I’m sorry I haven’t written but
- I’ve been busy,
- I’ve been away
- and I’ve been hiding in more ways than one!
My busyness started off with editing one of my short stories for a competition deadline. It was lovely to immerse myself for a while in some fiction. A mythical tale written a few years ago which I enjoyed revisiting. I like to think my writing has improved and although this story was once or maybe twice rejected by a magazine I still believe it has its merits – time will tell!
It felt good to be positive and optimistic as I sent it off.
Then it was time to pack and get sorted for our holiday. I had high hopes that the break would do us all good. It would be a turning point in the year and I would come back refreshed and ready for anything!
Well I was right on some things.
The break did prove to be a turning point but in a very different way from what I expected.
Holidays have always been a difficult time for us. Andrew preferred to spend his free time at home as he worked away whereas I longed for adventure and escape.
Three years ago I had taken the boys by myself to Chicago. We have friends who live nearby so we managed to combine visiting them with a few days playing tourist in the city just the 3 of us. We had a wonderful time although it was hard being away from Andrew, especially as he had just developed some mysterious complaint that made his ankles swell. In many ways it was good for us to be apart then, it was a rocky time for us and the separation made us both realise how much we loved each other despite our differences.
So for our first big holiday "without" Andrew I chose to go back. It was somewhere we knew. Somewhere we had friends so we weren’t on our own the whole time. Somewhere that I believed was manageable despite the distance!
There were the usual family niggles of having to share a bed with my youngest son in a family room in the hotel the night before we flew. So not much sleep to be had there! Then there were the horrendous queues and “interrogations” at check in.
“How long have you had your bags for?” Was the most unusual question asked, or did I misunderstand?
Security at airports was Andrew’s biggest bugbear and a major factor in us not travelling.
But the cracks really started when we arrived at the gate for the flight.
There was an announcement.
“Due to the ash cloud from Iceland our flight today will be re-routed and we will be re-fuelling in Maine.”
This added about 3 hours onto our flight time in total!
Not a great deal in the grand scheme of things. At least the flight was going ahead and we hadn’t got any connections to make at O’Hare, unlike some of our unfortunate fellow passengers.
But it was that unscheduled stop in an airfield in what appeared to be the middle of nowhere where the tears silently started to fall. The boys were arguing over the window seat. I took another pain killer for my aching back and wondered was I doing the right thing after all?
If possible I would have got off the plane there and then and demanded to go home.
The following day was better as my friend had booked me a massage; we had lunch out and then visited my favourite shops from my previous trip. The boys were being taken care of by my friend’s husband whose work rota amazingly fitted in with our holiday plans and apparently it rarely happens that he has so many days off in a week!
Somewhere out of sight some things were working together for good!
The times I spent with my friend were precious but each time I was with the boys I couldn’t cope. They pressed all the buttons that wound me up. And every time we travelled any distance in the car – which in America is often because everything is so spread out – my back would ache!
It became apparent that what I really needed wasn’t a holiday but some time apart from the boys!
Now that is very difficult to admit when you are their number one carer. Looking after the boys is my number one priority. I don’t work - being a stay at home parent is my job, my chosen career and now I felt I was failing.
Like a lost child all I really wanted was the security of returning home.
So we cut our holiday short, flew back early and my parents rescued me by taking the boys for the remaining days of the school holiday.
It’s strange being here completely by myself for so long. All I have to do is look after me.
Today I picked up some literature about bereavement – I lost count of the times it said
“Look after yourself”
The house is a mess and I don’t care. I still have an exploded suitcase on the bedroom floor from where I hastily unpacked and repacked the boys clothes for their stay with their grandparents.
They are having a great time, bowling, cinema, treats galore! Just as it should be.
For what seens the longest time I have tried to be strong for everyone else's benefit and yet it is only six months since Andrew died. I can’t quite grasp how time has slowed so much. Last November seems a lifetime away.
My friends have told me recently that things may get worse before they get better and I didn’t believe them. Impatiently I believe it is now time for things to be getting better. My painful back is a tangible reminder that I still need to rest. I never realised before how physically painful bereavement can be, those leaflets I picked up today were an education! What I am experiencing both in pain and emotions is all normal.
One friend told me only yesterday that she can see all the hurdles I still have to face and wonders how I will manage. She anticipates me tripping up and is far more prepared than me but steadfastly willing to stick with me through the long haul. She is one of many friends I am so thankful to God for!
I’ve tried to avoid the hurdles, go round them, maybe even crawl under them unseen. However now it feels like have run into the school P.E. cupboard and launched myself at a large pile of them. Here I sit hiding in a tangled mess of sports equipment I don’t have a clue what to do with.
It's a bizarre analogy but I like it because I always hated P.E at school. If I thought there was an easier way than jumping over the hurdles I would have taken it. I was always the last person picked for any team. My shortcomings are I can’t throw or catch a ball and I run like a “girl”! (Ok it’s an unfair stereotype but something Andrew used to say so I make no apologies for being un PC!) If it were possible to evade the weekly lessons I would have but I was also too much of a goody goody at school to bunk off.
Anyway I remember when I was about 13 on our annual sports day running in one of the longer races round the track. I was inevitably the last to finish. Most people were probably a lap ahead of me and I was only running because no one else from our team wanted to do it and I had to take part in at least one event.
Maybe I should have picked a field event where I could escape everyone watching but then again perhaps this appealed to me as a way to be noticed.
As I made my lonely trek round the last bend and along the home straight the drama teacher who was in charge of the P.A. started calling my name and cheering, encouraging me to continue. Now I could make this sound more dramatic than it was and say that the whole school stood and cheered me home – maybe when they make this into a movie they will!
In reality the memory is slightly hazy. Thirty years have come and gone and that is a scary number. I remember some of my friends cheering from the side lines but I was exhausted from my long run and just glad to see the end in sight. I had made it and most importantly hadn’t given up.
Maybe that’s the certainty I should cling onto. Even if I am the last girl on the track I am still running. Who knows how many times I have to run round this circuit, covering the same ground, the seemingly never ending spin cycle of pain and hurt that comes with loss. But just as on the summer’s day all those years ago there are people cheering me on. They can’t run the race for me but they can be there to encourage me, to pick me up when I fall at the next hurdle or applaud when I make it over.
So I guess it’s time to stop hiding and trying to avoid the grieving process but get out there and start running – well maybe I'll go at a more sedate pace, a leisurely stroll perhaps? After all I do have to look after myself! As long as I just keep going and don't give up.