a lifetime of missing you

on the anniversary of the day we lost our Dad, I usually write about how much I miss his wisdom and how his values inform my life every day.  All of that still stands, our Dad was a proud, working class man for whom family was everything.  A quietly spoken man, who we seldom saw angry, he  made our lives as easy as he could.

Lately in lockdown I have been researching our family tree, and in doing so am seeing all my ancestors in a different light.  Dad had a sister who died.  We all knew the story, a difficult labour, no money for doctors and both Mother and baby lost forever.  We had always assumed she was younger than Dad, but I now know she was the eldest of the four children.  Married twice before her death at just twenty six, I think she was a strong woman.  This then led me to the other women in the family.  I find a maternal great grandmother who had followed her heart and left her home to marry. This couple somehow ended up living many miles away from their families, and made a new life beside the sea.  Dad’s Mum, juggled living through two world wars, with very little money, while feeding and caring for a family of six. Rumour has it Dad was her favourite child, spoiled with love, as there was very little else.

I think these women had a massive effect on Dad.  He became a man who respected women, who loved completely and sincerely and despite incredibly poor beginnings he grew into the strongest man I have ever known.  His wicked sense of humour was legendary, and his passion for justice and fairness in the world was proven in his trade union work.

My sister and I are the results of all that went before.  A mixture of our parents and all their ancestors, we have grown into adults without the guidance of our Mum and Dad, I think we have done alright.  Our children are happy and healthy and each of them is now adult and making their own paths through this world.

So, in the thirty five years without you Dad, I have tried to keep to your values.  I have learned more about you than you ever told me.  I understand where your passion for equality came from, how your childhood days with no shoes and little food grew into pride in standing on your own two feet.  The love you learned, and shared is still a part of me.  Despite your absence, you have held me close through life’s troubles. The idea of you became the central part of me and with that I have done my best, in tricky times and happy days, you have never been far away.


on lockdown learning

usually when you work in a school there are patterns to the day.  Bells ring, pupils move around corridors, lunch time arrives and people gather, kids in the dining hall, adults in staff rooms, in safe spaces, each to touch base with friends and colleagues and have a break.  It is relentless.  When I first worked in a High School, the bells drove me slowly mad.  I have missed those bells this half term.

Everything is different.  We look at each other across our face masks, transferring feelings with eyes only.  I have seen stress, sadness, anger, hope and humour in the eyes of my colleagues this past five weeks.  Pupils, en masse, the life blood of this school are seldom seen.  They are safely ensconced in bubbles, staying in one classroom, while staff move between.  Staff rooms remain empty, people hurry in to fill a kettle and then move to their classroom, everyone is scared.

We are all learning.  Learning new ways to do things, learning about our own fears and how we react to this new world.  I suspect some of us will never be the same again.  For some this will be a change for the better, for others not so much.

I have learned a lot.  I have learned that I am more fragile than I have ever admitted before.  I have learned that I need people, I need to hug and to live entirely in the world. Sadly a garden, a good book and sunshine are not enough.

I have learned to be vulnerable, to find the words to explain the feelings.  I have learned to let go of my cheerfulness and at times to succumb to tears and fear, that it is ok to not be ok.  I don’t like this much.

I am learning to be kinder, to take a minute before replying to others. I have learned to step away from things that I cannot influence or fix.

So, we get to the end of this half term, and find ourselves in lockdown number two. Five days in, I have begun to write again.  For so long the words refused to come, they would stay in that spot between my thoughts and the keyboard, and steadfastly refuse to move through my fingers and onto a page.

Encouraged by friends who want to read my thoughts, I tried again and this time I know there is much to say. I have so many ideas and am thankful that I have remembered to begin with a word, then write another, and let the stories flow.

From thoughts in my head that move through my fingertips and onto a page, the words will speak for themselves.