was still doing at work at 20h00 one evening, and I retorted cheekily with, "I could ask you the same question."
It just brings home how much Cliff supported me in such a fundamental way ... the reminders I had set in my phone, instead of having a "to do list" (because looking at all the chores at once is so overwhelming, I prefer to carve them up into more manageable chunks, i.e. one day at a time) were all bar one postponed till next week ... when hopefully, my working hours will be more earthly.
I had to drive home in temperatures of -5 degrees in my rear wheel drive on Friday night, and it terrified me. But I was a big girl and remembered Cliff's voice telling me, "don't worry about the person behind you ... if he wants to go faster, let him overtake." And that was the philosophy that I adopted for the journey. The full moon also urged me on ... I felt some comfort from it, hard to describe ... something to do with dragons and men that were fearless. I got home calmly and no tears were shed until I was safely inside my own front door.
It feels as though I've been juggling for so long. One man down. Something had to give, and this weekend it was my health. I got a sickness bug, and I swear it was due to being run down and exhausted. So, I dropped my balls. Cancelled all my commitments for the weekend, and stayed in my PJ's for the duration ... snoozing, watching TV, making plans (yes, can't stop myself) with realistic time lines this time ...
If I hadn't taken this time out, by Monday, I'd have been really ill. I know it's the right decision.
Yet, I still feel guilty.
Or, perhaps I am just worried ...
... that people won't understand. That they don't "get" that losing Cliff feels like yesterday to me. That they will misinterpret my appearance of coping as having "moved on", that they don't realize what it takes out of me to travel an hour, or clean my house, or ........
I'm not flaky. I just have my own limit. And I've reached it.
Yet, I still feel bad.
I had to cancel my brother-in-law coming to ascertain what he needs to do to finish off our home.
I didn't see my sister-in-law who was over from Holland
I haven't seen my other sister-in-law or my father-in-law since god knows when
I didn't visit my other brother-in-law either
I hope they know that it's not that I don't care, or that I don't want to.
Because I do.
But something had to give this weekend, otherwise everything would spiral out of control.
If I can keep work under control, this helps ... because my waking hours are mainly spent at work. If that goes awry, everything else is affected. I'm trying to stay stable health-wise, to not hit rock-bottom thinking about Christmas and the New Year ... for this year is going to be a lot harder. Simply because I understand that he is really dead now. I've made a plan for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day ... and will be with my Mayhew family, sleeping over at one brother-in-law's on Xmas Eve, visiting my sister-in-law Xmas Day morning en route to Xmas dinner with my best girlfriend. I thought about spending it with my family, but it's a much longer drive (three times longer) with a higher risk of driving through snow and ice ... and it means less time separated from my shitheads/dogs. AND, less time to get home should I feel the need to run home.
See? I'm even juggling plans, things that haven't happened yet. Weighing up pros and cons, guessing my emotions on the days ahead.
The Santa's from two years ago are still up in my home. I think I'll plug them in this year. It's a step forward. I'm aiming to put up a tree next year. Not ready for it yet.
It's exhausting doing this without him. The simplest things. Let alone the holidays.
I'm dog-tired.
I wish I was a dog ... then all I'd need to worry about was ... well, nothing.
Thank you, my beautiful strong husband, you gave me 15 years of that. Living in my lala-land, without a care in the world. How I wish for those halycon days.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanks

What do I have to be thankful for?

The love I have
How much he loves me
that he chose me

my family and friends
my job and colleagues
my widow friends especially

Steve at BMW
my home

my heating and hot water
my neighbour climbing into the loft to turn the boiler back on
my neighbour cutting back the trees and bushes on my driveway without me even asking him to
that I don't have to keep driving thru that branch and hoping that it would snap off

my parents. I'd sooner have had them and lost them both by the time I was 32 than have different ones that were still alive. I know how perfectly wonderful they were

Cliff
Cliffy
did I mention my beautiful husband

that my eyesight hasn't been threatened by diabetes

my dogs

... although I wasn't thankful that my deaf dog Fred peed in my right Ugg boot while I spent half an hour in my jacuzzi

my jacuzzi
vodka

sending you light and love for Thanksgiving ... especially if you have an empty chair at your table today

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Over ... till the next one


It's hard to forget the date my beautiful Mom died, because she died from a stroke on November 22nd.

The same date that JFK died.

Albeit years apart.

I was 29 so that means she's been gone for 17 years.

Today I kept my head down and worked solidly and quietly (for me) from 08h00 till 18h00. Then went to Tesco ... had another cry before heading home ... and kept busy some more.

But you can't escape it, can you?

I didn't sleep at all last night and left home at 07h00 - it was still dark!! I don't normally wake up till 07h00. I'm tired physically yet my brain won't power down.

Off for a shower, then I might be a real hussy and take a vodka and book (and dogs) to bed.

I need a break from these bloody dates.

The only months that don't bring a significant date are:

April
June
August

that sucks!

I didn't really grieve for my Mom till I was with Cliff. Beforehand - in my previous relationship I couldn't let go, show weakness or lose it.

My beautiful strong husband healed me.

And today ... it sounds dreadful ... but it's true. I still miss others - mainly my parents, immensely. To lose anyone is devastating, especially family.

But losing everyone else, looking back, compared to this ... it seems like CHICKEN FEED in comparison. I know you shouldn't compare one loss against another. But it's hard not to today.

I love my Mom so so much. I was privileged to have her. I mean that. All my friends loved her too. We were all devastated - the whole family and many friends.

But he was my world, my heart, my soulmate. My compass and best friend. My lover. My future. All I ever wanted and dreamed of. My life. My raison d'ĂȘtre. I was with him every day.

Then not.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Really?

How can it be?

Almost 2 years since I last touched the face I long to see?

It feels like yesterday ...

It feels like a millennium ago ...

It sometimes feels like perhaps I dreamed it all ...

Yet I can still feel him, dream of him, be so head over heels in love with him ...

still learn from him, listen to him, seek and hear his advice ...

still feel his love and strength

... yet feel completely alone

... still not really want to be here

... still feel the pain that I felt from the first second when we were wrenched apart

... yet find myself still standing most of the time, find myself shocked that I survived the end of my world?

How can it be?

How can it feel as though I have not moved forward in almost two years?

How can I let go ... of that which I love and adore and would die for?

Yet I convince myself I must, and I do ... little by little ...

but only for him. Every painful step, taken for him alone.

Only you.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

A tin of biscuits and a kettle

I've only been home an hour. It's bedtime already.

Because I had to sit in Tesco's car park for half an hour.

Because I was crying so hard I couldn't see to drive. I just had to let the wave of molten lead crawl over me, let it burn me until it was satisfied that it still had the power to bring me to my knees. Debilitate me on a whim. Wring my heart with a sadistic delight.

This morning my kettle broke. The kettle that he used to make me tea with every morning. I know it's just a thing. But it upset me so. So while I waited for my diabetes meds I had to choose a new one. Then I felt such an irritating itch on my neck and touched the necklace that holds his ashes near my heart and it came off. The clasp had broken so I calmly put it in my purse and realized how lucky I'd been not to lose it.

Picking up groceries, I couldn't avoid all the santas, Christmas food, decorations - each of them stabbing me in the heart. A death of a thousand cuts. Translucent faded water colours of him selecting meats, cheeses and goodies. I had to walk slowly, purposefully, as I couldn't remember what I needed. It took an age.

Torture.

Then I saw the tin of biscuits. You know. The "seasonal" ones. And I just had to get out of there. And fast. He'd always buy 3 tins straight after Xmas. Delicious and far cheaper. In 15 years he never once said "no" to me ... but he wouldn't pay the pre Xmas price tag and I'd look forward to this treat every December 27th.

Then I struggled to bring the shopping in. In the dark rain. The dogs helped. Not. Brought the bin back onto the drive. He always did that. Looked at the mail. Junk and ... an electricity meter card request. Cue more sobs.

I'm beyond exhausted. Work is coming at me at breakneck speed as are deadlines. I'm hormonal too. I'm run down. And I've got this tsunami coming at me. I can't fight it. This Xmas is going to hit me even harder than the first. For I know now that he's never going to buy those biscuits again. Last year I wasn't sure. This would have been the year that he covered the roof in white fairy lights. Think Chevy Chase. The reality is that his friend still hasn't returned to put on the last 20 roof tiles - a year on.

Tomorrow I have an eye test to ensure I'm not going blind from diabetes. I'm petrified. I don't mind dying but I don't want to go blind. Seriously. I'm not supposed to drive for a couple of hours after they put on the eye drops but what else can I do? I don't have a support network where I live.

I'm tired. I'm tired of this battle. Every single day. And for what?

I miss him. I want him. I need him. I love him.

Doing this alone is so tiring, so frightening at times.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

On the edge

My boiler decided to turn itself off during the night.

On the coldest night of the year so far.

So the shower turned cold as I applied shampoo.

Then we got stuck in a traffic jam for an hour.

I could feel myself starting to feel panicky and insecure.

It doesn't take a lot these days.

I fucking hate asking for help.

So I haven't.

So I'm really cold.

I tried turning on the heating and water but it wouldn't light, at which point I started crying.

Then i screamed at Cliff, went hysterical and shouted at him more.

Why the fuck did you leave me here? I fucking HATE you for leaving me.

How could I have said that to him?

I said I was sorry but I feel devastated for saying it. I didn't mean it baba. I an still inconsolable shedding big fat hot tears of heartbreak.

I don't want to ask for help.

I want my beautiful husband back.

He should be here to fix it

So I'm sitting here ... stubborn ... Wrapped in two blankets.

I can take stubborn to a new level.

When my washing machine broke it took me a month to aak for help. I rediscovered so many clothes. I bought new ones. I handwashed.

But in the end I had to give in

so. Tomorrow. I will ask.

Stupid bitch.

Stubborn.

I miss you baba.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

A loss is a loss in its own right



Today I read on Facebook that my friend's dog hasn't got long to live.

It has made me incredibly sad.

Because I know the indescribable pain my friend will feel when he dies.

I can remember losing our 9 year old Rottweiler so vividly, and the shock of searing pain that scorched both of us.

I remember him looking so puppy-like, moments after his legs seemed to buckle as he laid down on the floor next to me. It was Christmas Eve shortly before midnight, when "we three" would open our presents next to the tree. He was interested in his soft toy - a snowman, and sniffed at his Cadbury's Milk Buttons, but didn't bother eating more than one of them. He seemed fine, but I knew. Just as I knew that last November the 5th would be his last ... and actually the whole evening centred around him and his enjoyment. I made sure he really enjoyed that last fireworks night - he loved them so.

Those last hours, he was happy. You could see it in his eyes, and the love he had for us, and we for him shone from his big eyes. The house was cosy and warm, the tree was gorgeous, the smell of meats, including a joint of pork and an entire turkey reserved solely for him, wafting up his nostrils. Even though he wasn't eating by then, Cliff laid a slice of each meat - pork, ham, turkey, chicken, beef - next to him ... and he licked them, kept sniffing them to check they were still there right up to the end. We kept replenishing a shallow bowl with water, which he drank ... each time pushing it away when he'd had enough. He laid with his head under the tree, and the house was peaceful.

Just like my beautiful strong husband, he went bravely and surrounded by love. The only time he made any complaint was when I took 10 minutes to have a bath. The noise was pitiful and broke my heart. It was a noise he'd never made before and I rushed back to him. I believe that he didn't want to be alone, that he wanted me or us with him all the time.

Someone knocked on the door, and I told Cliff no one else was welcome that night. It would only be the three of us till the end.

And so it was.

Cliff and I took a sofa each late Christmas Day, refusing to leave him, even to sleep. The tree lights were dimmed, as was the volume on TV, and we kept checking him, making sure he was warm, talking to him, even though he slept almost solidly, and refused to drink any more water.

He lifted his head to look at a giraffe that Cliff had made him out of those sausage shaped balloons. He loved balloons too. He also liked bubbles, so Cliff bought him a bubble-machine ... which I think may be in our loft today.

We talked quietly and I know he felt safe because it was just "we three".

At two or three in the early hours of boxing day, I suggested that we go to bed because he was sleeping soundly and seemed alright. Cliff was halfway up the stairs and Hammer started retching. I held him and stroked him, telling him, "it's alright Ham-ham, mummy's here."

He breathed in and I held my breath, just as I did when my husband left this world, waiting for him to exhale and take another. Seconds lasted for an eternity. Then he exhaled - and I knew that my 14 stone "puppy" had left us. I didn't let go.

I looked round for Cliff who got off the sofa, with an expression I'd never seen him with before.

Then I saw this shimmering wave-like, colourful light and I put my hand up to it. I touched it and at that moment, I was positive it was Hammer's spirit. I still believe that. I took my eyes off it for a second and when I looked for it again, it had gone. In fact when Cliff had taken his last breath, I looked for the same shimmering ethereal light and couldn't find it. One of my friends told me that was because he would have stayed with me a while and not left straight away. I liked that rationale.

My head told me our dog had died but my heart refused to hear it. I remember telling Cliff that I thought he would be alright now and that we could go to bed. I remember asking Cliff to promise me that he'd be okay.

On December 26th, I heard Cliff walk around to my side of the bed, softly crying and saying, "come here baby" and me wailing, "no, no, noooooo" and rocking together, holding each other so tightly. I remember admitting that I knew he'd gone the night before, and Cliff shared that he felt a "wave" coming over him while he was watching me hold him ... and he knew that he'd gone in that instant. We spent a couple of hours laying on the bed, crying, sobbing, sniffling and laughing at our shared memories with this wonderful intelligent human-dog.

Cliff was shocked at how badly affected he was. He kept saying, "why do I feel as though I've lost a child? Why am I more devastated about this than I was when my mother died? He was the bain of my life for nine years, I shouldn't feel so broken". (This really bothered him and my friend Kendra explained that grief is cumulative and when I repeated this to Cliff he felt less bad.)

I went next door to ask our neighbour to help Cliff bury him, because Cliff refused to let me do it. He was adamant. I was, however, equally adamant that he would not do this alone.

Cliff told me that if I wanted him to be buried in a pet cemetery with a headstone, whatever I wanted ... he would do. He had to stay at home with us though, there was no question in my mind. I suggested that he rest under the beautiful ferns ... a spot he would lay ... like a lion on the savannah, mistakenly thinking that we couldn't see him ... spying on the dogs next door.

So they dug a hole - six feet deep and three feet wide. A hole that you'd dig for a human coffin. Meanwhile I was tasked with collecting all of Hammer's possessions. I filled a big black bin liner to the brim with his toys. Then I collected his stuff out of the freezer - his ice cream, his joints of "reduced price" meat that Cliff procured for him, his sausages. Then the larder - his meatballs etc. His homeopathic medicine (for a recurring skin and eye irritation), his Christmas presents - one of which remained unopened. His milk buttons. His food bowls, his drinking bowl that was so large you could have bathed a baby in it. There was so much stuff.

I kept watching Cliff and Paul digging and my eyes kept being drawn back to my beautiful Hammer, wrapped in a baby blue soft blanket, lying next to them.

Cliff placed a bowl in each corner of the grave, and put food in the bowls. He wouldn't let me watch them lower him in the hole. But he took so much care, so much love and tenderness. He told me that he was snuggled in his blankets and he placed all his toys and stuff around him carefully. And he reassured me that he double and triple checked that he wasn't breathing, that there was no sign of life first.

I threw the turkey in the bin outside and told Cliff later.

We laughed ... imagining that one day in the future, an archaeologist would find Hammer's grave and announce that he had discovered a royal or a warrior dog. We both liked that.

He also told me that EVERYTHING had to go with Hammer. That I mustn't keep anything. But I sneaked one toy out to keep. An orang-utan - it smelled of him, and was covered in his fur, his dribble. I had to keep one thing, firmly sealed in plastic. Just in case. I've opened it twice to smell him in four years.

We were off work for the holidays and we stayed in alone. Cut off the world. We couldn't cope with anyone else. We mourned, we cried and laughed and we reassured each other constantly that he went without pain, that he had a great life, that we'd been good dog-"parents". We informed some friends, and they admitted that they cried when they read the news. If we had to go in the lounge, we would go together, because the big gap that was left on "his" sofa physically hurt our hearts.

Then Cliff threw himself into work around the house, then projects at work. I seemed alright. I returned to work, but I know now, looking back that that first year, I was depressed, especially at weekends.

I created a collage of photos of him in a huge frame, and typed up all the memories of him, printed it out and cut the memories into ticker-tape pieces, sticking them by the photos of him taken around the time of the "memories". Cliff hated it. He said it was a mess. It is. But I love it. Doing that was so cathartic for me.




After I kissed Cliff goodbye when he left this world, as I walked down the hospital corridor ... I remember whispering out loud, "there had better have been a big black dog there to meet you".

Right up to the week before Cliff died, Cliff would tear up if I talked about him. I could. Cliff couldn't. He grieved as men do, by doing stuff, keeping busy. I just grieved ... and in the end I could talk of him without getting upset.

But I still can't listen to Texas' "Black Eyed Boy", because I used to sing it to him. He loved me singing to him, his beautiful brown eyes would gaze off into the distance. And he knew. Absolutely knew that he was special enough for a song to be all about him.

I so wish I could protect my friend from all this pain and heartache, but I can't. It makes me nauseous to think of what she has to come.

When her baby "Ronnie" was a puppy, he was found to have a bone disease whilst in training to be a guide dog and I think he was going to be euthanised because it was assumed no one would want a puppy that came with a life-time guarantee of high vet bills. She immediately fell in love with him, and made him hers. I loved having hugs with him and spoiling him when I went out to Savannah. He so reminded me of Hammer. He is a beautiful black lab. Beautiful in and out.

When it's time, run free Ronnie. Hammer will meet you. And Cliff will now have two "bains" in his life.

He'll be fine. But I know my friend won't be. Not for quite some time anyway. My heart goes out to her.

I feel so helpless and useless.

Human or animal ... death fucking sucks. And it isn't healthy to compare one loss to another. Comments like, "he was just a dog" or "get another dog" or "he lived 12 years which is older than most Labradors" just aren't helpful and frankly, they are insensitive.

It's similar to insinuating that one widow's pain is worse than another's. Because one husband died young vs. a 60 year long marriage, or because one had a long-term disease vs. a sudden death through a heart attack or a stroke. That it's better or worse if you have children. That it's worse because you are struggling financially, or you feel so much guilt at receiving life insurance money. That if you weren't married - and only engaged - that the pain must be less. That because one widow laughs, sings or dances in public that she's not grieving as much as another. That's all bullshit. The pain is not worse for one more than another. It is what it is.

Every loss is a loss in its own right, and shouldn't be demeaned or compared to another.

Each loss is unique and personal.

Each loss breaks you.

A person. A dog. A horse. Whatever. That person's pain is very real.

It's not a competition ... it's a broken heart. If it's insinuated that your loss is less than another's - that it's worse for another, it's offensive because it undermines the love you feel and the pain that you are going through.

I should know.

If only

I had a dream.

So vivid.

Beautiful in its simplicity.

He was holding me and I had my arms around his neck ... he was swaying me gently and talking to me.

I can't remember what he was saying because all I could focus on was the magic of seeing him, touching him ... and best of all, nuzzling his neck. I remember gasping aloud when I breathed him in.

And I told him how much I missed him.

If only he could for real.

But even in dreams, it's so wonderful.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Mind over matter


Since my car accident, it has felt as though my car’s steering/hold on the road has been deteriorating slowly.

It’s made me feel like I can’t trust the car.

I’ve been so tense driving it that my shoulders and upper arms hurt afterwards.

My friend’s husband checked and slightly adjusted the tyre pressure for me, to no avail.

I actually drove at 50 on the motorway (a first for me).

So … I arranged for BMW to come collect the car to fix it.

Steve at the Body Shop (who helped me before) rang me at work yesterday to let me know that they have had the car on the ramp, they’ve attached it to its mother-ship computer, they took it for a test drive at 80 on the motorway and … THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH IT.

He then arranged for me to take it for a test drive (with him in the passenger seat) on the motorway, and gently said, “I wouldn’t give you back a car that wasn’t right, you know.”

What a nice guy.

I nearly started crying.

I thought I wasn’t affected by the accident. Really. But this issue is clearly all in my head.

My mind is making me tense up whilst driving, which is translating to the wheel and the car. I’m not driving normally. It’s not the car.

I guess it’s another effect of not having the luxury of Cliff being here to reassure me. When he was here, my confidence wouldn’t have taken the knock it has.

But my biggest learning is that I am suppressing my emotions and reactions to things, aren’t I. I mean … I walked away from that accident without a scratch. I thought I’d walked away without any harm to my psyche too … but it would appear that I didn’t.

I miss you baba.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Remember, remember the 5th of November ...


I hardly need to be reminded of Bonfire/Fireworks/Guy Fawkes Night.

As you know, fireworks were a big thing to us ... any excuse ... we'd let one (or fifty) off. Oh, and it's my Dad's birthday too.

Last night, I sat on my sofa, with my hands over my ears (and the curtains firmly shut) trying to ignore the few rockets that were let off early.

I wonder if I'll ever be able to watch them again and enjoy them.

Monday, November 1, 2010

A New Widow




A friend at work asked me if I'd be willing for her to give my contact details to one of her friends, because her husband died unexpectedly (of a heart attack) three weeks ago.

He was Cliff's age.
They'd only been married for three weeks.

He died one week after their honeymoon.

They had five years of happiness together.

Not long enough. It never is though, is it? Even if you have 60 years, it would never be long enough. Because it's irrelevant actually. It just is. Never long enough. Whatever.

She also asked for advice about what she should and should not say, and what was helpful.

I found answering those questions fairly easy ... some examples of what I shared with her were:

... don't say: "you know where I am", "at least he went quickly", "he's in a better place" etc
... do say: "let's go for a walk this Sunday. I'll pick you up at 12"
... do say: "I'm going to do your shopping for you for the next 6 months. Write me a list every Thursday and I'll do it on the Friday."
... do: take her round nutritional balanced meals that she can zap in the microwave
... do: keep her company on Friday nights

But when she asked me how I felt in those initial weeks, I really struggled. I started to tell her ...
... immense fear, shock, like being three years old and getting lost in the supermarket ... remember that feeling, that fear upon discovering that you are separated from your mother and you can't find her? The adrenaline surging through your veins, your heart banging away in your chest? That lasted a minute, maybe two ... until your mother was reunited with you. Well, when your spouse dies, that feeling, that fear, shock, adrenaline, heart banging so hard that your ears ring with the stress of it ... lasts at least for a whole month.
In my case, I got Diabetes Type II because of the stress that my body went through in the early days after Cliff died.

I then added that when I stood up, I had to hold something for balance, because my world felt so out of equilibrium ... I had experienced the ultimate truth, that nothing in this world is certain or secure or what I thought it was ... and I remember standing for a while, thinking about which foot to put forward first before I could walk. I'd get kind of get stuck there for a while sometimes, concentrating furiously. Sometimes I'd just sit back down again for a while. Seriously.

That I only ate what was put in front of me.

Then I had to tell her that I generally didn't think about those first days, because it upset me too much to do so.

I fought to maintain my composure and went back into business mode.
I'm more than happy to meet the new widow, to listen to her ramble incessantly as I did, to hear her pain. To hear all about him. To share what did and didn't help me, but only when she needs to hear it. Drip-feed. That I can do.

But please don't ask me what the first month or two were like. I can't go there, because if I do, I REALLY ACTUALLY go there. My body reacts as it did then ... I feel the surge of adrenalin, the tears come quickly and uncontrollably, my heart thuds loudly in my chest and my ears, and the immense fear encompasses me. The blackness smothers me.