Friday, 30 January 2015

Here and now

During the past few weeks I have tried to ease my sadness through writing but have failed.  And then I sat down tonight and this piece practically wrote itself.  I apologise in advance for any self indulgence.
_________________________________________

It is three months since my Dad died; from a heart attack that saw him living his life one minute and laid dead on the floor the next.

Shocking doesn’t even cover it.  Maybe we should have been more prepared for his eventual fate.  He had lived the last twenty three years, of his seventy eight years of life, with heart disease and a number of other health concerns that had niggled away at him without stealing his pleasure of living.  But we were not prepared.  He was here.  And now he is gone. 

I have no siblings.  I was my Dad’s only child.  His proud to be ‘Daddy’s girl’ who loved him.  Adored him.  Who aches from missing him.  I saw my Dad for the last time on the day of my forty third birthday.  He and my Mum looked after my youngest son whilst me, my Husband, my eldest son and two dear friends  went out to a fancy firework display.  Before we went out, there were birthday presents. And singing.  And laughter.  When we came home, my parents were keen to get home, mainly to avoid ‘being in the way’.  I kissed my Dad goodbye and hugged him.  I unwittingly said ‘thank you for everything”.

Two days later my Dad was dead.  The last time I saw his body, it was laid on an undertakers trolley in the front room of the house he had shared with my Mum for the past sixty years.  The house I was born in.  He was dead when I arrived at the house.  He was already gone, but nonetheless, I spoke to his empty body in the way that those who go on living tend to do.  I said “goodbye old man” – which was odd really as I had never called him ‘old man’ ever before.  I reminded him that I loved him and always had.  I thanked him for all that he had done for me and my sons.  I stroked the head of hair he had been proud to still have at his age.  I held his hand in a way that would have made us both a little uncomfortable when he was alive.  I was grateful for the patience of the undertakers who gave me all the time I needed.  I barely acknowledged the presence of the neighbour who stopped by.  I was aware of my Mum and my three year old son being in the kitchen with my Husband; giving me and my Dad’s body some space.   I realised my Dad was no longer there but I did what I felt I needed to do.

In the immediate weeks that followed, I was overwhelmed by the support of close friends and family.   And surprised by those who didn’t know what to say and so didn’t say anything at all.  There were moments of surrealism whilst making funeral arrangements.  I was beyond grateful by the support of the many who attended the funeral and the outpouring of admiration for my Dad and love and support for my Mum.  I felt exhausted by the relentless onslaught of ever-changing emotions.   I was amazed that the world continued to turn and that life went on, seemingly unaffected, around me. 

In the weeks since, I have continued to take my children to school and nursery. I have attended visits to potential new schools and have submitted school application forms.  I have cooked meals. I have washed clothes. I have made polite conversation with strangers.  I have been difficult to live with. I have been angry. I have been frustrated.  I have been anxious.   I have been upset.  My three year old asks me when I cry if I am happy.  Or am I “sad about Grandad”?   I sometimes question if I am depressed. There have been weeks of drinking wine every night and forgetting that it’s important to eat and sleep regularly.

I find myself once again pondering the true meaning of life in a way that I haven’t since the self-contemplating years of my youth.   I appreciate the preciousness of life itself in a new and more profound way.  I want to live a more meaningful and authentic life.  I want to seize the day!  Live in the moment!  Practise mindfulness!  Be thankful!  I want to make a difference. 

But I am afraid of dying. I am afraid of everyone I know dying. I feel my heart beating too vigorously when I lay awake in bed at night.  I have begun to eat more healthily.  I take more exercise.  I am trying – relatively unsuccessfully - to meditate.  I am seeking help from a homoeopath.  I despair that regardless of all this I feel more run-down than ever.  I am tired. I have no energy and little motivation.  I catch every virus going.  I am lonely. I am sad.  I am lost.  I am broken.

I worry about my Mum. I try to be a good daughter to the woman who is alone and who I have a natural tendency to clash with but whom I love dearly; the woman who is barely able to parent me and grandparent her grandsons due to her deep rooted sadness and distraction.  I am worried about the effect on my eleven year old son.  I am so sad that my three year old won’t remember the Grandad who doted on him and his brother.

We dragged ourselves through Christmas, the New Year, the coldest, darkest months of winter.  Occasionally we have played in the snow and pretended it’s not happening.

Never before have I felt more isolated.  I am adrift.  I question if I am overreacting.  I try to reach out in a way that I couldn’t initially.  I wonder why people avoid asking me how I am. I am ready to talk now; to be more open about the horror of it all.  But people don’t seem to know what to say to me when I attempt to be honest with them about how I am feeling and so they most often resort to avoidance.  I try to understand why people find it difficult.  And yet I observe myself expecting too much from everyone I know.  I worry that friendships will diminish, relationships will suffer.  I have a new found respect for anyone that continues to live positively after suffering the loss of someone close.

I continue to post positive images of family life on Facebook and Instagram.  I book holidays and look to the future.  I am eternally grateful to the small handful of people who ‘get it’ and who are open and honest and consistently there for me in a way that is helping me to get through this time.  I need more of this.  I question my future but increasingly I appreciate the here and now. 

Every day when I wake up I remember that my Dad is dead.  And above all else, I am thankful that he was my Dad.

Thank you for reading.

 

Friday, 21 November 2014

My Dad

Two weeks and five days ago my Dad died.  It happened suddenly.  His heart stopped.  He was at home. Sat in his favourite arm chair.  Watching TV with his youngest Grandson sat by his feet.  He had just been out to tend to his beloved garden, accompanied by my youngest son and by his wife, my Mum.  He was exactly where he wanted to be, after living a good life.   Two days ago, we celebrated his life at his funeral. We wore his favourite colour, green.  We thought of the good times. There were beautiful flowers and a casket of willow.  This is my tribute to him.
 

 
 
Bri Mitchell

21 October 1936 to 3 November 2014
 
 My Mum and Dad, aged Eighteen

My Dad, Bri Mitchell, was one of the kindest, caring, and most genuine men you could have had the pleasure to have known.  One of life’s good people.  As you will see from the photo of him and my Mum when they were just eighteen, and recently engaged, he was also a bit of a cool dude in his day too.
 
A down to earth, hardworking, practical and capable man, somone who was passionate and knowledgable about gardening and wildlife.  It wasn’t unusual for me when growing up to find myself sat in the back of his car alongside an injured animal we had happened upon by the roadside who needed a lift home to be nursed back to health before being released back in to the wild.  As a child, I loved nothing more than being by his side 'helping' in the garden.

At times, he was a man of few words, and yet you almost always knew what he was feeling through his expressions and actions.  Knowing, determined, patient, stubborn, with a deep sense of right and wrong.  Despite his aging body, he held on to an energetic soul to the end and retained a boyish charm, and a strong sense of fun.  


Bri was no-ones fool, he could spot a mean streak or someone trying to pull a fast one, a mile off.  If my Dad thought of you as a friend, then he would have done anything he could to help you out.  Above all else though, this loving and gentle man, valued time spent with his family.
Together with his partner in crime, my Mum, for over sixty years,  my Dad has shown me and my boys how to love and how to be loved.  He has taught us how to be happy through enjoying the simple things:- to be generous in giving our time to those we care about, to look after ourselves and each other, to see the funny side, to appreciate nature and the cycle of life,  and to put in what you want to get out.

I will miss this man every day. But more than anything, I feel so very lucky, and thankful, to have had him as my Dad, and for my son’s to have had him as their loving and fun-filled Grandad.; because we couldn't have hoped for better.

Bri Mitchell will live on through us, as we move forward with goodness in our hearts, a cheeky glint in our eyes, and a mischievous smile upon our faces.


Bri and his older brother Roy


A keen footballer, he proudly played for Chesterfield Boys Team

On a boys holiday to Blackpool


Aged 17, with his wife to be, my Mum, Joy
He was a fantastic Dad to me his only child

With me and my Mum at a family wedding


Wonderful Grandparents to my two boys
 
Bri always had time for his family


Passing on his knowledge and skills
 
My Dad, with goodness in his heart, a cheeky
glint in his eye, and a mischievous smile
upon his face.



Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Why?

Why is the sky blue?

 Why no Peppa?

Why J (The Ten Year Old) doing that Mummy?

 Why we going home?

 Why I need suncream?

 Why Daddy going there? 

Why moving my trike Mummy?

Why Mummy?

Why not Mummy?

 Mummy why?

 Why?

Why?

Why?

Why?

Why?

 Yes.  It’s safe to say The Three Year Old has well and truly embraced the ‘why stage’!

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Jaded

“….to over indulge in something…to become tired of it…lose enthusiasm”    

Online Dictionary 2014

Deciding to move house. Completing a degree and finding work.  Becoming disillusioned with a current career. Planning and booking holidays. Maintaining a sense of normality in family life.  End of year school events: sports day; summer fair; school disco; Deciding to quit the day-job after sixteen years of working for the one organisation.  Packing up a house.  Planning for the future.  Enjoying time with family and friends. Applying for jobs.  Resurrecting a business idea and developing new ones. Moving house.  Having food poisoning. Leaving a job.  Going on holiday. 

This is a summary of the past four months of our lives. The Husband, The Ten Year Old, The (now) Three year old. And Me.

Jaded?  Yes a little.  Jaded by everyday living, simultaneously coping with big, life changing events.  I’d like to think our two boys had been shielded from most of the stress and pressure but it would be nothing more than denial to suggest that they have remained completely unaffected by recent events.

And so, a two week, split location UK holiday was just what was needed to get us back on track. Yes?  Well, sort of.  On the day we left to go on holiday, my Facebook status read: “ It turns out that that packing to go on a two week holiday only a week after moving house and whilst recovering from food poisoning is every bit as stressful as you might imagine!”.

It would be fair to say that it took a little longer than usual to unwind and get into full-on holiday mode. But, unwind we did and by the end of the holiday we were feeling, if not relaxed, than at the very least, less ‘broken’. 


Returning home to a house we had lived in for only a week was a little disconcerting…a bit like being in another holiday home where you are unsure of where to find the crockery.

A week into the ongoing unpacking and home improvements and it is a struggle to maintain any sense of a post-holiday refreshed feeling.  “You know what you need don’t you?” offered The Husband at the end of a long and busy day, a hint of hysteria rising and a slightly manic look in his eye.  “Please, enlighten me” I responded dryly.  “A two week holiday”.

Hmmm…

 

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Magnifique!

As you are probably aware, a few days ago le Tour de France was in the UK  Not just anywhere in the UK but, for at least some of the time, in Yorkshire. My 'bit' of Yorkshire to be precise.  Yes, the le Tour came to Sheffield!  And not only that, it came within a few hundred meters from our front door.

This was incredibly exciting - from our own personal perspective - for a number of reasons...
  1. It isn't often that a massive sporting event almost passes by your very own house - we even had 'official' tour bunting strung along our street!
  2. It was a real opportunity for the whole family to get involved in the fun, not least the making of decorations - we may have gone a little overboard...(see photos below!!)
  3. The local community embraced the chance to celebrate the event together. From the annual festival in the Park extending to run over two days in order to become a le Tour Spectator Hub, to the gathering of local residents to watch the screening of a vintage French film in the Park after closing hours on the evening before race day.
The atmosphere on the day was electric. I speak as someone who rarely buys into sports events beyond trying to 'join in' with The Husband and The Ten Year Old who are sport mad, I can honestly say that I was overcome with how exciting it was to witness both the build-up and the actual race. We had bucket loads of fun in the sunshine alongside friends and neighbours.

All in all, magnifique!

It was exactly what we needed.  A very welcome distraction to our current frustrations in packing to move house and the associated delays on completing sales and purchases, the seemingly endless conversations with solicitors and estate agents and the feeling of wanting to scream out loud on an almost hourly basis.  But that's another story for a different day.

In the meantime, I will leave you with these....



Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Contrasts and surprises

I am surprised to find myself quoting The Archbishop of Canterbury who this morning described 2013 as ‘…a year of contrasts’.  Whilst as a general rule I do not hold dear the words of the Archbishop, this phrase describes perfectly how I feel about the past year.

There were some challenges….  a shaky start to the year with my Dad being seriously ill - he recovered, we moved on.  A family gathering during which a relatively small incident threatened the future of important relationships - we talked, we moved on.  A new job that in theory appeared  to be a ‘great fit ‘ for me brought the realisation that sometimes the things that 'should' ‘fit’ don’t always suit us as much as we may think they will.  Inconclusive medical investigations brought relief mixed with frustration, leaving behind unresolved health niggles.  The addressing of our work-life balance: a reduction in working commitments, later brought the reluctant acknowledgement that sometimes less stress can be accompanied by less fulfilment.  Feelings of sadness at the drifting of previously close friendships.

There were some real highs… a wonderful Springtime weekend away with good friends who became even better friends.  We sold a house and in turn felt a release from the related stress that had hounded us for too long.  A week in Southern Italy provided family adventures in much needed warm sunshine.  Two family holiday weeks in two different parts of Wales, previously unexplored by us, gave us lots of fun, laughter, and ice-cream!  A reunion with old friends reminded me of happy times gone by.  Listening to live music on a balmy cider-fuelled Summers evening.  Chatter and laughter with close friends over fine food and bubble-filled wine.  Completing the half-marathon ‘Memory Walk’ in aid of the Alzheimer's Society.  Seeking out new experiences and taking pleasure from the everyday.
In between the highs and lows…The Husband survived the second year of his return to Uni and has moved in to the final year of his Radiography Degree.  The Ten Year Old moved in to Year 5 of Primary school and remained generally unimpressed by the routine of the school day whilst getting increasing amounts of joy from his love of football and through joining a local Cricket team.  The Two Year Old found his voice and became increasingly loving and entertaining.  And me?  I struggled with low levels of energy and enthusiasm and felt a bit ‘lost’.  Overall, between the light and shade, the middle ground failed to inspire as much as it could have done and I strongly suspect I wasn’t always a lot of fun to be around.

I wonder what 2014 has in store for us?  I want to believe that I will grab hold of it and shake every last drop of experience it offers.  But for now, nursing the aftermath of the inevitable Christmas cold, I sit cradling a cup of tea, hibernating from the New Year’s Day wind and rain – reflective in thought and grateful for the warmth of the fire and for the company of my family who keep me smiling even when times feel tough.

In wishing you all a Happy New Year, I leave you with something lovely that a friend posted today on Facebook:
 
How will you surprise yourself this year?

Monday, 30 December 2013

Letter to The (now) Ten Year Old on his birthday

Dear J,
 
Today you are ten.  Ten years old.  It is clich├ęd of me to ask, but, how did the time pass by so quickly?
 
I am finding it hard to believe that you have already lived a complete decade of your life.  I am increasingly aware that it is likely that we have already enjoyed more years of living in the same house now than the number of years ahead of us of sharing a home.  I'm not at all sure that I like this idea!  I often wonder of what lies ahead of you, what adventures await?
 
I have loved seeing you grow from a beautiful baby to an inquisitive toddler and now to being the boy you have become as you continue to develop in confidence and personality.   You really are a wonderful person who is - almost always ;-) - lovely to be around.  So often, you impress me with your thoughtfulness and your generosity, your humour and sharp wit.
 
Sometimes you and I are too hard on ourselves, and occasionally we are too hard on each other.  There are of course times when you and I frustrate or annoy each other.  My endless questions about your school day.  Your lack of answers :-) My low levels of interest and ability in some of the things you love the most, namely football and Xbox. Your dislike of my 'encouragement' for you to do your homework.  But as each day passes we learn from each other and each do our best to appreciate our differences as well as enjoying our common ground.
 
As you move in to your second decade upon this fine earth, be safe in the knowledge that you are loved and supported more than you could ever fully know. I am looking forward with eager anticipation - albeit tinged slightly with a mothers apprehension - to seeing you become the man you are yet to be.
 
Happy birthday my gorgeous boy.
 

 
 
 
All my love always
Mum
xxxx