Yesterday was my last day at work. To be clear, it was my last day in my current employment. I am now officially Freelance.
This year has been unlike anything I’ve ever known before. Rollercoaster years are not unknown to me, with my chequered, swift moving, changing past. But I don’t think I’ve ever gone from over the top excited to utter despair so quickly.
Dad has left this massive blank space behind him and we live from moment to moment, simply moving around the edges of it. It's never going away but we find ways to accommodate it.
Sudden death robs you of the opportunity for final words, for the last considered hug, for adjustment to the not-there-ness that will follow. We had none of that. One day he was there and I had thought "I must phone Mum and Dad this week." The next morning he was not and I missed that chance. The last time I held his hand, he was already cold.
I'm not sure when I'll be able to forgive myself for that.
There is no way through this but through it. One step, one decision, one hour at a time if needs be. I make plans, book tickets for things later in the year, send messages to friends that say "yes, we really do need to meet up!" but I find it hard to believe that I will.
And in a horrible twist of be-careful-what-you-wish for, I find myself the owner of a shed. Dad was a man of several sheds because he'd been a man of many activities. The main shed stored the lathe he brought a few years ago (I have some things he carved on it before the tremors in his hands got too bad). This little shed was home to random pieces of wood, the purpose of which we'll never know now.
The little shed is coming to my allotment.
My son has the first set of shelves he ever made me at his new home in Sunderland. They moved with me into adulthood and my own homes, and I find it comforting that they still have a home in the family.
I phone Mum every day, aware that as the funeral recedes from memory, people will let themselves think that she is adjusting and fine. She is and she is not. They were married when she was 18, had been together for just 3 days shy of 46 years. She is keeping busy but she feels his absence like a physical pain. How do you adjust to that?
We both find walking into either of the sheds comforting and not. I don't believe in life after death but he is so vividly there, the smell of the oil, wood and metal mingles to bring him back and I hear his voice in my head most clearly when I'm in there.
He did see my allotment. He liked it. I think he would be happy the shed is going there.
All of the cliches are spoken. Of course they are. They are cliches because they contains kernels of wisdom or truth that still resonate with us. It's what he would have wanted (it is and we know this because we knew him). He would have been happy with that. Take it one day at a time. Time is a great healer.
It might be but it has lost almost all meaning for us, moving slowly and speeding up at the same time. How are we 6 weeks since it happened, since that dreadful morning, the ambulance, the flurry of masked men, chest compressions and incomprehensible words? That mad dash from my house to theirs, still too late? How am I able to write, to work, to make plans for the future?
There is no way through it but through it. We take a step at a time and know, deep in our bones, that he would have wanted us to. We laugh when we remember things, cry at others. We stumble and fall on this new path, sometimes literally.
I have lost track of the things I have tripped over because I've stopped being able to see things.
Some days the grief is a heavy weight, others a feather-light ache. On all of them we try not to look too far ahead. We do a lot of looking back. A lot of rearranging our heads around that big blank space. We try not to look down into it.