Thursday, 16 February 2017

Pervs and Pretenders

We have been catapulted into the next stage of parenting – The Scary, Difficult, What-do-I-do-Now?- Stage – which is annoying, because we haven’t yet got a handle on what I now realise was The Easy Stage.    It’s totally my own fault of course, because I had ignored the possibility that any of my kids were at an age when they’d Google “sex” – and then hit the Images button…  And even if I had thought about it, I would have dismissed it on the basis that there’s no porn allowed in Singapore.  Turns out I was wrong on that one.  Evil Internet.  I’m feeling a bit like a box of hornets has been opened – angry buzzing hornets with surprisingly large breasts - and I have to try to catch them all and put them back in the box. 
Most of the time tho’, their behaviour is pretty childish.  Take their favourite, “Pretend”.  It goes like this: One says “Pretend you’re my sister/ brother [delete as appropriate], and pretend we are sitting in a tv room and pretend you have a toy and I want the toy.”  And the other – who, incidentally, *is* her sister / brother and *is* sitting in a tv room, and *does* have a toy – says “And pretend I won’t give you the toy, and pretend you snatch it off me and pretend I get really angry and hit you in the face”.  If there’s a third kid there, s/he might interject:  “And pretend I come over and pretend I kick whoever has the toy, and pretend I then grab the toy and run away with it, and hide it upstairs in my room, and pretend you can’t find it, and pretend you pay me $2 for me to tell you where it is.”   And at some point they all nod solemnly in agreement and the crux of the game - *doing* the “pretending” – begins. 
It’s totally bonkers, you’ll agree.  But preferable, I suppose,  than Pretend I Hear Older Boys On The School Bus  Talking About Sex And Then Bring It Upon Myself To Become The Porn King of Singapore*.
(*Oooh.  I wonder what sort of weirdos that Google search will bring to this site.  Welcome, pervs!)

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Back (with a whimper)

I remained cold for about ten more days, after which I was, chronologically:
  • Bored (I forgot to bring a book on the plane, and the in-flight entertainment was a bit crap)
  • Terrified (I was flying Malaysian Airways;  the least they could do is have better TV choices to take my mind off Disappearing, and Russian-backed Rebels)
  • Stiff (Sleep evaded me, for almost all of the 16 hours.  My own fault entirely for trying to drink my hangover to sleep. Didn’t work.)
  • Warm (Hurrah!  Home!)
  • Smothered (The kids missed me.  Momentarily. Then they remembered my real role:  gift-bearer.)
  • Wide awake (at 3am.)
  • Exhausted beyond belief (at 11am.)
  • Drunk (6pm – 11pm.  The Man has his drinking partner back, hurrah!  To celebrate we had cocktails and red wine. Not terribly clever, as it turned out, because...)
  • Tortured (5am -4pm) 
A migraine.  The migraine to end all migraines.  Long ago, a friend’s family dog started behaving strangely;  whimpering and rubbing his head on walls.  Turns out he had a brain tumour and subsequently died.  Anyway.  Last night I. Was. That. Dog.  (Without the death bit.  But with much whimpering and desiring to rub my head on walls.)  Every time I moved my head I needed to vomit, and had to carry myself into the bathroom, where I prayed for a quick death and ignored the walls beckoning my head with their cool tiles.  Eventually I’d crawl back to bed and reattach the bag of foul-smelling semi-frozen frozen-sweetcorn to the back of my head, and that of semi-frozen frozen-edamame beans to the front.  And there I lay for the day, terrified to move, covered in soggy vegetables, whimpering, wondering if this was a stroke (every so often I burst into song, just to make sure my vocal chords where still working;  try doing that without moving your head), or  whether my brain was bleeding (and if so how would I know?)   I guess I fell asleep eventually, because next thing I knew something was sticking in my ear (a thermometer) and a child was barking questions at me.  “How do you feel?  On a scale of 1-10, where is your pain?” and writing down the answers.  (“Feels lik ther is a tite band arownd her hed. And pleese can I go away. And no I cant have her fone.  Mummy is meen even when she is sik.”)
I am now revived, thanks to a little-known two-pronged remedy:  two-weeks’ worth of kids’ homework, and a baked potato. The homework lay unattended for my entire absence (that is why children generally love their fathers more than their mothers;  because by and large, fathers don’t really give a hoot about such annoyances like 10-minutes’-homework-a-day, especially if they know that on the horizon someone will arrive and organise 120-minutes-a-Sunday) which irritated me SO MUCH that my migraine was basically knocked to one side.  Then there was dinner time.  (Do you know what else has been ignored in my absence?  Grocery shopping, that’s what.  HOW HAVE THESE PEOPLE SURVIVED WITHOUT ME?)  You might not look at a kilo of sprouting, shrivelled potatoes, and a few husks of hard cheese and think “Dinner!” but needs must (and a migraine does funny things to your sense of taste. Also there’s nothing that a half-packet of butter can’t rescue.)
Anyway.  I am back home.  And totally, and completely, back to real life.  (Farewell relaxation.  It was nice while it lasted.)

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Cold, Calm, Collected.

I am in Ireland. It is cold – so so so fucking cold – but also peaceful and calm. (And in fact the cold is a delightful novelty; last night I walked to the pub – a mile!  Without collapsing from exhaustion! – wearing THIRTEEN items of clothing. I will be both sick of wrapping up, and bereft of any clean clothes in about 2 days’ time, but for the moment I’m giddy with the strangeness of it all.)  I have so far read two books and one newspaper, and drunk 38 cups of tea.  I have been here for 29 hours.  There has been: no jetlag;  many naps;  occasional concerns about What To Eat Now;  people coming and going;  no mention of any inauguration (What?  Who?).  This, of course, is because I am without the kids.  It’s really quite blissful.  And I have it, all to myself, for the next ten days. (A suggestion to anyone who is experiencing grief – USE IT TO YOUR ADVANTAGE.  You might as well get something out of it, no?)

I had a vague notion somewhere in my head that I might try to post more often in 2017;  that clearly hasn’t gotten off to the best of starts, but now that I am cocooned in damp in Dublin, without the distractions of parenthood, who knows what feats of creativity might overtake me. The truth is that parenting not-so-small children is actually – and I can’t quite believe I’m saying this – but it’s actually more time-consuming than parenting their younger counterparts.   The full-on neediness is gone (THANK CHRIST) and broken sleep is now occasional rather than consistent, but the strung-out (in all senses) requirements – the school projects and the homework and the dress-up-days and the after-school activities and the endless ENDLESS discussions and negotiations and worries and concerns… As well as wrecking one’s head, it also uses up most of one’s time.  Precious time, which could actually be spent ONLINE.

Here is a list of things which have been chewed over, regurgitated, spat up, and spat over – before being finally swallowed (with some difficulty) in the past week:

  • Device ownership:  Is it a right?  At what age does this right arise?  Can good behaviour reduce the “agreed on” age? Why does EVERYONE ELSE IN THE WORLD have their own phone / screen-thingy AND WE DON’T?
  • Existing devices:  Communally owned or actually belonging to the person who owns them?  Can good behaviour result in the transfer of ownership?
  • Death:  A necessity or something which good behaviour can ward off forever?  Why can’t I eat this teeny tiny battery thingy? Also, when you die, can I have your ring/socks/biro/nail polish?
  • That stash of Irish chocolate in the fridge:  If it’s in the fridge, which is a family commodity, surely everything therein is also a family commodity?  Can good behaviour get it out of the fridge, down our throats and into our bellies?  Why is EVERYONE ELSE IN THE WORLD allowed to eat whatever they want AND WE CAN’T?
  • Vikings:  Did they have to go to bed by 8pm?  Why were they allowed to fight with swords and eat with their fingers?  Can good behaviour give us a Viking day when we can fight as much as we want and wipe our faces on the sofas and stay up until we drop dead of exhaustion?
  • Pets: Why are (our) cats the worst pets in the world, and can good behaviour result in dog-ownership?  What sort of dog can we not get?  What will we call the dog we will never own? Which one of us will the dog we don’t have love the most?  Why does EVERYONE ELSE IN THE WORLD have a dog AND WE DON’T?
  • Netflix passwords: Intellectual property to be enjoyed by all, or the sole property of The Dictators?  Can good behaviour release the information?  Can we use this information to watch Spy Kids? How about Goosebumps?  My Babysitter is a Vampire?  Why is EVERYONE ELSE IN THE UNIVERSE allowed to watch this AND WE ARE NOT? 

I feel like I’m in some Sartre novel.  (Nausea, most likely.)   Or am living The Scream.  IT. NEVER. ENDS. And my friends with older children smirk when I tell them How It Is, and I can tell from these smirks that they’re thinking: “Don’t think it’s  going to get any better, because it won’t”; or:  “Ha!  Try parenting an 11 year old girl”;  or:  “I have 13 year year old twin-boys.  Do you really expect pity?”

No, I don’t expect pity.  Just some occasional headspace, that’s all. About ten days’ worth a couple of times a year will do fine. 

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Out with The Old

A very quick one.  Happy New Year!  Thank GOD 2016 is over.  Did anything good happen in 2016?  Not to us it didn't.  I mean, yes, good things happened, but nothing enormously good - certainly nothing good enough to outweigh the very very not-good things for which 2016 will always be remembered. 
It being New Year's Eve, I had my customary why-do-I-even-bother resolution-making session yesterday.  In 2017 I resolve to be:  more engaged;  more interesting;  more informed.  I will face – not fear – my endless admin. 
So to this end I have deleted FB from my phone.  The liberation!  (Also - whisper it - the boredom. All those dead minutes - when you’re waiting for your son in public toilets, or  driving around, or having dinner with your family, or out with your friends,  etc* – I could totally be engaging my brain in finding out what other people are doing…)   I have also paid all my speeding / road fines where I was clearly in the wrong, and downloaded the appropriate road user regulations where it was less clear, so I can FIGHT THE SYSTEM.  (We all know how well that goes in Singapore.  I wonder if they have wifi in prison here?  Not that that matters to me, of course, because of the UNPLUGGING…)
Holiday highlights included:
  • The Boy waking up at MIDNIGHT on Christmas Eve (technically Christmas Day, I guess) and opening all his Santa presents, then falling into our room wailing about how he didn’t like ANY of them;
  • The Baby waking up at 3am – about 20 minutes after we’d gotten the Boy to sleep – and screaming HE’S BEEEEEEEEEEEEEN!  SANTA HAAAAAAAAS BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEN!  And then staying up FOR THE REST OF THE DAY to play with her presents.
  • The Girl copying her sister almost exactly, except about 40 minutes later.
We got no sleep.  Not a peep.  It was like having the newborn triplets of a crack-addict mother.  I had (stupidly) envisaged Christmas Day being something calm and twinkly and pleasant;  not us weeping with exhaustion and just willing night time to come so we could go to  bed.  (In fact as it transpired we got a second wind and had a quintessential Irish Christmas Night – visiting friends and sitting in the kitchen eating ham and bread (or just bread, for some) while drinking pints and ignoring the rampaging children.  It was quite lovely actually, and made the day for us.)
There was also a very un-Singaporean road rage incident, where all the petty traffic fines I KEEP GETTING collided with all the petty traffic inconsiderations I KEEP SEEING, and they all turned to straw and I became a camel with a broken back, and  I went totally mental - yelling at some poor man who WAS IN THE YELLOW BOX.  (By way of background, I had also just lost the car in an enormous car park, and had literally been walking around in an underground furnace for 45 mins, futilely calling its name;  and then there followed 20 minutes of sitting in the underground traffic unable to get out of the damn place because CARS WERE BLOCKING THE YELLOW BOX AT THE EXIT;  oh, and I'd just suffered 90 minutes in the Mall From Hell with all three kids;  who knew malls were where every single Singaporean spends their Christmas vacations?)  As I said (loudly, and in a manner perhaps unhinged) to my friend the offending man – THE BOX IS THERE FOR A REASON AND THAT REASON IS NOT FOR YOU TO NUDGE YOUR CAR INTO IT TO STOP ME GETTING OUT OF THIS DAMN CARPARK AND AT LEAST LOOK AT ME WHEN I’M YELLING AT YOU.  (On the plus side, all of my kids were in the car, and so when my friend the offering man drew up alongside us and starting his own bout of yelling – AND finger pointing, which is really bad manners in Singapore – they decided that he was even more mental than I was, and forgave me my transgressions.)
Ooh, before I went mental, there was a sneaky weekend in Hong Kong – my first visit there – which was fabulous beyond words.  I found some notes I had scribbled down re my first impressions:  “smells like boiled chicken;  there is a peak!;  it’s v. cold” – which I think we’ll agree might not reflect accurately the enormous joy the city gave me.   
So, see? There was one thing good about 2016. I'm hoping there will be more of such good things in 2017.  If not actual visits to great cities, free from the shackles of adult- and parenthood, then at the very least, the occasional whiff of boiled chicken to transport me back there. 
And if 2016 has not blighted your spirit, or good things have happened irrespective of the bad stuff - good things which you can appreciate and are joyful of - I hope 2017 is even better.  And, it goes without saying, if 2016 SUCKED EGGS for you, then 2017 has got to be better.  Right? 
Either way I wish you all a very very happy, peaceful and prosperous New Year.

(*I AM JOKING!  Obviously the Boy can take himself to the bathroom.)

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

CHRISTmas (already, FFS)

Goodness me, this December lark is a bit overwhelming, isn’t it?  This is what I have been up to in the three weeks since we last spoke (sort of):

Running around (not literally.  I have given up the exercise ghost.  It is now one of the Ghosts of Life Past;  it sits there, forlorn in its lycra, beside the dosing Ghost of Sleep-Ins Past, and the tight and taut Ghost of Pre-Pregnancy Stomachs Past.  Somewhere in the room are also Patience, Knowledge, and Energy.  All Past.)

I digress. Driving around. Averaging 125km a day. Not a huge amount if you are a trucker, or a resident of deepest Perthshire (or similar), but I am neither;  imagine you live in central(ish) London / Manhattan / Dublin, and you don’t go beyond Zone 2 / Manhattan / M50, and yet you clock up 125KM a day.  CAN YOU FEEL MY STRESS?

Becoming older.  But age is just a number, right?  Who cares that my DOB screams ELDERLY, when I feel youthful on the inside?  (A cranky, sulky, lazy teenager, in case you’re wondering.)

Becoming demonstrably older:  Reading glasses.  THE SHAME. (Also, I keep losing the damn things.  And those neck-chain things are not an option, because that really says Old Lady.  Sorry Mum.)

Not buying Christmas presents.  I know I will, at some point, but for now I get minor panic attacks (see “Becoming Older”) and make self a cup of tea (ditto) whenever I think of it.  

Making lists.  Oh, the lists.  None of them make much sense.  Here’s one:

Note that one of the kids has thoughtfully added a reminder to me of my (I assume, tho possibly their, or Jesus’s) birthday.   Also, Play Doh is clearly an important feature in our family life.

As is “Sean an Si” – Irish for Jack the Fairy [I can’t remember what Elf is in Irish.  Anyone?]   Yes, he is back, and as if I haven’t enough to do, I have now brought this upon myself too. I actually don’t mind – too much – but apart from the first night, I have had to climb out of bed every single night to install him somewhere.  Occasionally I have had the energy to create a small scene – wrapped up in toilet paper, or hanging from a ceiling fan – but I am bereft of imagination this year,  so PLEASE, and ideas, throw em my way.    I did remember to bring him away this weekend (see “Email Nikoi”) and cunningly entangled him in one of the mosquito nets (tropical glamour, dahling) while the kids were off terrorising monitor lizards.  So he sat there, waiting to be discovered, at bedtime. And he sat some more.  And after 20 mins of them faffing around and not going to bed, he was still undiscovered.  So I lifted the Baby up, ostensibly to kiss her or some such undeserved action, and she let out a shriek, and all the others came running. And they all swore BLIND that he hasn’t been there just five minutes before, especially the Boy who insisted that he had just been looking at that exact spot, and he WAS NOT THERE.  Which is great, because obviously, Jack is MAGIC.  Except then the Baby started to freak out because I DON’T LIKE JACK FLYING ALL OVER THE PLACE AND COMING IN WHILE I’M HERE AND BEING CREEPY.  So that sort of backfired a bit.  Not enough, mind you, to warrant Jack’s banishment, alas.  (I did NOT remember him the day before we left for the weekend, and awoke to wails of JACK IS DEAD!! Because, you see, if he doesn’t move in the middle of the night, then someone has obviously touched him and removed all his magic. And so, still bleery with sleep, I fessed up that *I* had – UNWITTINGLY – touched him, and I’m a terrible mummy (all agreed with that), and I was ordered to write a letter to Santa right now, begging forgiveness, and begging for Just One More Chance.  Letter written, chance granted, phew.)

Anyway, let all this be a warning to anyone considering Jack (or whoever) the Elf / Fairy for Christmas Future.  Don’t Do It.

I’m sure there is plenty more for me to write about to make you feel better about your own lives – my car breaking down mid-2nd-school run on the busiest road in Singapore – ON MY BIRTHDAY – perhaps?  My “orthodontist” refusing to give me straight teeth?  My losing the necklace the Boy gave me for my birthday, both the first time I wore it, and the second (the losses were temporary and permanent, respectively)?  I am, as my Text Pat wife might (ha!  does) call me, a total hot mess.  I think “hot” refers to my steam of failure, not my attractiveness. (No, not even with my new reading glasses.)

Here:  some Christmas cheer.  The Christmas lights from the local shopping mall Back Home.  (There’s just no way they could have been okayed by everyone involved in the Christmas Lights Committee, and no one noticed the obvious – is there?)

PS:  So so sad to return from my little slice of weekend paradise to hear of the death of AA Gill.  I missed his writing when we moved here, and now feel strongly that another tie with The Homeland is gone.  I think we’ll all sigh hugely with relief when 2016 is over. (Not least if you are a male over-50 celebrity / entertainer.)  If anyone reading this knew him – and he seems to have been a popular, genial man, with many friends and acquaintances - my condolences.  What an awful loss.  Fucking cancer. Can we all please agree that in 2017 we’ll do one fund-raising thing for our local cancer charity?  Please? Just one coffee morning, or run (ha, as if… But if it’s a lemonade stand you’re after, I’m your woman) or kids’ crappy bake sale, or whatever.  Because as statistics currently sit, ONE IN TWO of everyone in the UK born after 1960 will get some form of cancer.  HALF OF THE POPULATION.  Chia seeds ain’t gonna save us, people.  Research, and cold hard cash will. So sell all the superfoods clogging up your cupboards, and donate the money to Cancer Research.  Please. 

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Thank you. (Also: A Cautionary Tale involving bottoms.)

I’ve been pretty much overwhelmed by all the responses to my last post.  Truly.  All those lovely comments, emails, FaceBook messages – literally hundreds. Thank you.  From all my family.  We’re very touched by every single one.  (I also thought about responding to each of the blog comments, but it would have simply been a series of “Thank you”s. So here, instead – to each of you – thank you.  I love this little community we have.)
I also feel a bit guilty (Irish, Catholic, parent – three strikes etc), for two reasons.  Firstly, I wasn’t trying to guilt you all into condolences. It was purely for future reference, for when you find yourself in the vicinity of death and are unsure of the protocol.  (There is no protocol, really, but simple contact is never a bad thing.)
Secondly – many people commended the post, and I feel bad that I didn’t make more of an effort.  I just wanted to post something – anything - which would bridge the vast emotional space between Before and Now, so that I could get back to my usual craft of Giving Out. It felt a bit slap-dash to me, but I’m simply not a good enough writer to write eloquently and properly from the heart.  So an apology to you, dear reader, for not trying hard enough.  But thank you all, again, for your kind words, nonetheless.    
And with that:  shall we resume normal business?  Or at least as normal as I can muster? Let’s.
Did I tell you about the Baby’s recent-ish penchant for sticking random shit in her various bodily orifices?  She’s been a fan of teeny-weeny things for ever:  seeds, beads, grains, coins, nuts etc. She hoards them and calls them Seedy or Beady (or Grainy or Coiny or Nutty, as appropriate), announces that they’re her pets, and cries Great Tears Of Sadness when, inevitably, they go missing. 
Sometimes, however, she cried Great Tears of Pain if they go missing about - or more accurately,  inside – her body.  Firstly, she swallowed a coin.  SHRIEKING and WAILING – because it was sort of a big one, but also she had broken the No Putting Things In Your Mouth rule, and so had to balance her distress with the inevitable Mummy Annoyance.   “Am I going to die?” she whispered (she has a bit of a thing for death at the moment), so I put aside the Annoyance and reassured her that no (but that her bottom might hurt in a few days).
And then, a few days later, as I was dallying over what to have for lunch – because the excitement of sitting down for the first time in several hours was distracting me – I got a call from  her nursery saying She-has-stuck-something-up-her-nose-and-has-gone-nuts-and-please-come-and-get-her.  It was a pebble, and if I was creative enough, I’d be able to come up with a Limerick (‘There once was a girl who loved clothes, and sticking small things up her nose…”).  As it was, I used all my creativity on finding a solution (“stick her face in a saucer of water and tell her to snort in through her nose” – and BY GOD it worked – one sneeze and out it flew.  Incidentally we still have the pebble.  Or Pebbley, as it’s called.)
THEN she swallowed another coin (she rattles when shook) and THEN I caught her in the process of finding a home for a piece of rolled up Play Doh – in her ear.
So.  This all brings us to last night.  She was in the bath, where I sometimes dump her if I want an hour of peace, because she loves her baths.  She had about 58 small plastic toys in with her, including this little fellow:

 (Let’s call him “Boy-ey”). 
Once the water had gone cold and she had started to shrivel, I picked her up, wrapped her in a towel, and plonked her on the bed while I organised pjs etc.  She suddenly appeared by my side – “Mummy I have something to tell you” - and then burst into big fat tears, sobbing and gulping and howling. I assumed she’d eaten a lizard or something, but no:  Worse.  “One of the toy thingies has gone UP MY BUM.”
There followed an inquisition of which a Spaniard would be proud.  (Are you sure? YES!  Which one?  THE BOY ONE! How on earth…? I JUST SAT ON IT!  Are you sure you sat on it, or did you maybe, by mistake, push it in with your finger?  I AM SURE!  I SAT ON IT!)
So between the sobs and the howls and the terror, what appears to have happened was this: She was playing in the bath with 27 of these little things and also a bar of soap, and things got very soapy, including both the boy and her bottom, and then she sat on it and it hurt her leg so she fished it out, but then it went back into the soapy, opaque water, and she must have sat on it properly this time because IT HAS DISAPPEARED AND NOW ITS IN MY BUM….
So.  I had a look. And as you can imagine, your average just-turned-4-year-old doesn’t have the most generous of bottom-openings. She lay there, screeching and crying and saying I CAN FEEL IT IN MY BUM, but truly, I couldn’t see a thing – but then the bottom is a mysterious thing, so I could neither confirm nor deny the colonic presence of a small plastic boy.  There followed some rather disgusting measures, which made me laugh then, and again now just thinking about them, because she went fucking MENTAL – which only served to make me more dubious;  how could a toy slip into her bum without her registering it properly?   At the same time, I couldn’t help thinking of a doctor friend of my sister’s who maintained that in A&E, 25% of his work was dealing with sheepish men arriving shrouded in a sheet / blanket / bed cloth and insisting that they’d fallen on whatever it was that was now lodged up their arse. 
So I left her and went back to the bathroom and had a snoop around – maybe she was mistaken? - and then she arrived beside me and insisted AGAIN that she could feel it IN HER BUM, and was she going to die*?  But – oh thank you Lord – then we found the toy, under the bar of soap – where he’d been all along, that sneaky fucker – and, in the Baby’s words:  OH PHEW MUMMY. 
Phew indeed.  Because frankly, I’m too old for this shit. 

(*The death thing again – stemming, I’ve no doubt, from events with my Dad.  Today some stupid woman in the playground told her that the coconut she was holding was poisonous, and she mulled over this for about 4 hours before becoming hysterical at home, because I HAVE TOUCHED POISON AND NOW I’M GOING TO DIE. Tho I guess I should just be grateful that she didn’t swallow the damn thing.) 

Thursday, 10 November 2016

On Sadness.

(Spoiler: If you’re looking for something funny and uplifting – you need to go elsewhere.)

It’s been a strange, sad few weeks. 

Yes, The Horror Of Trump, etc, but also - my father died.  It’s the event all expats – all children, I suppose, but particularly far-away children – dread: that phone call, the one saying  “You Need To Come Home”.  So I went home, at a stage when we didn’t know much and thought “There’s always hope” – and then found out that sometimes there’s just no hope at all. 

On Tuesday 11th October my lovely, kind, good-natured, fantastic Dad was told he had aggressive liver cancer, and 2 months to live.  He died at home, with his wife of 53 years  and his four children by his side, eleven days later.

It was horrible and special, in equal measure.  Horrible because – you know, your much loved father dying, so quickly and so unexpectedly;  special because for eleven days we withdrew into a bubble and nothing else in the world existed except for the six of us.  

So, for what it is worth, this is what I have taken away from it all:

Nursing a dying person is not unlike dealing with a newborn.  You have no fucking clue what you’re doing, you cry a lot, and there’s no time to shower, eat or sleep.  Also, explaining to non-involved parties what you have been doing with all your time is impossible.  

If you’re thinking about having more than one kid, but you’re not sure -  because Agh!  Multiple Children! When will I ever sleep again?  My body! – and you’re lucky / fertile / financially comfortable enough to be able to do it and maybe even survive it – then do it.  The only thing that has stopped me being a puddle on the floor through all of this has been my sisters.  Knowing that someone else knows exactly what you are going through – it has saved me.  (Although I concede that making a major decision based on a hypothetical eventuality when your children are in middle age could perhaps be viewed as something of a long game.)

There is something very strange about living somewhere where nobody – apart from your nuclear family, and one other person – knew or ever met your father, or knows that he’s died.  For this reason alone, I’d like to propose that we restart the wearing black tradition.  (That way maybe I wouldn’t have gotten that speeding ticket?  Or irritate people when I stop, mid-step, in the middle of a busy crowd?  Or cause multiple eye rolls when I break off, mid-sentence, and stare into space?  She’s wearing black, give her a break.)   

Vanity trumps grief - at least if you are middle of age, and droopy of flesh.  Even in the plummets of despair, when pain is tearing at my soul and my face is contorted with emotion, a niggling voice reminds me that these facial calisthenics are doing nothing for my not-very-youthful visage.

If in your lifetime a loved-one of a friend, or a colleague, or a client, or even an acquaintance, or any of the above pertaining to your partner, dies, this is what you do:  GET IN TOUCH.  You don’t have to call, or speak, or tie yourself up in knots – texts, or emails or IMs are your friend in your discomfort.  Don’t know what to say?  “So sorry to hear your awful news.  I’m thinking about you.”  That’s it.  I got heaps of these, and with every single one I thought:  How kind.

(As a corollary, this is what you don’t do: Nothing, apart from squirm in your own awkwardness.  Even those messages I got which said “I don’t know what to say…” were lovely.  Truly.  Honestly, how much of a cock-up can you make?  Unless, you’re thinking of “I’m glad he died”,  there’s nothing you can say which won’t make the receiver touched at your efforts, however clumsy.)

Three weeks away from your children is an absence which makes even the saddest heart grow fonder. (Although not more patient, it transpires.)

And connected to the above, if you find yourself in a swampy bubble of grief (these bubbles tend to pop up without warning) and unable to move or think or do much else other than stare into space – get yourself three small, wild children who were meant to have left for school ten minutes ago, and watch that bubble pop.  (And even once they get to school, you’re unlikely to be left alone to sniffle, as I ranted about over here.)

If possible, time your grief with a shocking public event, which will serve as a distraction to your sadness – or at least give it a new focus.  The ruination of America / World Order / General Decency / the Office of POTUS might seem an extreme step in the assuaging of grief,  but it worked.  Thank you, Mr Trump.

Mostly children are really shit at death - "Why are you crying?" on a loop, followed by blank stares, and I just *know* they're thinking that I'm finally losing it.  But sometimes, a slice of sweetness from nowhere, which makes me think - perhaps they are not totally empty vessels: "Would it make you feel better if I took the love Pops had for you and added it to mine and loved you twice as much instead?"  Yes.  Yes it would.