As someone who normally sleeps so well, being awake for hours in the night is such a curious feeling. Outside I can see no lights on in the apartment buildings down here by the water. People curled up, lying alone or with a partner, snoring or not, dreaming or not, and maybe just a few like me awake.
It’s a still quiet time. No seagulls to be heard. No wind so no clanging of the bits at the top of the boat masts. If I were a boating person I’d know the name but I’m not so I don’t. Not Saturday night so no drunken farewells at this street corner. All quiet.
Thoughts whirring. It’s been such a full on few weeks with Dad being ill and yesterday another hospital admission after 8 hours of tests and waiting. I hated to leave him there but know he’s in good hands.
The last few weeks have had worry and stress and lots of moments of love and tenderness. I am so blessed to have him in my life and have treasured this time we have had even though no-one would have wanted things to be how they have been. Happy and healthy and getting on with life is how things were just before Christmas- finding a way of living after the death of my mum, his wife of 60 years, earlier in the year. He was really getting into his stride again. This health crisis feels so unexpected.
It’s times like these that help us really feel what’s important and who’s there for us, who steps forward for us and who doesn’t. Family not always being how you think they will be. And just needing to keep letting go of feelings that come with that to keep focussed on what really matters.
Being there for Dad is what matters – being there for him just as he has been for us all over so many years and in so many ways. For me it’s so simple. For my lovely sister Sally too.
And so here I lie awake, imagining he may well be too in his hospital ward of 6 with beeping machines and lights and the sounds of others and I send love to him. Soon enough it will be time to be up and about and visiting to find out how things are. More tests, more questions that sound similar to the ones the previous person has just asked. But through all the waiting and the repetition of information giving, the care and attention of staff has shone through – care assistants, nurses and consultants. All being how you’d want them to be with someone you love. I’m so grateful for that. So soon enough that will all start up again for me.
For now it’s lying on a too soft mattress in my father’s flat by the water listening to the quiet and thinking there’s nowhere I’d rather be.
Christmas approaches. Wild purchasing everywhere. Shops competing with bigger and bigger discounts and price matching. Harassed looking parents with bulging supermarket trolleys and reluctant children in tow. A sense of desperation almost in the air. Will we get it all done in time?
So there’s all of that. And there’s also all around me people talking fondly of family time over Christmas, the board games dusted down from the year before, giggling at the stories that get remembered every Christmas, watching favourite old movies and laughing or shedding a tear in the same places. Lovely to hear people at work talking about this time with young families or the first Christmas their grown up children will be coming home for the celebrations.
Others are planning to help out at the various homeless charities to make a contribution. While others again just ignoring the whole thing.
For us it’s part of a family coming together to make this as good a first Christmas after my mother’s death as we can for our father. Going somewhere different, a country cottage, board games, Christmas pudding, a decorated tree and a visit to the nearby church for some. The first of a new way to celebrate Christmas and be a family.
Mum never was a great fan of Christmas though she liked having her family about her. I remember her making mince pies while listening to Kings College Cambridge choirs singing carols on the radio. The aroma soon filling the house. The first bite while one was still warm. Unforgettable. I can almost smell and taste it now.
We will remember her this first Christmas without her and think of others who will be missing people they love too. It’s a tough time for many. And as Dad lights the indoor fireworks, an old indulgence of his, we’ll remember mum’s disgust at the annual smelly event and her loud sighed “Oh Timothy… Must you?” .
We’ll be looking back fondly and missing mum. Yet we will also be building our new way of spending Christmas, different bits of the family, new memories, new stories with our father. Precious times.
Wishing you all well over this holiday time whatever it means for you.
I’ve spent today with my 84 year old father. There’s nowhere else I’d rather have been.
It’s still only November but the last weekend I am down to stay before the Christmas away my youngest sister and I have organised for us, something different for this first Christmas without our mum, his wife.
Armed with his carefully crafted list we braved the busy town centre, my dad holding my arm. Some while later we made it back to the car with armfuls of bags and a huge sense of achievement. Mission accomplished.
Then later after a treat of lunch overlooking the water and an essential post lunch snooze, some hours happily spent together with paper, ribbons and labels wrapping gifts and sharing memories and stories and tea and mince pies. Priceless. Moments to treasure. Always.
It’s my friend’s first visit to her father’s home since he died. A visit she is making on her own. A visit she was dreading. And her message just now was that she felt his presence. Understandable as she will find him in every corner of that home. A presence there for so many years. Memories must be coming thick and fast.
It’s a moment I dread. Not yet.
I try to make each visit matter. To leave nothing unsaid. To make sure they both hear that I love them. Regret is not what I want to feel. A harsh word that can’t be taken back. An irritation shown.
Even so it will be impossibly hard. That I know.
But for B it’s already happened and her world will never be the same. Moments come when she thinks of something he’d be interested to hear and then she has to remember all over that she’s not going to be able to share things with him Like yesterday. I saw the pain sweep across her face.