The anxiety of the last few days ended as our plane took off. Drones at Gatwick. Chaos. Planes grounded. Thousands of stories of the people who had failed to leave or arrive – weddings in Morocco, funerals in Canada, visits to Lapland, long awaited family reunions, solo adventures postponed. How lucky we were to take off especially when we heard that an hour later the airport was closed again.
It’s the first Christmas without Dad in a good number of years. The anniversary of his death looms and I’ve been anticipating this with dread for months. All too aware through October, November and December of how things were last year caring for Dad in his last days and months. All so vivid in my memory. Two months living with him before finally accepting that there was no choice but for him to move to the nursing home. So tough a move for Dad, one we tried to avoid but he knew it had to be. I will never forget how that day felt. Gratitude always to Simon who was there to ease the way. Once there, staff were so very kind and gentle with Dad. We couldn’t have wanted better but it was still so painful.
I wrote lots in those final three months and have re-read a few times of late. All those prompts of how things were – the challenges and the high points. The incredible support by Dr Murray. Lots of everyday events captured. Writing his last Christmas cards. Boiled eggs for breakfast and his feedback on how well I’d met his expectations in relation to softness of egg and well done-ness of toast. Slow games of scrabble with much laughter. Moving conversations when he talked about knowing his end was coming, reminiscing about times and people in his life, talking about what my support and love for him had meant in those last few years since Mums death. ” With you by my side ” he described it . ” I can never thank you enough for your love and care for me”. Gives me such comfort now and in the first few months after his death to be reminded of those conversations, tender loving times. It meant so much to us both.
So it’s nearly a year now. A year where grief has bubbled up and down, sometimes tears, sometimes enjoying happy memories, sometimes powerfully knocking the wind out of me, sometimes very faint and feeling far away. But always there. A loss right in the centre of me and my life. A year of getting used to life without Dad. There’s just no rushing grief. Somehow it feels that this anniversary is key. That it will be a bit easier afterwards. Or maybe just different. I do though just want it to come and then go. Christmas was also just one of Dads most favourite times of the year. So much about this time of year makes me think of him. Brandy butter spotted in the supermarket. A carol heard on the radio. Christmas cards. Memories of indoor fireworks. And many years ago a mince pie and Guineas left out for Santa. Stockings at the end of the bed. He so loved Christmas and held on to have just one more last year.
So we got away from London between drones and as I lie awake in the early hours of our first full day here I am looking forward to starting to explore our home for the next eight days. John sleeping peacefully beside me. How incredibly supportive he has been. I’m very lucky.
It’s a place to remember Dad, to mark his life and death, to miss him and our christmases together. One of his white handkerchiefs in my coat pocket gives comfort still. At the same time it’s about just being here, being present, enjoying with John the distractions of Palma and all it has to offer and starting to build another set of memories of Christmases.
Dad we will raise a glass to you on Christmas Day. A bottle of fine red wine for John that you would so love to have shared with him.