Unfortunately, my BFF had lost her mum, and I had to park in a "two hour max space" when I got to the wake. To be honest, I was relieved to just stop driving because I felt shaky after attending the first funeral since Cliff's, which was held in the same place his was.
My goddaughter (my BFF's daughter) and I ran into the pub, both relieved that that part of the day was over, even though it had been a lovely service, culminating with Adagio for Strings being played. I was still trying to figure out why I had played this non-stop during the one hour drive to the crematorium, because it kept me calm, only to be stunned when I read the service to find it on there. Strange. Not creepy, kind of comforting, but strange nonetheless. And when the classical version played, I felt the tears come.
After an hour I mentioned to my BFF's boyfriend that my parking time was running out and he said he'd come along to direct me to a safe and FOC place to park ... and so I found myself zoning out and simply following his directions ... until he said, "this is it. Park there." I froze. He looked at me trying to fathom out my reaction (or lack of).
"ohhhh," I said. "That's our first home. The first place Cliff and I lived that was ours. The White House. Oh wow," as memories coursed through my mind - our first Christmas tree, being burgled, how he had not given a thought to the high rent "if I was happy there", the excitement of moving, loving one another and our new found privacy. My emotions were huge - missing him, but above all, my heart was just bursting with love, and tenderness for how innocently I had viewed the world back then, thanks to him. An intimate memory made my cheeks burn.
I took a photo or two just in case I never had the courage to revisit the house intentionally. Then we turned the corner, and I said to my BFF's boyfriend, "and then we lived in that flat for a short while before moving from Broadstairs to Margate." Again, he looked worried, expecting my calmness to break ... but it didn't. For I was squinting up into the flat's front facing windows, looking for us, remembering more happy times. I actually expected to see a mini-movie of us through those windows, so high up. I remembered him plumbing in my washing machine, shopping for kitchen utensils with him (the first place was fully furnished), arranging our bedroom storage, learning more about people and the world and not liking what I found, which resulted in me not wanting to leave the little safe bubble in that apartment ... and his patience and understanding of me. His encouragement. That despite my neurosis at the time, how happy I had been there with him, and with our friends who visited us there. Another vision of us came to me so vividly and I smiled, feeling myself blush. I also remembered him telling me how beautiful I was. Twice. Once when he lifted me onto a kitchen counter top and put his finger under my chin, tilting my face towards him. And again while I was relaxing in a hot bubbly bath with the door open. I remembered him gently splashing me with water and feeling so safe, so loved, so enveloped in this man's love and protection.
Then I looked down the road at Grand Mansions and drew in a deep breath. It hurt. I remembered an eighteen year old wearing baby blue dungarees with pink clogs, walking up all those stairs carrying burgers and coffees for Cliff and his crew ... when I first knew him. How the wind had almost blown me off the huge flat roof that he was working on. How I had known, even back then that I could trust this man. There was always a connection there.
After the wake, I went to visit another good friend and took a wrong turn ... finding myself at the turning into the road where we lived in Margate, after leaving our apartment (above). I stared at the road sign in disbelief, saying the words out loud to ensure that I was right ... that this was the road we lived on when my father died and how he had held me, standing against the lounge wall for 6 hours until he told me I had to stop because he was crying too. The home where we got our rottweiler (Hammer). The home where I took a break from working, because I needed to and because he let me. Another home we were so happy in. I didn't drive up the road and look at the house because I could visualize it ... and us, more memories without seeing the place through today's eyes. I remembered carrying my puppy up the hill in the snow, his little button eyes looking at me while I told him that he would always be with us and that we would love him. How Cliff had lectured me for a long time about the "rules" - the dog was not allowed in our bedroom blah blah blah ... and when I stepped over the threshold with him, Cliff picked him up and said, "oh, you're far too small to sleep alone" and after feeding him, promptly took him up to bed, only for me to find them both sleeping. This huge man in comparison to this tiny puppy who was snuggled into the crook of his arm.
We had moved from there to our amazing apartment that overlooked Margate Harbour (from where the first firework housing his ashes was launched). The apartment where we really revelled in entertaining friends, where Cliff healed me from my fears of the ugliness in the world and where he re-built my confidence. These were some of our happiest times. We got married while we lived here. Wonderful memories with friends and with him. A closeness that most will never experience. Celebrating NYE 2000. Being so in love. The home we passed in the hearse on the day of his funeral, where I sat disbelieving, wanting to escape from that ghoulmobile and run up those stairs to that apartment so damn fast, that I might find my husband and dog up there, that I would find "us".
Due to my job relocating, we had moved an hour away to a rented place here in Larkfield whilst we house-hunted to buy. I remember the excitement, the sense of being alone and a pioneering spirit. We were going to make it. We had everything going for us. Both of us working hard, celebrating our first wedding anniversary in Paris, loving each other always. How he always thought of me and put me first - that is what is clear now.
And then here. I remember standing on our patio, our arms round each other, watching our dog exploring his new home the day we moved in. "We're all home now" Cliff said. A couple of wonderful magical Christmases (they all were, but two stand out today), going on a cruise for my 40th, exceeding at work due to his support and encouragement, yet realizing he resented my time and attention being taken, that he regretted insisting that I should seek promotion in my career, that he hadn't realized what this would entail. Feeling more secure and at home than I had since I was a small child, if not more so ... and telling him. Him working so damn hard on this house and for the house, accumulating a massive deposit in only 6 months. My bathroom. "I did this for you, you know, for our anniversary." Today, feeling as though he is washing me when I sit in the double jacuzzi, and it's like he's wiping away my tears when I take a shower. How amazingly happy I was, and how today it hurts me to look out the back windows at the garden, because every time I do I see him rubbing his back, having planted the lawn seed. How I wished I'd helped him more, but working, commuting, cooking and trying to clean took all my energy. But I still feel bad. Being depressed after Hammer died and how we reacted differently. He got busy on the house and I wanted him to be with me. I sat on that sofa every weekend upset about my dog and wished selfishly for him to sit in misery with me. I remember painting our lounge at the back of the house - our music/bar-room and having so much fun doing so, and I remember how great it looked all decorated for Christmas with our two latest dogs. How charismatic he was. How I loved serving his drinks and sitting on his lap. How much fun we had. And how I kissed the walls that he built, plastered and painted with his hands, after he died. How I would lean against the coolness of those walls and just breathe. And today I am irritated with myself because the santa's are still up from Xmas 2008. I still can't walk in that room. If I've needed something from there, I fly in and out like a bat out of hell. I will never entertain in that room again ... there is a hole in that room that threatens to swallow me whole. I lived the dream in this house. I lost my dream and my entire world in this house. I wandered through its rooms searching for him ... and sometimes I still do. It is my sanctuary and I'm stunned at what he did for me, thankful that I told him I appreciated him when he still filled that huge hole in the back room. The room I remember him standing in looking so sorrowful, the last time he played music in there. I was rushing around doing chores, and I felt the pull of him. I knew he was calling to me without speaking and went and softly swept my hand down his face and we held each other. "What were those two songs?" I asked. "They're just on this album," he showed me it was Mandolin Wind and Tom Traubert's Blues by Rod Stewart. An album we played songs on regularly enough, and somehow I had never heard these tracks. "It's beautiful" I said, but I hadn't heard all the words. Until recently. I went into the room and found the song that he had last played. The song that I realized he was playing, knowing that time was running out, and a song that made him mourn his BMF who had died a couple of years earlier. He cried and told me, "it hurts, I miss him so much." and I just held him and led him up the stairs to bed, to make him feel better the only way I knew how.
I played that song, and a couple of Frampton's when I visited Stockbury. The words reached me and I cried unashamedly, for he died in the coldest winter in 14 years and it snowed that day. His only thoughts were for me as he died. That IS love. As for Frampton's Show Me The Way, there's no need for explanatory words is there? It was a favourite of his, and it is one of mine too now. When I heard the words, "this cannot be happening to me," I started to laugh. With Cliff. If that doesn't sound too woo-woo.
It hurts so much, baba. More than you missed Dave. Did you know? Did you know how broken I would become? After all that time and love and patience that you took to heal me?
I miss you. I love you. I want you. I need you. The pain remains the same. All that has changed is my ability to cope. I just want to be with you. Nothing else. I've looked for you in all these places and all that is apparent is how much you loved me, how much you did for me. And my heart threatens to explode with my love for you.
It breaks. It realizes that I cannot find you in any worldly place. No home we shared. Nowhere, no matter how far I travelled. Australia proved that to me. Forever.
Forever is such a big word especially when I know that home is with you. Not a place.