I decided to celebrate Easter at work by being the secret Easter Bunny. Having to meet some New York colleagues on the Sunday at work, I managed to leave this (and one just like it), unobserved, at two shared areas within our office. It felt good to join in. It felt even better when I saw my colleagues' reactions to them.
OK, it's not Christmas. But it's a start.
I celebrated my birthday along with my god-daughter's (she was born the day after mine) with a lunch at a favourite Italian restaurant. Eating al fresco with a view of the sea on a sunny day in the company of my BFF, goddaughter and BFF's youngest sister was good for my soul. The simple things. In life. I remember how we used to sing along and understand Joe Cocker's tribute to that very subject.
After lunch we went for a walk down to the harbour and people-watched, chatted and philosophised about life. Goddaughter headed off for a night out and BFF and I returned to her home for numerous cups of tea and some heart to heart conversations. She is my rock and confidante.
This card brought nothing but laughter to me. I think my team at work is trying to tell me something.
The shoe man came into work on my birthday, and he appeared bemused by my reaction upon seeing him. "Yay, it's my birthday, and you appear with your shoes .... as if by magic!" whilst clapping and bouncing up and down like 3 year old. He grinned and showed me shoes he thought I'd really like. He beamed when I openly showed delight upon seeing him ... followed by what I imagine was confusion ...I wondered afterwards if he thought I saw him as some sort of masculine version of Tinkerbell.
Talking of fairies, I was so touched by one of my gifts. A Fairy wind chime from Roy and La-la. Some friends have told me that they think of me as a Fairy (with Tourettes? LOL) and it reminds me of the magic and connection I still have with Cliff. That nothing is impossible. You just have to believe. And he is the gentle breeze that makes the chimes sound. Maybe there are fairies or angels. Who knows whether they exist or not? I know love is real. And you can't see or touch that either. But it's real. Real enough to be stronger than death even.
(not actual gift but very similar)
And for the past 6 weeks, I've been stocking up on baby stuff. Focusing on the new life about to join our family instead of what has been lost. Cliff's third grandchild will be joining us on May 23rd. The c-section is booked. I really had fun shopping for her arrival. The evidence of my enjoyment resulting in four huge canvas shopping bags full.
*one of everything I could find in the baby care range - disposable diapers, and a diaper that is designed to last until they are potty trained - you just have to buy the cheaper option of slip in pads which are sold in increasing sizes to match baby, nasal decongestant, gripe water, nappy rash cream, teething gel, q-tips, baby wipes, disposable bibs and changing mats for days out, and one of each in the Johnson's Baby Product range - baby oil, baby lotion, baby soap, baby powder etc etc.
*baby girl clothes. 0-3 months, 3 - 6 months, 6 - 9 months, 9- 12 months. My personal favourites (apart from the Winnie the Pooh range) were a 0 - 3 month white cardigan and a 9 - 12 month raincoat in pink with black polka dots, and a 3 - 6 month denim dress with matching striped tights and long sleeved t-shirt.
*baby paraphernalia. A bouncer for her to sit in (the seat resembling the shape of an egg ... a womb like shape) which vibrates at the touch of the button ... to soothe. It is of course pink and girly and comes with a mobile that has stuff to stimulate her sight, curiosity, touch. Another bouncer type seat designed for using in the bath. So her mum can enjoy bathing her, and bath time will result in hopefully playtime, as opposed to a slippery, squirming, tearful battle of wills. I think I bought the whole Tommy Tippee range, with magic mat, bowls, bottle, training beaker, weaning spoons that change colour if her food is too hot, and some Winnie the Pooh dishes and plates too. A Winnie the Pooh blanket (which I think they will ALL be sharing).
*toys. Her first doll. Her first book called, "That's not my bunny". A bunny to cuddle (whose feet are designed to chew when baby is teething!) a teether that can be frozen or microwaved to provide some pain relief, a hippo that swims, to keep her company in the bath. And a rubber duck which changes colour if the water is too hot. Baby Roo who plays a lullaby.
And a gift for both of her siblings. Theo is only three (although he wears age 6 - 7 clothes already, and I can see so much of Cliff in him, not just because Theo is clearly going to be of a similar build). His love of animals. Being such a boy. But equally sporting the softness in him. I decided upon Aquadoodle for him, because he recently had an "accident" with paint in his bedroom.
Amber is older and would not be affected by sibling rivalry, but how could I leave her out ... so she was given cash to spend on her own choice.
And Jayde - the mum to be - a scrapbook designed to capture the baby years, and a wooden photo frame - with 3 spaces to show off her 3 children.
I got such pleasure watching her look through everything. She was so touched and kept saying, "you've got me everything I need. oh wow! Look at this!" At the end, she looked around the lounge and remarked on how it looked like she'd held a baby shower, but it was only me.
My beautiful husband, you would be so proud of your little girl. She is a superb mother and knows that she is rich and lucky to have her 3 children (including one not yet born). She's finished growing up now that you've gone. She's been subjected to some darkness in her life. But like you always did, she's moved on, discarding bitterness but kept the learnings. I've been sharing some of your childhood memories with her now her children are at the age(s) that you were when your most formative memories occurred. The imminent arrival of your granddaughter has got me through the past few weeks, which would have been very dark without her to look forward to ... I had my 3rd birthday without you. Two more bank holiday weekends, including Easter. I kept falling into that deep dark place, but instead of dwelling and wading through a treacle heavy grief for days on end, I kept focusing on this new life, her blood shared with, and because of, your own.
You'd have had (mock?) annoyance with me on this shopping spree. Each spree resulted in a checkout girl oooowing and aaaaaahing over the cute outfits I'd taken so long to select. Was it soft enough, was it faulty, would Jayde like it, did it look cute? I tried to remain grounded and remember the practical things like bibs, socks and babygrows, and succeeded. I bought for different seasons. I didn't frequent the out priced baby designer shops. I was good actually ... for me. But even I, in the end, thought to myself, OK you've amassed a selection for her first year - to wear. You've set her up with everything a baby needs in consumables, and chucked in some stuff purely for fun and pleasure. That's enough. Don't venture into that ground of trying to compensate for your absence. I think I was close to stepping over that line. This baby doesn't replace you, but she is a living descendant of yours. Just as Jayde, Amber and Theo are. How could I not love them and spoil them every now and again.
Were you there? Were you there when we went through all the stuff, laughing and aaaaaawing at the cuteness of some of the outfits? Did you feel pride that Jayde could "see" intuitively, no need for the instructions, to assemble the bouncer? Did you feel happiness at seeing how Jayde and I are still like sisters (I still love her for saying, "she's not old enough to be my stepmother" every time someone asked years ago). Sisterly still. But now friends as well. Comfortable in each other's company. A shared humour. She has become a beautiful woman. In and out. I love you with every breath and every cell in my body ... so she and your grandchildren are remarkably easy to love ... impossible not to love to be honest. I love seeing them and laughing with them. Another legacy. You left legacies in so many shapes and forms, some tangible, some not. But this legacy is more special than any ... and I am grateful that they are in my life. I promise you that I will do my best to be there for them when they need it. Being there for them is a given. What I mean is do my best if I can help them in any way as they face their own trials and battles in life. Not as well as you would have done. There was only one you and there will never be another like you.
Someone told my BFF that I'd be okay but I had to realize that I'd never find another you. FFS. Has he only just realized? I was aware of that fact when you were still here with me.
I felt you there when an overwhelming sadness shrouded me on that last baby shopping spree. Sorrow that you were denied the pleasure of meeting your last grandchild. Injustice that she wouldn't meet you. I was battling with emotions at the till. The middle aged lady who was manning the checkout remarked on how lovely my choices were and asked who the baby was. I told her, "my late husband's third grandchild. We know it's a girl and she's due in a couple of weeks." She looked me right in the eyes and said, "I'm widowed too. Twenty years ago next week. How long has it been for you?" I told her and asked how she was doing at 20 years. She said that mainly she was fine, but significant dates or a trigger would bring the grief tumbling down on her again. She would never stop loving or missing him, but it had become normal to sit with that, the ache was no longer noticeable - it had become part of her very being. I nodded and agreed that I saw myself following her footsteps in time. She shared that her husband had heart problems and endured painful life-saving surgery, only to be subjected to cancer as he recovered from this. And the cancer stole him from her. She said she still found it hard. That he suffered with heart surgery - post op. for nothing. Except a fate worse than what he had already borne. I started shaking my head, "not fair, that is NOT fair". She said it was their wedding anniversary the following week, and I reached out and squeezed her hand. We looked at each other. There was a couple behind me and they had (without my noticing till that point) been observing our body language I guess .... which caused them to tune in to what we were saying ... and their feelings were palpable. No words spoken, but their faces said a lot. It took two hours in the shop's car park till I was in a fit state to drive. But I felt you there. I felt your love more than I felt your death. But still I cried. Making those noises that didn't sound human. Primal. Animal like. For when we grieve we return to that state, and remember that we are animals. Upon returning home, I played these songs by Joe Cocker, who along with dance music (when we used to go out) was very much the soundtrack of our life together. I remember you playing me two songs specifically when we were first in love. You played them again and again - we played them - until you left. We shared those lyrics, we knew they were about us. We knew them to be true, just as we knew our love was. You are so beautiful. Have a little faith (this one speaks strongly to me today, viewed from a different perspective). How I wish it were not so. It's only recently that I've been able to listen to Joe Cocker again.
Well, I've realized that he still is part of our lives, even though I can't see you, you are still here somewhere, just out of my reach and sight ...
Now that you're gone (Cliff would always associate the beginning lyrics with me)