You died on a Friday afternoon – it was the 30th January 2009 and today marks ten years since you left us. We are taught from a relatively young age that dying is a part of life, but I sure wish it wasn’t. A couple of months ago I spotted a video being shared on line. It was amateur footage of a man holding a teddy bear and in that teddy bear was a recording device of some kind and on that recording device was the voice of his mum who had passed away some years before. It was an old answer phone message she had left him and after she died, he could not bring himself to delete the message. A friend had managed to take the answerphone message, store it on a device and placed it inside the teddy bear. Before watching the video, there was a little context given so I knew what was going to unfold and I was certain about my reaction. The man in the video squeezed the teddy’s tummy and his mother’s voice rang out. It’s the man’s body language that is etched into my mind now as I think about it again. He doubled over, as if in physical pain, and he hugged that teddy so tight. I was an emotional wreck ten seconds into that video; the emotion in him was so raw. It was beautiful but also painful to watch because after the initial exultation over the fact he was hearing his mother’s voice, the realisation that is was just her recorded voice set in and the man stayed doubled over because the pain of her not really being there was a little too much for him to handle and understandably so.
I don’t have a recording of your voice; I don’t have any videos of you stored on my phone. But, I also no longer double over in pain at the thought of you not being a part of my life. I don’t need that constant reminder of your voice to remind me what I no longer have. Just your absence is sizeable enough even after ten years.
And in the ten years that you have been away from us, I can say that we are doing just fine but this is what you’ve missed:
I became a mum. A role that should not but absolutely does define me and every thing I do. I don’t think I am mumsy especially when I turn up to my daughter’s gymnastics wearing biker boots, jeans, a leather jacket and a She-Ra t-shirt and the phrase ‘full time Mummy’ would not sit well both on my Facebook page and on my conscience but first and foremost I am a mum. All of my decisions and choices always come back to the two lives I am trying to raise right. My outlook on life has changed with the landscape constantly evolving; no longer do I dwell upon my dreams and ambitions – I appear to have lost them somewhere in my endless laundry pile – but I dwell upon Grace’s and Zach’s. What type of people will they become and how will they make their mark upon the world because I sure haven’t made mine? My own mortality hangs over me; there’s nothing like having children to remind you that one day you won’t be there for them. I think your illness makes me worry more. Every niggle and every pain that can’t be explained and I’m in the doctors’ surgery. I was asked once by a doctor if I had hit my head after complaining of a headache that had lasted more than a week. ‘Yes,’ I told him with a serious look upon my face. ‘Three years ago I fell off my bike and hit my head on the pavement.’ He scowled, told me it was a stress headache and sent me on my way. Parenting leaves me stressed, anxious and exhausted but also more vigilant, I hope.
It goes without saying that my biggest regret in life is not giving you grandchildren before you died. I’ve often wondered what kind of grandfather you would be, but I struggle to picture it so I don’t try to. Why force an image onto something that won’t ever happen?
Your granddaughter at seven appears to have more confidence than I ever did growing up. Last year I made a decision to move her out of a school she loved and into a new one closer to home. I cried when I dropped her off on her first day as I knew I had taken her away from her friends, however I also knew that I had made the right decision to move her. When I picked her up after school, I saw her alone and walking towards one of the ladies from After School Club. Immediately my heart dropped because she had no friends but as it turned out, she was just asking where the toilets were and she had had a great first day. She started a gymnastics class alone and she loves it and only three weeks ago she started Brownies. She walked into a room filled with children she didn’t know, handed me her coat and walked right on in. She’s good at making friends. Let’s just hope she keeps them for life, like you did.
Your grandson looks like his dad – there is no getting around that fact. His ears though – I would say they are yours. Whether that’s a good thing or not, you can decide for yourself. He’s just started playing football and when I say playing football, I actually mean that he runs around a field, chases his friends, sits on footballs and doesn’t listen to instructions. He does all this dressed in the Barnsley kit his dad bought him though so perhaps you wouldn’t be surprised at his footballing antics. I couldn’t visit your grave yesterday – on your birthday – but your grandson did.
You missed my wedding and didn’t see me finally walk down an aisle. I didn’t particularly enjoy the run up to my wedding and in the weeks and months beforehand, I left most of the planning to my mum. I thought I was going to find the day really difficult and felt incredibly anxious over walking down the aisle with my mum and not you. As it turned out though, I was completely wrong. Nerves were defeated by perhaps a little too much champagne as I was getting dressed and ready and the day was up there with one of the best. Your picture hung from my bouquet, you were toasted and remembered and then I just danced and danced and danced. There wasn’t a shadow hanging over me that day, only light.
However, after the births and the weddings we are left with this: the every day – the normality and you have missed 3650 of those every days. Age is creeping up on me and sometimes I don’t recognise myself in the mirror. Granted it’s usually at 6am in the morning, in the harsh bathroom light and without makeup on but I can see the fine lines that no longer disappear when the smile (or grimace) leaves my face. You saw me as an adult but not as one who carries responsibility around with her daily. My actions and reactions can impact upon someone’s life whether it be one of my children’s or one of the countless other children who see me and rely on me (and probably moan about me) everyday. I am accountable and sometimes I miss my younger care free self but at 28, she was a little lost and now despite some inevitable dark days, I do know my self worth.
In the ten years since you have gone, I may not have travelled the world or lived the life I imagined, but I have become someone I think you would be proud of. I have many, many faults but fundamentally, I am a good person. Just as you were.
As turbulent and traumatic your final months were, I hope your final moments were anything but. I miss you; I will always miss you.
And that’s all I have to say about that.