Closing That Door

It’s the end of the chapter. Goodbye number 17!

I actually started this wee post a week before I sold this little house and never finished. That was back in January, this year, 2021. I’ve felt oddly calm about it. But it still has its niggles. And its overwhelming paperwork. Grrrr.

However, that aside, I remember one Saturday morning in autumn 2006, we were determined to find our little place. We had had a house fall through (London 2006 was a little crazy for property) and we were determined to march very early one weekend into every estate agent in the area. Second estate agent in, they said, ‘it’s a work in progress but will be on the market by next week, come see.’. We did. Colin and I immediately saw our life together and how it might be. He said very unfamiliar things to me at the time – ‘oh that can be the baby’s room’. I know I don’t often write here anymore, it’s literally for self benefit, but I can really still relive those moments and feel those hopes and desires. And writing it still helps. Just every so often.

In summer of 2020 I decided the life of renting out to tenants wasn’t for me. I’d had over eight years of it and I had abided by all the advice post-Col’s death to maintain it as an income…a pension. I was lucky. I did have good advisors who cared for him and cared for me but they didn’t deal with the tenants and I wasn’t the best landlord. I realise that I was totally fortunate to be in such a position. However, weeping every time anything went wrong in that house wasn’t good for mental health! So, it went on the market – just as the summer easing of lockdown 2020 went a bit pear-shaped. But we got an offer. I felt sick. The right or wrong thing to do. What would ‘he’ say? But decided that the time was now. Move on. Colin, my love, I sometimes have to make life decisions.

October 2020, I took a slightly risky decision (mid-pandemic) to take our girls all the way from Edinburgh to London to say goodbye to the house that for so long they’ve been told of. That wee trip had its moments of extreme sadness but it also held moments of pride for me. I don’t think one day passes that I don’t have at least fleeting glimpses of the dad they would have enjoyed and the dad that would have adored them. But that few days in London, where they wept for a dad they really barely knew, told me that I still do the right thing by telling them stories most days/weeks etc about him. Each of them had a tale to tell about that house. Not their own memory but one they have been indulged with. Even little Isla who would have only really had night-time feeds and an occasional bath with him at number 17. It was rather wonderful spending time with them together in the house that was once our home. Even for the short space of time that was.

Tomorrow will be nine years since Colin died. Evie is ten. Isla is nine. Time doesn’t solve everything. The three of us have our scars. Some literal, some less so. But all three of us are happy. Yes, we miss him. Yes, we have our moments that sometimes our new little blended family find a bit…well awkward, but everyone one of us six take on and try to embrace. Yes, we sometimes find it hard. Yes, Isla, Evie and I were sad to say goodbye to the house that could have held so many memories. But really it was a shell. I know that because I had a last minute panic before completion thinking perhaps one cupboard or maybe the loft held a little bit of him for us to pick over and wallow/indulge in – it wasn’t there. He wasn’t there. And we will be OK without it. We have all we need.

Colin is in our everyday. Evie and Isla both look like Campbells (Isla with a bit more me mixed in). Evie and Isla each have little bits/moments/expressions that are his but I also see me too. Our new life – Colin would be proud of. I know that from good sources. We are him all mixed up together. And our new lives hold him in there too. We are all in this. Evie and Isla, Leyla and Lachlan and me and Craig.

This post is dedicated to Auntie Liz and Uncle Paddy – our amazing friends who are going through more sad times on this 25th February xx

A Whirlwind of Change

Last weekend I stood looking out at a beautiful view from Culzean Castle being hugged. That hug turned into a marriage proposal. I never imagined I would be in that happy place. But oh my god it felt and feels rather wonderful. It’s funny how when you’re not looking for something or someone, life can throw something your way that’s wonderful. I’ve got used to spanners being thrown into my life not big fat positive love stories.
To recap. When Colin died I spent a year only alone. It wasn’t long enough. I met someone and I thought yippee I’ve solved that hole in our lives. I was wrong. I got it quite wrong but it was no one’s fault and actually it was all part of our journey, perhaps I needed it to see what I had been so wrong about to get to where we are. At the end, after lots of heartache, I felt quite happy that it was going to be just me and the girls. Just us. I actually felt triumphant. I was also very much not looking for someone. I was still sad that me and the girls were in the position we were in without Colin but the pain of his loss was no longer unbearable. A future of just me and them was very appealing after so much turmoil. My feminist side was jubilant. So when one of my best friends texted with a potential date almost eight months ago I was very much anti it. More than that actually. But she’s a persuasive woman. So I passed on my number and almost immediately in came this message that was funny, interesting and warranted an answer.
It’s been a whirlwind. It’s been a learning curve. We both have had dark times and we both have kids we are very mindful of who’ve been through an awful lot in their short lives. But it’s been one of the best times of my life and I’ve never seen my kids this happy. And I know it’s only the beginning. And… well that’s it. Our new chapter begins. Colin is still with us in our hearts. The girls are so in love with their daddy they don’t remember but they are also pleased to be part of one big crazy modern blended family that gets more crazy by the day right now. People may judge. People may not. I don’t actually worry. I can’t change how I’ve handled things up to now but going forward I think everyone that matters is pretty ecstatic that this whirlwind has occurred. Bring it on.

Holding On. Moving On.

It’s funny how holding onto things has given me comfort over six years. I recently packed up our lives, put everything in boxes and moved. For happier times already, really good times and so beyond where I thought we could ever be. In the process though I noted how many things of colin, of our old life, have been simply around us as we moved forwards over the past six years. These have been a comfort. If the girls say ‘I need something of Daddy’s to help me go to sleep’ they’ve been on hand – photos, T-shirts, sweaters, coats, panda – they were all hanging there in my closet and in or on my bedside table.

I’d done my research. I didn’t need to be told. Those things were good for my girls to have on standby for them to connect with a dad they couldn’t remember. I packed them meticulously so that in our new life they would still be at arms length for those ‘moments’. But what I hadn’t addressed was me.

I haven’t written a post here for so long. I’m happy. I’m happier than I’ve been in so long it’s not something I can put in words. I’ve held onto dates. I’ve held onto friends. I’ve held onto his driver’s licence and his passport and travelled with them every time abroad. But most of all, it seems today,  I’ve held onto the car he most likely had his last moments in.

We had a car. It was small and old. A Volkswagon Golf. Colin, Evie and I fitted it ok. But when I was pregnant again with the bump that became Isla we thought of the future. When we bought our new family car in December 2011 it was our future. Little did we know when we signed all the paperwork that in 13 weeks Col would die, most likely last moments at the wheel of that car.

I’ve adored that car. I’ve told so many stories to the girls about daddy and that beast of a Nissan. I’ve held the driving wheel on bad days and thought his hands held here for those last moments…. so I am close to you/him.

Today I sold it. It’s been a journey. I was so happy to sell it after a lot of salesman rubbish. But ultimately I have just said goodbye to something very solid that was ours. Something I could see us in with our kids even when he wasn’t there. Goodbye my car. Goodbye old car. Goodbye ‘our’ car. I’ve taken photos. You can’t hang it in a closet. You can’t be in my bedside table to comfort the girls. But they weren’t sad today. It is me who has these connections to things. If they need a T-shirt they still have one. If they need panda he is still there. I don’t need to keep the car he died in to keep him alive….But  I did take one last photo to remember. Our time. Our future. It changed hon, But I will always love you. x

Flying Solo

I loved the silliness of us. I loved the lovingness of us. I loved being in our team. I do not always love flying solo in parentdom. I wish our team had had longer to do all the things I now do alone but with two kids. From bike riding to sofa slobbing, from breakfast to bedtime, there always seems to be those nanoseconds within the daily rollercoaster ride of happiness highs and parenting lows where I just feel super alone and that Colin-shaped hole looms over us. It’s not even  a ‘poor me’ moment or nostalgia for our time back, in our past, its just me acknowledging that deep nag that sits within me that grieves in glimpses, in tiny moments in time, for what he’s missing now and in the years to come as well as feeling sad for what the three of us have also lost in our present and future. In those tiny moments I wish there could be a glimpse in that Mirror of Erised from Harry Potter but I fear I would get lost in it. And it would only make me sad again and I don’t have time.

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Talking about what dead is…to kids

I wrote this three years ago after I’d put two-year-old Isla to bed….it’s brought me back to how I talk to my children about death and how honest I have become: 
“I knew the day would always come, the day that Isla would clock that her little experience of normal was slightly skewed from the normal around her. The big where’s my daddy question was always going to come. So putting her to bed last week she shut the blinds with me and turned to ask with a smile, “where’s Daddy?”. Tweely, I replied “oh honey he’s somewhere out there, I hope,”. She then pointed at a series of rooftops out the window, asking, as her finger moved along the window pane, “Is that his house? Is that his house? Is that his house?”. I told her I didn’t think daddy lived in a house and certainly he was not in any of those in the street below ours. As every two year old does she moved seamlessly on to something completely unrelated while my heart broke for her that she’s no hope of ever having even a remote memory of daddy doing bedtime and my heart broke once again for Col that he’s not had the chance to properly meet this gorgeous girl of his that has inherited his charmisma and ability to charm every person she meets. Continue reading “Talking about what dead is…to kids”

February 25:D-day No 5

Five years. Half a decade. 1,828 days. 157,939,200 seconds. 2,632,320 minutes 43,872 hours. 261 weeks. Whatever unit of time I use it feels too bloody long since I distractedly said goodbye to my husband as he left the house in a flurry to go and play tennis. How can I have survived the half decade that I have since Colin’s heart stopped working at 3.01 on a south London road on Saturday 25th February 2012. When I saw that policeman’s uniform through the windows of my front door I didn’t think I could live a minute without him let alone five whole years. The 25th of February 2012 is the day that my whole life changed completely and forever and somehow this year feels worse than year one, two, three or four. The world has spun me so very far away from him now and the pain may has multiplied with every eon. And now sometimes he feels like a figment of my imagination.

Continue reading “February 25:D-day No 5”

Once Upon A While Ago – Revisited

This time of year is always so rubbish in terms of trying not to feel the countdown between the day Isla was born (Christmas Eve 2011) and the day Col died (25th February 2012).  Just nine short weeks and every year I feel them ticking. So this year I am sorting so many positive and proactive things to try to avoid the spiral. First up, Evie’s grand plan for walking up Daddy’s hill to raise money for a bench in Edinburgh. And we are nearly done! The girls are ecstatic and so chuffed that so many of the friends and family are helping them get there with the fundraising. Thank you everyone. Just less than £200 to go so any last donations are welcome – we are already thinking how we will word our plaque to thank you all.

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In my dreams…

In the months after Colin’s death I could easily recount in minute detail by minute detail the few dreams I had of Col. The one where I was in our house, it was full of people, but I couldn’t find him. I desperately needed to speak to him. I hunted and hunted for my phone to see if I could track him on the phone. But no one had seen my phone. Eventually I found it. And it was blank. There was no key pad. I couldn’t dial his number to call him. I was devastated. I woke just missing his voice.

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Taking My Own Time

Grief. Such a small word for such a bloody big never-ending process. It might rhyme with brief – it is anything but. I wish it were.

Time heals…One of many stock phrases that get trotted out after a death. A simple combination of just two words that can make people like me, people who were just like everyone else in life until they suddenly aren’t because of death, feel like they are being given a mean old poke in the eye with a spiky spoke and a full-on extra nasty twist at the end of it. I can verify time does not heal you to the point of the fully restored ‘just how you were’ you. I am living proof of it. Time provides a distance between the trauma of a death to wherever you are in present time. In the immediate moment after death you are pretty much in the eye of the storm. Everything after is the process of grief. Time for me provides me time to numb, time to learn to cope a little better between triggers and as this process goes along I sense that the time between those godawful triggers, that have me sinking back into the darkness of grief once again, can lengthen. Time also gives me time to work my way through the emotional chaos created in the aftermath of each trigger and this time seems to get shorter each time. The bummer, a word I am borrowing from my six-year-old’s banned vocabulary list, actually let’s go further, the ‘total bummer’ is that it is my personal experience that time is yet to give me a heads up on where the triggers might lurk and sometimes time hoodwinks me into thinking I am properly healed (doh) and as strong as everyone told me I was along the way (another well-used stock phrase that people trot out to the bereaved when they seem to be less screaming banshee than they once were).
Continue reading “Taking My Own Time”

Things I find

  • My little girl loves to write. I find scraps of paper everywhere. I usually bin an awful lot. This one struck my heart as it explains her mindset this week and why I am getting so many questions about Col and what he was like. And even how he died. I will always answer honestly even if it breaks my heart.