And it was the right decision. I knew that the Pirate Club Party in London would have been too overwhelming. I'd have started looking for him, and more than likely my mind would have started playing tricks with my eyes. It would have got messy. Too similar to the Ministry of Sound's Millennium party (2001).
NYD - Dominican Republic - hair of the dog
Our first NYE together in 1994, spent with his family at an old acquaintances' ... where I got very mashed and being very loved up ... kept asking him to take me home ... and giggling and rolling around on the floor in my long elegant dress like a child, when he did ... being wrapped up in his arms and sinking. Sinking so deep that I would never own my heart again.
The NYE when we celebrated with Gary at his friend's party, having almost recovered from bird flu - which had wiped us out on Xmas morning.
NYE 2000 - which we saw in with many friends - old and new - in our large apartment overlooking the harbour, having mingled with the crowds at the bar below and the Escape Club. In the early hours of NYD 2001, it was just us three (Cliff, me and Hammer) ... still going strong, I was dancing to the music which was banging, and then we heard a couple arguing outside ... she screamed at her boyfriend, "you bastard, you've ruined my first Millennium" and Cliff hung out the window and shouted down, "what are you, a witch?". And being a bit confused at why couples argued ... because we didn't, not really. We only had about 3 or 4 serious explosions in 15 years.
The photo below shows me at my most childish, having been deprived of his undivided attention for too long during the evening ... and when I got it, a couple of friends tried to join in with the embrace and conversation ... hence my face. Never mind my face. Look at his. That's the face of the only person in the world who ever completely knew and understood me. Yes, even more than my mother. Or. Anyone.
The New Year's Day that we got engaged ... and I felt like I was living the dream because I was. I loved watching him that day, so full of happiness, excitement, pride and love. He didn't stop moving. I remember he disappeared for 5 minutes and reappeared with 6 bottles of bubbles and proceeded to pour everyone in the bar a glass. He kept back one bottle which he was swigging from and topping up my glass with. We went to a club en masse. I kept looking at my diamond, which was flashing in the club lights. And looking at him and smiling. I was so happy just looking at him. Being near him and being safe, so completely safe. The same ring I took off last year, along with my wedding ring ... then started wearing again - but on my middle finger.
The NYE, a few days after our dog died, when Cliff fixed 9 mo-fo fireworks together - to represent the nine years that our rottweiler lived (and enjoyed countless firework displays with us) - and set them off at midnight. And ignoring the front door, the phone, the texts. So that we could pay tribute to him together, alone. Holding each other and watching the fireworks through a veil of tears. Whispering, "Happy New Year Ham-Ham".
Our last NYE in 2008 which we spent entirely alone. A first. But I'm glad now. He'd suggested driving up to town (London) to watch the fireworks along the Thames, but I was nervous about the drive due to the car playing up ... so we stayed in. I wish now that I hadn't deprived him of that now, so sorely. We got dressed, I slapped on makeup, put the fireworks on our big TV screen, scrubbed up the lounge, Cliff made some delicious cocktails, and I ensured our glasses were primed ready to toast the new year in together. And he produced the last firework, a surprise - hidden out of view. I can still see it in the sky, still feel the explosions thudding through my heart. The huge hug and "HNY darling" on the threshold of the back door, then watching some cynical "I hate NYE" programme on TV. It was like we almost knew it was the last one. Quiet. Gentle. Tender. Cuddling lots.
Our first NYE in our home here. A few friends driving up from the coast to see the old year out with us. Music, a beautiful tree, drinks, Hammer loving it. Feeling so complete and happy. Superb fireworks courtesy of my beautiful magical man. I was a smug married.
The NYE when our niece (Esther) turned 21 and we joined his family on the coast to celebrate her birthday as well as the new year. Fireworks for Es and sleeping over.
Another NYE spent in Holland with his sister, niece and brother-in-law ... and dancing with Esther to celebrate her 16th birthday. Fireworks, getting quite squiffy and Cliff getting emotional. Es and I cuddling him ... and the three of us snuggled on the sofa very late. A feeling of protectiveness emanating from us both, and washing over him.
Another couple of NYE's here at home spent joyfully, always happy, safe and warm. Laughter. Close. Hope. The promise of another year together. His charisma and presence filling our home.
We were the best hosts. We selected a mix of music to accommodate everyone's tastes. Ensured they were fed and watered. Prepared food that everyone could "graze" on. Bought in their favourite branded drinks, mixers and filled up the ice buckets. Laughter and more laughter, shared memories. We excelled at hosting parties or nights "in" chez nous if I say so myself, but I know I'm not delusional at all - I was told this by our friends, time and time again. Our dog even revelled in it.
On NYE, I lit candles for Austin and Warren. I couldn't speak. There was no need as the words were swimming round in my heart.
I had imagined, earlier last year that I would have a tree over the holidays and bought this new ornament in Australia, to hang on the tree. I wasn't able to. But I didn't beat myself up about it. I did enjoy three other trees this year. But there was no way at all I was ready to have a tree at home. Not without him. It would have hurt me too much looking at it without him here.
I managed to avoid but two fireworks in the sky, whilst driving down on NYE. Thankfully. They have lost their lustre, yet maintain their ability to floor me in a nano-second.
I slept-over at Cliff's brother's, and felt empty the next morning, with an anxious feeling in my heart at having to return home alone. No matter. They insisted I stay another night, and I took the opportunity when they went out for a drink, to visit Roy and Shirley. I just needed - literally needed to see them, just as I need oxygen. It boosted me having a taste of my baba for a while.
Upon returning to family, I found them in good spirits, singing along (badly) to a home karaoke, and mixed myself a drink. Before leaving, John's girlfriend told me in a quiet moment, that she and John had played Springsteen early on New Year's Eve, and they had sat quietly on his couch, reading through the Eulogy that I wrote for Cliff. It touched me so much that they did that. And that she thought to tell me. A while later I found out that her first husband had died when their baby was 6 days old. I could barely speak. We stood there communicating with our eyes instead for a moment. So much was said though ... in the way that widows can without a word spoken aloud.
It began to hit me. The date had arrived. 1.1.11. He would not play an earthly part this year. Not breathe next to me in bed. Not hold me. Not this year. Not this decade. That stunned me. A decade? Never mind forever. Forever is such a big word and doesn't bear contemplation. I wondered how many more NYE's I'd have to tolerate before I would be released back into his care.
Then I attempted to get a grip. But it started to spiral down and down. I couldn't fight the music. Despite my repeated requests to play some more upbeat tunes, my pleas fell on deaf ears. It was a mix of music to slit your wrists to. I even tried sarcasm, saying that we may as well play non-stop fucking Leonard Cohen. On three occasions, I had to say in an almost panic-stricken / manic voice that I couldn't listen to the songs selected. But the third song actually got played, paused, played, rewound and replayed ... to explain that it was about someone dying. Seriously. I could feel my lip quivering, felt the tears burn me as they rose, felt that panic, my foot pumping up and down furiously whilst I focused on breathing and avoiding eye contact with anyone. Felt myself zone out. Disengage. Comforted myself with images of him flicking through my mind.
When this song was played, I didn't even ask for it to be turned off, opting instead to stay in the bathroom for the duration, trying to block it out.
I went quiet. I just wanted to come home. Just unbearably sad. Unspeakable pain engulfed me. My heart and soul crying out, almost screaming for him. The liberal amounts of vodka consumed meant that peeps started heading for bed. John left to head home. Louis started clearing up the mess we'd created and I suddenly realized it was three minutes to midnight, so I scrabbled around in my flight-bag for Cliff's third (and last) candle - for this season of sleepovers. I spoke to him softly while Louis was in the bathroom, telling him that I loved him and missed him. Said the words just as if he were there ... "Happy New Year darling", but also thanked him for everything he did, and for everything he taught me. Louis came back in to mop the floor while I washed up the glasses and ashtrays, and he put the radio on, the volume soft ... and on came this song. I smiled. I felt him. He always told me there is no such thing as coincidences. And there aren't. He was telling me he was with me and it was alright.
And today? I slept in, showered, ate brekkie, chatted and laughed with family before heading home via Vicki's. I just needed that injection of strength from seeing her, along with two cups of tea before leaving the coast, and was rewarded with a beautiful tip of a blood red sun sinking below the horizon. So fast. My breath was taken away by it just as he could and did. I said, "hello baby. I see you." All I could feel was love.
I've had tears since returning home. But I've also felt relief that the holidays are over for this year. I am proud of myself for facing it this year, and not reacting to NYE the way I did last year.
The next hurdle is January 4th, when Vicki has her mammogram to check that she is cancer-free. I won't allow myself to think about it until she's been. If I do, I shall vomit. Literally.
Then January the 5th at 15h00, it will be two years since Cliff had his stroke. Followed by a 12 hour period, on January 6th at 03h00 when he took his last breath.
It cannot. It will not. It can't be as bad as witnessing him take that last breath. The breath, that I knew on some primal level, was his very last. So sure in fact, that I held my own, and when I was proven right, I tried so hard to keep holding my own, so I could go with him. But my body became my worst enemy and would not allow me to do so.
Why? I don't know. I guess that until my time is up, I've got to battle on, make him proud of me and make the most of the good days and the laughter.
Happy New Year baba. I love you always. I miss you too much.