So today is Sunday, eight days since my last post. On Friday, this blog received its 10,000th viewing, which is nothing for some nationwide blogs written by professional journalists but quite sobering for what started off as my ramblings and an information source for friends and family.
Yesterday was actually more significant than today, we are in a spell of warm, nay hot, weather at the moment, an extremely unseasonal Indian summer. I collected Alice from one of her now-frequent sleepovers at a friend’s house in Adderbury and we were tootling back in the car. In the sunlight I commented that my wedding ring finger still clearly shows the mark of the ring and how the ring moved onto my right hand no longer hurts nor even is uncomfortable. Then we progressed onto talking about a suitable site for Juliet’s photograph (the one we displayed at the funeral) and perhaps moving it from its current position on the mantelpiece to somewhere else in the house. The idea being that none of us is keen on any “shrine” being established while at the same time still wanting to acknowledge her existence. This discussion was akin to gaily sailing into uncharted rocky and shallow waters: suddenly I went aground, and the water flowed into the vessel. That’s more than enough analogy; of course I started crying. Alice urged me to stop the car, eventually I did, but then restarted the journey home again.
The difference this time is that I couldn’t stop crying. I don’t recall the last time I cried, it was almost certainly the scattering of the ashes… and here’s the value of the blog record, no it wasn’t, it was eight days ago, during the last post. Anyway, I haven’t been that emotional for over a week. So I guess I had a bit more pent-up emotion this time. Normally I cry for as little as a minute, then I’m fine. Yesterday, was a good 10-15 minutes. Extremely draining. And yet… I liken the crying to when you felt nauseous as a child or as a teenager through too much drink. The act of vomiting is unpleasant, but only lasts a few seconds; then you feel sooo much better, so why hold back in the first place?
Slight rewind. There’s been tons happening in the last week. I had a visit from a bereavement counsellor last Thursday (29/9), let’s just call her “K” which is not much of a disguise of her actual three-letter name! She is a volunteer, provided as part of the amazing post-bereavement service at Katharine House hospice. She neatly explained that her role is providing a service to me, as opposed to the palliative care provided by the KH nurses to Juliet. I was initially apprehensive at the prospect of opening up to a stranger, but you know, I’ve done this quite a lot now, so am getting used to it I suppose. She (purposely) knew little about J’s background and illness, so I recounted the story of the last two and a half years (also something I’m getting fairly polished at). First signs of a good listener; when I paused at some points, struggling to retain my composure for up to thirty seconds, she just waited for me to recover. And more than once I remarked on how perceptive she was. I don’t think there’s anything particularly unusual or remarkable about my situation, and she is just doing her job, but I told her several times that to hear her say “that’s actually quite normal” was immensely reassuring.
After perhaps an hour and a half, I was drained (I’ve used that simile again, and in fact it is a metaphor, not a simile isn’t it? Whew, close escape there (another metaphor I think)). I introduced her to Lucy and L is keen to have a separate discussion with her next week, followed by another one with me.
So, confession time here, one of the topics we discussed was moving on from bereavement counselling and onto general counselling, even therapy. K said she was fine to do the latter, if it related back to my bereavement. The counselling relates to the estrangement between me and the girls, but especially Lucy, over my newly-developed “friendship” with another woman. This is alluded to in a few recent posts, and explains why my head has been in a whirl of massive confusion and guilt in recent weeks. This blog is not about me and “C”, but I just want to say that I never meant to meet somebody this quickly, it just happened much, much faster than I thought. And I’m very much happier as a result, but it doesn’t take away the timebomb recollections of Juliet, and the new relationship categorically is not a wife or mother replacement. Which is what the girls fear. Sadly they have not yet aceepted the situation, the best I can report is that I have promised to slow things down, and we’ve had a few in-depth – and tearful – chats, which have helped.
A happier meeting to report is my visit to see the headmaster of Juliet’s former school in Banbury. It seems that several of the staff requested that some memory should be made, consequently he wrote to me suggesting a plaque alongside her murals. Glyn showed me round the school – it was playtime – and we met several staff as we went. The school is having some new classrooms built, they are at the foundations stages. Bizarre incident; shortly after I arrived, one teacher exclaimed at me “oh it’s you”, then did a double take and said “oh I thought it was the architect. I was going to give you a hug”. (??!) Rather coolly, (I thought) I replied, “well I am an architect [IT architect, geddit?] but not the architect”. The encounter finished with her saying “well I’ll give you a hug anyway”; and so she did. I can’t remember her name, I got introduced to so many teachers, TA’s and other staff. Sadly I only really recognised one person and perhaps the names of a couple of others – they were Juliet’s work-time colleagues after all. In the staff room I was fed a fairy cake and a large mug of tea while fifteen women teachers watched me and fired questions at me. Daunting!
Back in the sanctity of Glyn’s office, we agreed on the final design for the plaque – probably to be unveiled early in the new year when L & A can attend. He cleverly, but gently, leaned on me to get involved with the school in some way, even if only coming in to read stories. I protested in vain that while I provide mentoring for students at Coventry University, talking to primary school children is a different kettle of fish, metaphorically speaking (or is it a simile? I’m confused now) . If he should read this, I am honour-bound to give something back, and will do so.
There really is tons more to write about, especially my new relationship, thrill-seekers, but this blog is about Juliet’s last days and my family’s reaction and recovery from her death, not about me per se. So I envisage that the gaps between posts will extend from weeks to even months, and then eventually stop.
Today’s photos are of J looking fab (but I tend to think that of most of the photos now to be honest) at a friend & neighbour’s 40th birthday party on 8 August 2007. My pleasure at the photos is tempered by the realisation that Juliet had just less than four years left to live. And you wonder why I am a Humanist. Live for the Life you have now.