A month since my last post, and more significantly, three months since Juliet died.
Someone asked me today if the time had passed quickly or slowly. The former I think. Now we are well into autumn, the summer seems a long way behind. But the days of repeated daily visits to the hospice seem like only a few weeks ago. I shall be returning there in a couple of weeks, to hand over a few cheques (including a donation of my own) and more importantly, the three piano music books that I decided would be a suitable practical donation. Also still forthcoming is the memorial plaque for J to be installed at the Grange School in Banbury, probably early in the new year when the girls can attend with me. The plaque should be delivered this week or the next.
The admin is largely sorted out, just a few more tax and pension affairs to close off. Emails to J’s email address seem to have pretty much stopped after I registered with some bereavement preference service, similarly SMS messages from the bank. I did switch on her phone the other day and dialled my number so I could see her name and photo come up on my phone. Which is a little weird of me but I only did it the once. I also mentioned to Alice that I’d got in the habit of saying “hiya darling” to J’s photo in the mornings when I go to open the curtains in the dining room. That freaked her out apparently, which is a shame because I quite liked doing it. Those couple of examples are really the only signs of insanity that I’ve shown. The girls would disagree, they don’t like me dating women but there we are.
I’ve been to Copenhagen in the last month, yes very nice thanks, that was with work. I also got presented with my 25-years IBM service certificate there (well, a photocopy, which seemed a practical alternative to us lugging the framed glass certificate over there). Met an old pal one evening, Toby M, we haven’t seen each other since circa 1989-90, but he was one of the honorary members of our final-year student flat in Bristol (the other Hon.Member being J of course). He was only a schoolboy then, who liked hanging around with students. Today he lives in Copenhagen with his Danish wife. We had 21 years or so to catch up on, so the conversation was slightly surreal, for example when he said “..and my first wife blah blah” and I interrupted “hang on, whaddya mean, your first wife?” Naturally I asked him for his memories of J and I don’t recall his exact words but it was along the lines of “She was always smiling”. Which is what our postman said of her. Here’s a couple of photos to illustrate those days.
Funny how, as at the funeral, you can take up with someone just as you left off, even 20 years later. And then some people, who you thought you knew well for the last 10-15 years, haven’t been in touch since J died. Unforgivable? Yeah, I think so.
Prior to Copenhagen I also had a reunion in East Sussex with Paul, he’s previously mentioned on this blog, and also with two other ex-engineer colleagues from IBM Croydon days long-ago. Our former manager said on Facebook that we were all “bald and grey”. I had to refute the former, but the latter is true I suppose. I also had the opportunity to talk to Paul’s wife about the respective tragedies in our lives.
I’ve started to play the piano again a little more. I apprehensively played “Clair de Lune” (the first song at J’s funeral) the other day, and not only got through it without any undue emotion, I also made not too bad a job of it, to my surprise. Other pieces I’m currently learning are the jolly “Simon Smith and his Amazing Dancing Bear”, “God Only Knows” – the beautiful Beach Boys song, shame about the title, and Cole Porter’s divine “Night and Day”.
The evening class is going well (the works and influence of George Orwell) although I’m falling behind on reading the set texts. I am socialising like I haven’t done for years, I go out almost every night of the week, either for me or to take Alice somewhere. Filling my life seems a pretty effective way of dealing with quiet evenings. I went to a geology lecture the other evening and once again had to explain about J’s death to some people, while accepting the kind condolences from others.
I had a full medical the other day, passed with flying colours. I told a friend, “regardless of what kind of battleaxe nurse or scabby old doctor examines me I’m going to tell you that it was a young pretty blonde nurse”. The laugh was on me because when I went into the room it actually was a young pretty blonde nurse. And when you’re standing there in your boxers on the scales and she says “I’m just going to do the checks on your faecal occult blood samples” you wish it was a crusty old male doctor. (I saw him next). A couple of other things worth mentioning: the YPB nurse said “you’ve got an abnormal ECG (heart) scan but the doctor will discuss it with you” which did get my heart rate going a little but the instant the doctor saw it he said “you’re a runner aren’t you?”. Apparently runners have an enlarged something valve, maybe the aortic one if I’ve got one of those, and it shows up as a large spike on the graph. Anyway that was pretty cool. The other thing was that the doctor said “you could do with losing a couple of pounds”, this from a large Welsh rugby-playing, beer-drinking doctor at least several stones overweight. I just stared at him and he had the grace to look slightly embarrassed.
There is actually more to report from that medical. By chance it was in exactly the same private hospital as where J had had her months and months of chemotherapy and other treatment. It was even on the same floor – I just turned left instead of right on the second floor. That was a bit of a downer I can tell you. I noticed very small details that had changed – a couple of new signs, a fire extinguisher on the wall; we visited that place a lot. After the medical I went along to the Oncology ward (I’d prearranged to do so via email) and the very first person I met in the corridor was J’s consultant. We then found one of the two main chemo nurses, Shirley, and she immediately gave me a big hug. We chattered away for a few minutes, I asked about the other patients that I could remember and Shirley said “well X and Y are in the chemo suite, you could go and see them”. I’m afraid I recoiled, well what on earth would I say:
“You’re still here then?”
“You’re still getting treatment?”
“Remember me, my wife was having treatment but now she’s dead?”
Perhaps I’m being hypocritical about some of my friends’ inability to contact me…
Very shortly after that, I sensed that we had run out of things to say to each other. So I bade them my farewell and left. I was very glad to visit them though, another Closure.
Today we had a visit from one of J’s brothers, Alex. We went for a pub lunch with Alice and then the three of us went for a walk. Before that we had a Skype call with Lucy (that’s a video phone call over the internet for any Luddites out there). Some idiot thought it would be a good idea to bring the guinea-pigs in to see Lucy. They scampered around the living room which was quite amusing until Horatio did a surprisingly large wee for such a small creature (and started to lick it up) while Hamlet scurried under the sofa and then into the mechanism of the fold-out footrest. As Alex said, if you had tried to design an object for consuming guinea-pigs, you couldn’t have done better. Eventually we managed to extricate him. Alex again: “This would never have happened if Juliet had been here”. He’s right.
Tomorrow I open the last of J’s letters directly addressed to me: “Open three months after I have gone” – I decided a while back to do this on the calendar date rather than today. I have a feeling I know what the general tone will be: “get on with your life”. Maybe I’ll report it here, although I might not. Anyway, there will be a couple more events to report on, namely the handover at the hospice and the plaque unveiling.
The last photo today is of J at the summit of Brent Knoll in Somerset, sometime in late 1984 or early 1985. This photo was framed and on display in our various houses for many many years until quite recently. I think it even appears in the background of some other photos. I’d seen the distinctive hill from the M5 motorway and said to J “we must climb that” and bless her, she did with me.