** I actually posted this on Monday and then in a fit of self consciousness and too many questions about the lines of oversharing and grief I shelved it again. But I'm bringing it back after a bit of editing. I changed a photo at the end to one of Gareth when he looked as he did and not so terribly sick. **
This blog becomes a more minor part of me the less I post, and I post less for a variety of reasons, (I'll be honest, no time, no inclination are big factors, but maybe that'll be more 'explainable' in a minute.) At certain times though, this time in particular I realise it's a record of parts of me. The alternative diary of my life, my technological step up from the leatherbound five year diary I had when I was seven. In it, I include the edited highlights, scant truths, discount the unsaid realities and include the brilliance of the normality of my life. It works for me. When I write.
We've had a shit half year. Eerily similar to the shit half year we had three years ago when my dad died. I don't use the expletives for effect, they just really hit it on the descriptive. It. was/is. shit. Just before christmas we received the news that Gwyn's dad had been diagnosed with oesophagal cancer. Oesophagal cancer, similarly to adrenal gland cancer, (my dad's diagnosis) is aggressive, relentless and brutal. Forget a slow fade.
It's weird, because although it's been in the background, always in the background, we've been reasonably 'up' in spite of it. We've known what was on the cards but everyone made the best of it, life is good, and, not being close enough (we're 150 miles away) it's easy to discount it on a day to day basis. I find it hard to explain. It was this sad heavy weight firmly placed in the background of our experience, but not oppressively so.
In fact, the last time I sort of had it in my head to post was sometime around last weekend when all the stuff was in the paper regarding the current debates on euthanasia. I felt pretty pumped, full of words and vigour and INSIGHT. I canned following through on any deep desire to write about the matter for a number of reasons. 1) It felt entirely inappropriate in the circumstances, here our family were, in the hospice environment, fully subscribed to incredible palliative care, tied to an unfolding reality that someone we loved was dying 2) THIS IS SUPPOSED TO BE A CRAFT BLOG isn't it??!
But the more I write in this space the more I realise how different my life was when it started and how actually, despite a number of bits of blog advice - it's actually up to me what I write! I don't actually have to write about crochet all the time! What liberation! I don't feel that bad about writing about real life but I've got huge issues with oversharing. I'm critical of too much sharing on social media, is it attention seeking/ narcissism/ totally normal? But maybe I will feel OK if I just keep the real life stuff brief. I started writing these bits of words before Ruby was born. Then, I hadn't lost anyone in my life of great importance. I had bumps in the road, but no absolute, final loss, something that would play on my mind and render me unable to do very much. A few months into Ruby's life my grandfather died. Yes, it was upsetting, yes, it was absolutely heartbreaking watching him fail at the nursing home that he was eventually transferred to. But he was OLD. OLD. In his seventies. His grandchildren were having children. His life was entirely complete in my youthful eyes. I'm sure he would have taken more years (in good health) but what more can you ask for than seeing your grandchildren have children? And with a newborn, perhaps I didn't have the space to invest in grief in the same way. I cried, I wept, but I got on with it.
Watching dad die before my eyes was gamechanging. This didn't make sense. For a start he was my dad and he was not supposed to die but live forever. But also, 60 was relatively young. He had a lot of plans, he hadn't done enough. He wasn't done. And the way he died? Ugh. It was really awful. It overhung my life alot. I didn't feel like I had as much energy at the end of the day. I lost a bit of spark. Actually, I lost alot of GRIP. What the hell is this all about???! I though the fact I'd studied philosophy would mean I'd at least have some idea. Instead I've got no answers and a big bill. It took a few years to feel like I was over the worst. It took alot of time.
A few months ago, someone my age, FULL of life, exuberant, beautiful, funny and with alot of plans also died, after trying to work out, very specifically, how not to. It threw up everything. I do not feel like I knew her that well, but to know how much she wanted to live really hurt and for weeks I coped badly in the quiet. The parts where I wasn't ferrying to and from, or preparing food, or any of the attendant duties of motherhood, I just didn't really care. Everything sort of fell behind. I couldn't be bothered. Stick a series on the TV and pass me a glass of wine please. I don't understand any of this, and it's all to come still. I'd like to check out from thinking about any of it.
I'm not really doing well with this finite death thing. I'm more along the lines of this.
And then of course Gwyn and I got married on our ten year anniversary. It was all very loaded because we wanted Gwyn's dad to come, but he was poorly, and he got alot poorlier as the weeks went on so we didn't know if it would happen.
But he made it.
This was three weeks ago:
On Saturday 26th July 2014, around 7 months after finding out he wasn't well, Gareth Thomas Walters took his last breath. And now he's gone, just like that. Gwyn's mum was sitting with him after holding vigil at his bedside day and night for almost a week. She needs a medal, or some kind of appreciation of what she's been through by keeping up her vows. That shit is hard. I want to scoop it up and take it all away.
The reason I looked to the blog earlier today was because I'd wanted to remember what Ruby had said about my dad passing. There it was... documented. I'd wanted to check because it was only Saturday when we'd explained to the kids that this grampy had 'left'. Later that day George asked his nana as she was folding clothes from the line a question: Why, 'if grampy left he hadn't brought his pyjama bottoms?' It reminded me of the directions question, but I hadn't been able to lay my hands on the reference.
It's hard to put into words how you feel about someone you love when they die. Maybe you resist it in this kind of space because you don't want to get complicated or that frankly puke inducing phrase: 'emo?'; Really, ultimately, apart from family and friends, I like making crochet. Blankets and stuff, I like to write about them so people I don't know that buzz off making things can find them. I didn't really write about my dad, because our connection and the history that passed between us was too complicated to really explain in words or get to the bottom of with the background of blankets! But I've not been making very much of anything recently because I feel so spent and sad...
However, I'm going to try on this one. This man was the 'grampy' to my two little people and the 'dad' to my now husband. He was absolutely bowled over by his wife and had been since he met her. I've howled at home movies from back in the day that I've seen recently of past family holidays. A huge amount of focus is the good wifes (pretty impressive, Elaine, actually) body. A long standing memory will be of Gareth dancing up on a bar in Hong Kong 7 or 8 years ago to James Brown's 'sex machine' and grabbing the microphone trying to get the crowd to pick out his wife (who was hiding!) and tell her how much he loved her.
Gareth was clever, but not in a way you couldn't understand, he could explain so much very simply. He worked as a flight engineer on planes. He was a real professional - he later worked as an engineer on Apache helicopters. He was a massive family man - he cared deeply for his 'dear old mum' who lived with him until she died. (Incidentally Jean - you're right - I did get in a pickle about diamonds eventually.... wise lady) He LOVED Ian his brother, I was there many times when he answered the phone brighter with an, 'Alright mate?' and spent many a good time in Zambia where Ian lives. He had three nieces he saw as proximal daughters and described unfalteringly as 'good work', in fact, don't get him started on family, Gareth was what I would describe as a 'total wet'. If you're related to him - he tears up over you, believe me. Don't get him started on Elaine's family who he'd adopted entirely.
He was great for a late night chat, a fantastic cook (I didn't know condiments until I met the Walters family) a good storyteller, A TERRIBLE joke teller (So terrible). He loved his two boys Gwyn and Rhys with infinite passion, a super proud dad, always big on hugs for his boys. Let a man cross them when he was there and good luck! This is the man who went around all the tables of the restaurant at Gwyn's 30th celebrations and got everyone a drink and then asked if he might be able to interrupt their evening by saying a few words. He silenced the restaurant by got up and made a bautiful speech.
Last week, on Sunday, he said 'I think I'm dying', he was in the hospice, things were gritty but all the same, it still seemed ridiculous. But it was very true.
Gareth, there are many words others will be able to say about you, but here are mine. I only knew you 10 years out of 65. Which is marginal really - I'll bet good money on the fact that these won't have even scratched the surface and I'll kick myself tomorrow but, I'm good with imperfect (hahahaha - this is not true!) :
Gareth, Don't worry, you've already died. Remember? After your mums wake you tried to pay for dinner for all of us and your card got declined, because instead of cancelling your mums cards they cancelled yours! 'Sorry Mr Walters but we have you noted as deceased.' You're fine... you've got this.
You flew a plane. That has got to be alot of fun, VERY few people have done that.
You had a job you genuinely didn't consider work. The holy grail. I'm losing count of the amount of stories of success where you hear the successful say, 'I can't imagine work feeling like work' - you've said that to me in the last few weeks. I'd like to high five that all over again.
You're the only other person I know that sneezed in the shower with hayfever. (Feel free to share your sneezing experience - I'll still love him!)
No-one believed that you liked Shakira just because she made good music.
You made roses out of napkins!
Bet you wish you didn't buy those knives from that door to door salesman (I know, you've been ripped mercilessly about this by many people but it is very funny)
Let it be noted, for the record, that you did see Jimi Hendrix in concert.
The Elvis impersonation wasn't put out nearly enough.
When you told my dad three years ago you'd look after his girls I was banking on alot longer....but let me tell you, that gave him much comfort, thankyou, and that is one of the few times I've seen him immediately cry.
I don't know why you got a bed bath after they changed the sheets either, but the fact this was a grievance and the way in which you told us last week made me laugh until I cried.
I'm sorry I shaved your moustache and beard off that night after you'd had it thirty five years. I genuinely didn't know you didn't have a top lip!
Following the last chat we had last Sunday - it is ALWAYS lovely chatting to you too.
I adored you, I adore your family and I will miss you SO MUCH.
And, finally, in the above photo, I looked at it and I mourned the fact you've gone, I really I did, and then I thought...how the hell did you end up holding my handbag?! (And then I thought... nice loom ;) )
Like I said on Sunday, I'll see you soon. But I obviously mean where time is relative - and we're talking quite another few decades...I'm not done yet.