Lost and found

oliver-jeffers-cover-from-lost-and-found

So it’s true, then.

Time really does accelerate as you enter the latter decades of your life. Standing here, on the other side of grief and trauma, I’m sucked deeper and faster into the mundane: a relentless flush down a very slick s-bend.  Continue reading

When all you’re left with is alone

One lonely robot. (c) Married to an Alcoholic

One lonely robot. (c) Married to an Alcoholic

It’s 5am. In the past three hours, I’ve reached over three times trying to find her little toes. Because by this time, she’s padded over the landing and crept into my bed because she’s scared.

And each time I reach over, I remember she’s not here. Continue reading

“I don’t want a new mummy”

Today is Mother’s Day in the UK. (c) Millennium Images/Superstock

One night, lying in bed, saying goodnight to Rosie. Ben is there, too. We’re all squashed in, listening to a recording of Alan Bennett reading Winnie the Pooh, when Rosie says: “What happens if you get married again, Daddy?” Continue reading

Regression

source: doorswithinmyheart.blogspot.com

So, as you know, my dad is visiting. Well, I say visiting, but I’ve seen him twice since he arrived about two weeks ago. I know he’s not here to see us – we’re incidental. He’s here to see his sister (my aunt). I don’t begrudge him that. It’s not like he’d ever come here just to see us, anyway.  Continue reading

How we lie

Here, an image we all aspire to in one way or another as Christmas approaches. Back then, Norman Rockwell was trying to capture an America that was overlooked. Ironically today, his paintings have become an ideal which people around the world now seek to emulate.

This, despite all the complications that Christmas brings. And by this I mean the clotting together of family, the pooling of genes around minced pies and brandy, roast fowl and sprouts.

After years of sporadic calls from my dad, in which he would drop the non-committal promise of a visit (“Yah, most probably I’ll come that way in December”) my father has done the unthinkable and turned up. Continue reading

Hello? Hello? HELLO??

It’s safe to say that today is not a good day. It begins with Ben shouting at me and ends with Rosie telling me she wants to kill me. 

There is a middle, too. That middle consists of editing a number of documents (fun), eating no fewer than 11 Belgian biscuits courtesy of my work colleague (more fun) and attending various meetings (ho-hum). 

I realise that sometimes I am happiest at work. When I’m busy, there is no time to think, and there is traction in not having time to think. Otherwise you get bogged down in thoughts of your maybe-maybe-not-ex and the million ways he fails you and your child when he’s needed most. 

This morning, Rosie pulls another fit, this time about wearing a long-sleeved top under her uniform t-shirt. It’s below zero, so she hasn’t a choice. I’ve been up since 6.30. Ben has had very little sleep, but unfortunately, I have to wake him to get him to move to the bedroom, because today I have to exercise in the living room (there isn’t anywhere else for me to go and it’s what keeps me sane and healthy, so it’s not something I’m willing to skip just because Ben happens to be sleeping on the couch. Anyway, I’ve warned him.) 

So, Rosie is chucking her fit, I’m just out of the shower, we have 10 minutes to get ready, and Ben is still in bed, murmuring to Rosie, trying to convince her to wear her long-sleeved top. She is taking the wee, as we call it here – playing up to the expectation that she will go into meltdown. And then she does. 

I say, ‘Ben, please, can you just help her get dressed?’ I am half dressed myself, hair wet, and Rosie is crying. I ask Ben again and he roars: ROSIE! She cries. 

me: ‘But… why did you do that?’ 

him: ‘Is that what you want me to do? I was talking to her.’

me: ‘I just wanted you to do what you did yesterday – help her get dressed.’

him: ‘What? Dress her against her will? Force her into her clothes? I WAS TALKING TO HER.’

me: ‘Yes, but there just isn’t time. She has to be dressed and out the door.’

Neither of us can see the other’s point. Ben is enraged. I’m angry and sad. Rosie is suddenly calm and ready to go.

Later, I find I can see his point, but I can also see mine. We had 10 minutes. She was not budging. And once she was dressed and out the door, she’d forgotten the whole thing. She is incapable of seeing beyond the discomfort at that moment. She can never accept that moments from then she will have forgotten it all. She will have moved on to something more interesting.

When I get to work, I dash off an email to Ben. I don’t like leaving things like this, but I also know I don’t want to speak to him for a long time. Equally, he is so laconic – so unwilling to talk – that there is no point in trying to find the right moment. He is angry, depressed and bitter. He is much the same as he was before, minus the booze. He is not the person I knew, nor does he stop reminding me that he never will be. It is his way of saying, move on

Anyway, I write him an email telling him how sad I feel about all this and trying to figure out a way for us to make a few decisions about Rosie – calmly, without shouting at one another. I say that seeing to Rosie’s needs is not something we can do when we feel like it. It’s something we have to do, whatever. I tell him it isn’t a choice for me, and ask whether he sees it as something he can choose to do (or not).

Needless to say, I’ve had no reply thus far. He is a slow burner. In all likelihood, he will never get round to writing any reply. At all. He has never really responded to any of my attempts at rapprochement (I mean texts, emails, letters). He is as silent as a cloud. 

When I get home with Rosie, she decides she wants to wear one of her princess dresses. The one she chooses is one of the scratchy ones, and soon she is asking me to do up the back, then re-do it and re-do it. I try to explain to her that I can’t do anything – that the dress is like this and that I cannot fasten it any tighter because that’s just how velcro fasteners work. 

She doesn’t accept this and collapses into tears, accusing me of refusing to help her. This escalates into a series of threats: I’m going to stab you with a knife. I’m going to kill you. I want you to go. I don’t want you any more. I want daddy. I only want daddy.

I put on my coat and walk down the stairs, to make a point about what it means for mummy to go. She doesn’t like this. She says she doesn’t actually want me to go. And when I remind her later of what she said to me (because I need her to understand that saying things like that is hurtful), she denies ever having said it.

So, somewhere in there, she realises she has behaved very badly. She does apologise eventually, but it is not especially sincere. 

And here I am. Rosie is asleep, my eyelids are drooping at a terrible rate, and the ground appears to have shifted beneath my feet without me really noticing. Tomorrow, it’s just Rosie and me, and I pray she will cooperate, that there will be no death threats or shouting, and that I manage to limit myself to five Belgian biscuits.

 

 

 

So this is the new year

It’s a typical start to the new year, with Rosie screaming and taking more than an hour to find underpants that fit, and me storming out, leaving Ben to sort things with her.

Well, I guess that’s a change. Ben is staying over for the holidays, helping to ease the load a bit, although his messiness adds to it, too. He seems to cancel out all the good he contributes (in cleaning, laundry and occasional cooking) with the cairns of used tissues he randomly drops and the tins of biscuits and assorted bits he strews everywhere in the kitchen and by the sofa.

Still, it’s a relief to have someone else to help discipline Rosie. When he’s awake, that is (more on that in a future post).

And I feel doubly justified in fleeing the house and leaving him to dress Rosie now that I know she has inherited this ‘syndrome’ from him. I know it’s an unfair thing to say, but it’s yet another thing I can blame him for, even if silently.

So, two hours later than planned, we finally set off for Kew Gardens, where we ramble through stately grounds and Victorian glass houses. Kew is stunning, even in the heart of winter. It would be more stunning if it actually snowed, but no such luck in London. Instead, we have muddy tracks and damp cold winds, although the sun is shining.

Palm House, Kew (the fountain wasn’t running on our visit)

The Palm House – one of the 19th century glass structures dotting Kew – is a humid reprieve from the cold. We wander up its wrought iron spiral staircases and ogle the tops of banana and jak fruit trees, among others, spotting a purple bromeliad growing in the crook of a papaya tree.

Rosie is so excited, she only occasionally puts her hands inside her trousers to re-arrange her underpants, although this doesn’t last very long. There is a coral display as well, featuring sea horses, mud skippers, jellyfish, sticklebacks and many others, in an underground space beneath the Palm House, which she finds entrancing.

We brave the Pavilion restaurant with its pigeon-pooped tables, to have some overpriced fish pies and cakes, then meander further, taking in the temperate house and the Princess of Wales conservatory. Somewhere in between we take the treetop walk, swaying gently along the bridges, as if cradled in the arms of a lullaby.

And as we leave Kew, Rosie spots a peacock, strolling between visitors, evidently without meaning to because within moments, it is mobbed by children, phone-clutching parents and young women who all chase it down like a bunch of papparazi.

Once we are outside, Rosie chucks a three-course fit, involving weeping, recriminations and a fruit yoyo dashed tearfully to the ground. When we get home, Ben is cool and withdrawn. Rosie asks for some gingerbread, and he says no. She looks crestfallen. Ben says he is unimpressed by her behaviour and as she has had a treat all day (our visit to Kew), and as she has been very naughty either side of that visit, there will be no gingerbread – or any other treat for that matter.

I can’t argue with that. In fact, I abdicate all decision-making, saying it is up to Daddy today. Rosie eats up all her supper and is asleep by 7.45.

So, that was our new year. Some calm time together book-ended by argument. Life much as it has always been and no doubt means to continue.

Happy new year.

And here’s a little tune, introduced to me by an old friend of mine, that sums up that general feeling of ‘Oh, is that all, then?’ which the new year tends to bring.