on life going on

A year ago today started as an ordinary day.  Settling into our new home, arranging pictures, organising cupboards all was as it should be.  Then came the phone call and the knock at the door telling us the worse news of all.  My darling beautiful daughter had lost her Dad.

Unexpected death reverberates across everything.  It challenges all we know and all we thought we knew. Old passions and scores are no longer important and the here and now becomes the only thing that matters. Within a split second we recognise how fragile life is.  It is as if the moment is suspended while our brains and hearts begin to understand what has happened, and what it really means.

What happens next?  Life goes on.  In the 364 days since this happened the world didn’t stop.  It changed. Sadly this was to be the first of several deaths of people we love in the year that followed.  Life still went on.  We attended funerals, listened to words describing those we have cared for, hugging family and staying strong together.  That was the year that was.

Life went on.  A new baby brought hope and sunshine into our family. We went on holiday and we came home.  I started and finished a new job .  Life went on.

Today my daughter is getting on with her life  She has made some great choices in the past year. Finishing college, passing her course, setting off to a new country for new adventures.  Back home and picking up work again and she is resuming friendships, thinking thoughts and making plans.  There are not enough words in the world to describe the  pride I feel for her.

If there is something I have remembered in this past year, it is something I learned many years ago, when I lost my parents.  That is to embrace the Now, for it is truly all we have.

If you love someone, tell them.

If you want to do something, do it, now, today, immediately.

Don’t waste time with things that do not matter.

Don’t spend a minute of your life doing things you hate, even if the rewards seem good, your time is worth more

Be brave, make a change if change is what you need.

Embrace positive people and ignore those that would do you down.

Most of all remember that life does go on.  Things may never be the same again, but we will get used to the way it is now.  Memories last long.  Laughter and love linger.  Life goes on.

on life’s lessons learned

I was born in the late 1950’s a time of rock and roll, of working class heroes who could never of imagined John Lennon, a time of hope after war, of new and exciting foods back in the cupboard.  I had my childhood in the 1960’s with my Sindy doll and my Lady Penelope car, an annoying little sister who pinched my stuff and cried to Mum.  All standard stuff.  The 1970’s were teenage years, no alcohol, it wouldn’t have been allowed but music and youth clubs and cadets and friendship.  The 1980’s and 1990’s passed in a blur of children, nappies, school books, friendships and red wine.  The new century, yes I have lived in two centuries, saw me in a new life, a new town and a growing family.  That was then, today is now.

I have lived through almost six decades, and do you know I have learned stuff along the way.  I know more now than I have ever done.  I have experienced a lot of life, been a Daughter, a Mother, and a Wife (twice), I have buried people I love and I have bathed beautiful babies and watched them grow.  I have worked and played hard.  All of this has given me experience, I know stuff.  Lots of stuff.

So why now have I suddenly become invisible?  I have been categorised and dismissed,  Believe me, until you have sat in a doctors office being told ‘well you are getting old’ you have no idea!!  Getting old!!  I am not even sixty, it was five minutes ago when I was dancing in the street.  When I look in the mirror I still see me, I see sometimes see a tireder version of me, some days I even see my Mum, but it is still me, I am still here.  I still know stuff.

I know that babies don’t cry forever, that one day the nights sleep you have dreamt of will happen and you will wake with a terror that quickly turns to a smile.

I know that money isn’t everything but life is really tough without any.

I know how to feed and clothe four children without them noticing there is no cash.

I know how to make memories that last a lifetime.

I know the value of friendship.

I know that life is a two way street.

I know that love is a gift and once you find it, it must be cherished and cared for, never ignored or taken for granted.

I understand how the world of work, works.

I know the only person you can truly trust is yourself.

I know that to have dreams come true, you first have to dare to dream, and how sometimes you have to take a chance.  No, I know that often you have to take a chance.

I know that change is growth.

I know how to take care of people,

I know how to listen to older people’s stories and understand their world as it was.

I know how to hear young people trying to work out their place in the the world and I can encourage both to tell me more.

I understand the value of a kind word, a smile and acceptance of a situation

I know when to challenge and when to sit back, (not often I do that mind you)

I know that if you save things for best, they often never get used.

I know that it is possible to be the one person, at that one moment, who can change someone’s life for the better

How amazing is it that I know all this stuff?  It is not stuff I learned in school, or I have written essays about, although I have done a fair share of that sort of learning over the years, it is stuff I know because I have lived it.  I made the mistakes that taught me everything.  I took the chances that sometimes ended disastrously and sometimes wonderful things happened.  I learned every step of the way.  I am still learning.  I learned this week that people do judge a book by the cover, I already knew that, but I wasn’t ever the book before.  If I can do all this in under six decades imagine how amazing it will be after another couple?

But, to a doctor, who I reckon has only lived through about four decades, and met me for less than 5 minutes I am an old person.  I need to understand that my body is old.  The hell I do.  My body is the same age as me, and I am have a lot of living still to do.  You see, this invisible women is going to be dancing in the street, and the world had better deal with it.

on dreams and wakefullness

I am in that moment of wakefulness just before the dream has left forever.   I am warm and can feel the sun coming through the curtains, I have yet to open my eyes and yet I am aware of the coming day, The dream lingers, I can see people I have not seen for many years, they are fading fast and a part of me wants to rush back, there are things yet to say, and even as I am thinking this I understand that it is never going to be possible,

Holding tight to the feelings I think back to the dream.  I am in my childhood bedroom, I can see the walls that will later hold pictures of David Cassidy and Marc Bolan, but today they are bare. I know that there is a dolls house in the corner of the room and that my toys are all arranged around the room. My favourite stuffed dog is, as ever, close to my bed and the feeling of safety and familiarity is overwhelming.

In the dream I was with Nina, my strong and somewhat bossy maternal Grandma, who was a major focus for me in those early years.  Nina was sitting on my bed and talking to me, telling me a story.  The bedding is cosy and I can see the trace of pulled threads snaking down the counterpane that covers my bed. I remember that my ambition was to create a river from top to tail, a maze to be followed in the dusty pink candlewick fabric.  Mum was never happy with my wanton destruction of the bedding, I kidded myself often that she wouldn’t notice.

I am losing the dream and becoming more focussed on the day ahead.  As I open my eyes I am still rooted in the feelings of memory.  I am aware that my body is no longer young and it is letting me know the results of a lifetime of use.  The aches and pains are a daily reminder of growing older and are somewhat frustrating.  As I get up and start the routines of the morning I am still drawn to the memories of the past.

I remember waiting for the bus to arrive, standing outside a post office, and Nina explaining it would be a green bus.  A blue bus arrived followed by a yellow bus, at last the green bus came and on we got.  It was just Nina and me, and she was telling me tales all the way.  Talking of family who are long gone, and of memories she had of a childhood visiting family in North Wales.  At the end of the bus journey we are in a seaside town and we walk hand in hand from the bus stop towards the beach.  There are donkeys waiting to take children for a ride and ice cream sellers along the shore.  We walk onto the beach and Nina waits as I start to make a sand castle.  Later we will have ice cream and I will be allowed to ride on the donkey, before we walk back together to the bus stop and the journey home.

I have no idea why this day stands strong in my memory.  It has always been a fixed point whenever I think of Nina, this is the day that comes to mind. I have visited this town many times since and have on occasions seen, from the corner of my eye, the ghostly figures of an elderly lady and a little girl with ice cream and smiles, it is all inside my head but it always made me happy.

Today I am heading out to our caravan in Wales and as I drive down the wide road hugging the coastline I am remembering the tales Nina told of her childhood.  She was born over 100 years ago on the island of Anglesey and before she was a year old her world changed with the news of her father’s death.

Last Autumn I went to find the street where Nina was born, it is very close to the ferry port and although the houses all gone and modern flats now holding other people’s lives, we couldn’t help but wonder what life was like for her and her Mum, all alone.  Extended family were scattered around, some on Anglesey and some back on the mainland.  Transport was scarce and I guess money was short. It must have been a very hard start in life.

Each time I travel within North Wales I feel the generations of my family I never knew close by.  As we drive towards Anglesey before we head through tunnels in the rock we pass the town Nina’s Mother, my Great Grandma called home. The town is marked by scaffolding and machinery taking slate and stone from the quarries down the hillside to the jetty and then onto boats.  This connection between the hills and the sea is fixed in the North Wales geography, and is also a link for me with my ancestors.

Eventually Nina’s Mum remarried and moved from the island to Liverpool where she would have another three children.  Nina was fiercely Welsh, in a way that I have since seen in others who find themselves living away from the country of their birth.  She had a black cat ornament that was always in her living room and for some reason this is always associated with Wales in my mind.  From her humble beginnings Nina married the love of her life who was a successful business man and her married life saw her in comfort for the rest of her days.

Throughout my childhood and teenage years I was always aware of the life she had before, of her connections to Wales and the family we never met.  Where were those family members, the cousins and aunts and uncles, and why did we never get taken to meet them?  Was the remarried Mum afraid to bring the past into the future? Perhaps I will never know, but I like to think that Nina would be glad of my new links to the country of her birth, I certainly feel closer to her than I ever did before.

Dreams are dreams, they invade our sleep and they offer a mixture of emotions.  Even now, days after the dream I can still feel, deep inside, the safety and comfort gained from a Nina who loved me and a childhood that was full of happy times.