4 months and a nod to Neil Bartlett

I’ve been to hell and I haven’t yet come back but I have at least turned round. I know this is nowhere near “coming to terms with” or “accepting”. I know I will always love Carol, and Chris. A cloud has lifted with my increasing return to mobility.

Hell was thinking about things that I can’t write here. Hell was that I haven’t yet worked out what the point is. Maybe I never will, maybe the point is not something I can hold in my hand.

Well Frankie I don’t know what I’m gonna find
Maybe nothing at all, maybe a world I can call mine
Shining like these streetlights down here on the strand
Bright as the rain in the palm of your hand

Bruce Springsteen

Take everything away and what is left? I started to count my blessings. I have a beautiful home, Carol and I made it beautiful with a great deal of help from Paul who knows our house and especially the boiler better than me. I live in a nice area with great views and it’s really quiet. There are goats in the field next to the house and sometimes a cat comes to visit. There are birds and owls and bats. And then there are my friends.

I have one friend who came every week, she put the recycling out, brought me a Costa espresso, odd items of shopping and posted my mail. And she hates driving up the big hill to Blackstone Edge.

One friend took me to A&E and stayed with me whilst I got fixed up in the first plaster cast. Two friends took me to the GP and kept me company, another picked up drugs at a moment’s notice. Two friends came and cooked me lunch. Seven friends took me out to pubs and restaurants where we had lunches and a taster dinner, one of them also brought me supplies of meals she had cooked to go in the freezer. I now have a good knowledge of most of the pubs within a 4 mile radius. The Moorcock was amazing and I’m thinking of walking there for a beer one evening when I can.

I was brought brownies, daffodils, deluxe chocolates and biscuits. I was sent books and a jigsaw, still working on that one! I had face to face visits, one a complete surprise which was totally delightful (we hadn’t seen each other for a long while), video calls and phone calls. One friend rang me every week and got me through the shittiest bits. One friend stayed with me and took me out and helped me to get used to life on the hop, including how to make real coffee easily. And one friend came every week and worked on the house, tiling the bathroom, rehanging doors and shifting a tree’s worth of logs. He is now repairing and sorting the windows.

Then there are the Facebook friends who have helped to keep me up and made me laugh even when I’ve been very down.

Some friends are family and many of my family are friends. The best thing is that I’ve found out who my friends are and my friends are just exactly who I thought they were.

Carol and Chris are no longer here to “catch me should I fall“. I did just that, and found out what I needed to know. Thank you so much.

Here’s Liz reading Neil Bartlett’s That’s What Friends are For.

Standing is good but not the same as walking!

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3 months in

I didn’t lose Carol, I didn’t carelessly forget where I had put her. She didn’t pass away or pass, to where? The words around death smooth and soften the unpalatable. Is death so frightening we can’t talk about it for what it is? Well, it’s certainly not a picnic in the park.

Today I’ve been musing on how long we had to get used to the idea that Carol was dying, it was about 6 days. Some don’t get that long and there is no better or worse. We all knew she had a shorter life expectancy than most but that didn’t actually make it better. We all knew she’d been on a downward trajectory since having to stop dialysing at home and the subsequent loss of her independence. But the days before her brain haemorrhage she and I had been out on a day trip, we’d had a friend round for a meal, we’d planned what we’d like to do in my new life of redundancy (now retirement, bugger working again).

So looking back 3 months it was a shock. We had to implement Carol’s decision about what she wanted her end to be and that was the hardest and the easiest thing ever. Easy because she was so clear about what she wanted and what she definitely didn’t want. Easy because I didn’t want her not to have the life she wanted. Hard because I love her and have loved her for so long.

Carol’s death was peaceful and it also had a beauty. I feel privileged to have held her hand as her bodily systems closed down and stopped. She came awake for the last minute before death. She looked a bit surprised but in a good way. A bit like when I’d given her a surprise present that she really hadn’t been expecting. And then, Carol definitely wasn’t there anymore.

I didn’t lose Carol but I have lost the daily momentum of our life together. There’s no longer anyone to talk rubbish to or to deal with the random irritations (like power cuts) of daily life. The trivia, the stupid jokes. She gave me a fridge magnet that reads “My husband gives me sound advice, 99% sound and 1% advice!” I don’t miss the relentless tedium of kidney disease and all the associated admin and clutter and medical appointments, but I miss the games we played to soften the hardness of our life.

I’m a bit unsure what my safety net consists of now. Counselling has helped me for the last 5 years but surely at some point I must stand on my own 2 feet. Literally. Breaking my leg has shown me so many lovely friends and family who have stepped up and helped me practically, each in ways that made sense for them and for me. Brilliant.

Rules for a new life

Widowhood is throwing up unforseen aspects for my consideration.

Loneliness. I’d read about the lonely husbands and wives deserted by their friends, especially their friends in couples. And it’s ok, that’s not an issue. The friends I want and need are those who have stepped up and some are indeed in couples. At the moment what I’m missing is someone with whom to share the trivia of my life. Well, hello Facebook!

Dog. I need a dog. Even my GP suggested a dog. What you have to know is that I don’t like dogs. I don’t want to be face licked or jumped on (by a dog) and I want to be able to come and go according to me. I’m happy for you to have a dog or even dogs. That’s not the issue.

Work. It’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Work mates are great, especially the ones you still really want to see when you’re not working. But driving in the dark, 4 hour meetings, endless emails about blah blah blah. I have too much to do for me and I am my own boss now.

Angels. These are vital. R said he has 2 angels who look out for him and who are there when he needs them. I have my own 2 angels.

Birthday. I worried about having a first (61st) birthday with no gifts on the day. L said “No problem, Carol will still give you a gift, just you have to buy it”. Perfect. So I have a dvd to watch, new Levi 501s and some CKs.

I can break the patterns. F said I can do just what I want. I can change my mind. F said “don’t do anything you don’t want to do”.

And that’s what friends are for. Here’s Liz reading Neil Bartlett on that very topic.

Bereft

Bereaved, bereft. Cast adrift. The weft (and the fairly warped) are untangling.

28 days after Carol has died and of course I’m still walking around the too quiet house weeping and wailing, talking to him, he’s not saying anything, talking to the stuffed toys who talk back.

Officially this trip started on January 14th. It had already started when I didn’t know if I was coming home to dead Carol or sleeping Carol and that was back near the end of 2017. We were no longer 2 individuals but joined differently with a radically altered connection, skewed, warped.

Today I thought about baking bread, tears because I’d said I would make more bread as he liked the Christmas bread so much. And this is how it works.

Mostly my thoughts are back to the beginning, when we were young and good looking and full of life and sex.

I’m full up of labels, I became a widow(er) when I registered the death. On the same day my job ended and I became what? retired? not by choice. Unemployed? yes, but I do still have part time work. Cast adrift, in no man’s land. The space is immense. The vastness overwhelming. During the 2 weeks of Carol’s unconsciousness before he died, I became a wife and so did he. We’d never been wives before in our marriage. It wasn’t the right time to have a discussion about the labels, I was glad to be a wife that was fine in those moments. After Carol died in the hospital bed, immediately after, I was excommunicated entirely when the senior sister nominated Carol’s best friend Dave as his/her partner. And failed to apologise profusely, or even just a tiny little bit. Written out completely, no label at all. I so needed that label, just at that moment.