As Time Goes By…

gold colored chain necklace with watch pendant
Photo by Lukas Hartmann on Pexels.com

I have awoken once again as I have done for as long as I can remember in the past few months, exactly two and a half hours after I had gone to bed. It seems to be such a regular occurrence now, part of the new normal forcing its way into my life. Again I am compelled to write about what has happened in the past few months and get it out of my head in the hope that it will not spend more time there and that I will be able to move on from it in some small way. I do not know if that is forcing something which is not ready to leave, or just stop it from occupying most of my thoughts.

I have been quietly writing in the background the past few months, so much has gone on in my private life which needs to remain private for now, but the difficulties of the past few years seem to pale into almost insignificance in comparison.  I have sat and purposefully written in a bid to explain, but those posts will not be shared publicly, there has been so much pain to deal with and I have been fighting still despite feeling ill equipped to do so. I have also written a few more poems, some of which I’ve posted here on the blog.

It is difficult to know where to begin so I guess it will just have to come right out and say it, that which I am able to share with you. My brother passed away, he died suddenly and although it was a huge shock to us all. I am struggling to deal with it.  The past almost three months since his passing, have felt like a year, endless in its quest and dragging onward.  It is not over yet, since the grieving process has really only just begun due to the delays caused by legal formalities. He is not gone from my thoughts and remains very much a part of me. In my home I am surrounded by his things which bring back memories all of the time.  Of course this does not just affect me, the rest of the family are left reeling from the shock of it all, he was a relatively young man at 48 years old and this was totally unexpected.

He lived his life in the enviable position of having no responsibilities in fact he positively shied away from them, left no will and made me his next of kin.  Suddenly, there was a policeman on the telephone, faced with the duty of informing me that there had been an accident and that I was to contact his employer urgently.   At that point, he was in a critical ward of a hospital in Corsica and it was my job to inform Mum.  We spoke on the phone since I was also away at the time, and only a couple of hours later, he was dead.  Gone forever it felt surreal. He had been working away for most of the last five years, returning only for short periods in between and staying with friends, who were extended family, whenever he was back in the UK we tried to catch up, but during his trips he would call me at length and tell me all about where he was living and the people he was working with.   He was excited by life and new experiences and I loved those conversations. I was lucky to have had one such conversation the afternoon before he passed away, which made me wrack my brains and replay every moment in my mind to see if I could have sensed that something was wrong, if it could in some way have forewarned me of what was to come.  But it did not. What happened was just an awful accident, cardiac arrest brought on by shock of the extreme heat of the climate, to cold water in an outdoor swimming pool. One misjudged moment in time, deciding to go for a swim and he drowned. It was awful and it still is.  To think of a life so suddenly gone, I am still coming to terms with how final that is. He was just getting to do the things that he wanted to and living the life he felt that he should. He had plans and was excited by what the future may hold.

I still can’t believe that he is gone and not coming back, as a seasonnaire chef, his summer stint would be over and he would be back by now. I like so many others, his friends and his family are waiting for that phone call we would normally have had by now, saying “Hello, I’m back”.  He stopped calling it home a couple of years ago, when he decided that he wanted to live in Italy and began looking for a flat there, alas that was not to be. But here was where he returned to, his roots and the extended family he had chosen, lifelong friendships with people who anticipated his return.

It was August when he passed away. It took two months to get him home and have the funeral since there was an inquest and repatriation to deal with. I am relieved that his employers were a reputable company who had insurance, otherwise I for one could not have coped with it all and the costs of bringing him back and dealing with it all would have been impossible. It would have been a very different situation since as far as I can find out he had no insurance to cover him for his death. He had not written a will and had no savings whatsoever surviving from one pay check to the next and never quite managing it consistently living beyond his means.

Thankfully, from a leaving people behind point of view, he did not have a wife or children, just parents and siblings, me and his sister.  He also had literally hundreds of friends, dotted around the world.  I honestly feel that he never lost touch with anyone he ever met, leaving a lasting impression upon them, they stayed in touch or he would walk into a place somewhere in the world and someone would know someone who knew him, or an old acquaintance would reappear. It was uncanny.  He was a loveable rogue and when we planned his party for him, in celebration of his life it only then became clear to us how loved he was.  He did not want a funeral where everyone was sad, he wanted a party where everyone could gather and talk about the good times, drink and dance and talk.  Throughout the planning I was worried, wondering if I would make him proud. It had been many years since I had planned an event, but I wanted it to be perfect for him. Nothing would spoil it and as it turned out it was a wonderful night, which a month later people are still speaking about with fondness, cherishing new memories along with the old and rekindled friendships. It was a wonderful compliment to be told that if he had made it to fifty and had a party, then this would have been exactly what he would have wanted to do and it couldn’t have gone any better.

We picked a location he loved as fate would have it there was a real ale festival at the first pub. A local place where he always returned to, it was the perfect setting on a beautiful warm and sunny day. A refreshing seaside breeze after a funeral service packed out with around 400 people. It was massive and although emotionally exhausting, it was filled with love and tributes. We spoke, which was something I knew that I had to do, anecdotes from growing up together and then I read a poem I had written just after his passing, called My Brother. (You can read it here) It was a first for me, reading something I had written out loud in front of an audience but it was very well received.  Our sister, who is a musician, sang a song live which she had written, also a first for her and it was emotional and beautiful. Our Mum told everyone stories from his past which had everyone laughing and smiling at the memories.  My partner got up and spoke, thanking all of the people who had helped and been there for my brother and for us and the tribute from his friend, reliving the memories growing up, were both entertaining and captivating.

After the initial meet up where the beer festival was held, we moved onto another pub, where we had organised a buffet, some of his school friends who are DJ’s played the music he loved for a packed out pub full of people from all walks of life and all age groups who were there to say goodbye.  Our sister played live with her bands and we were fortunate that the entertainment that the pub had already booked for that night flowed effortlessly from what we had done for him. Everyone had a great time it was not like a funeral at all.  It was a day and a night filled with love for someone who has left a wide gaping hole in our lives by his sudden departure.  We had guest books and reading them after the funeral was lovely. We encouraged people to write their memories of him and are planning to publish his story at some point, the book he didn’t quite get to write.  I am sure that he was still too busy living his life to write it all down.  I have spent two months looking for the book he always spoke about writing one day, but have not yet found any evidence of it.  We decided that the stories should not die with him. They are too funny, heart-warming and vivid to let go.

I was sent out to Corsica by his employers, they arranged for me to attend where he lived and worked and meet the team, his working family and the ones who had tried to save him. It was cathartic towards the end of the trip, I was so pleased to be able to do that and it helped immensely to piece together the time before his death and share some wonderful memories with those who surrounded him. I returned only six weeks ago, it feels much longer.  Time seems to drag on and all of a sudden it will be three months since he died, this weekend it has been a month since his funeral. The seasons have changed and with them so have I. Although I am not sure whether it is for the better or worse and I am so far out of my comfort zone lately that I can’t remember where it is any more.

As I deal with his affairs in the line of duty, my own personal grief has kicked in it catches me out at the most awkward of moments, creating havoc in the day to day.  Having dealt with the formality of the funeral now, it no longer consumes my every moment, I am still dealing with formalities as this will take some time to do.  I have time to think now and remember and those memories which fall as tears when I think of him, of that lump in my throat which arrives when I get to thinking about the fact that I will never again get to hug my infuriatingly haphazard, but very endearing and loving brother. Meanwhile I am surrounded by the belongings which I am still gathering in able to sort them out and share out amongst family and his closest friends. He left his things all over Europe and even now I am not quite sure where, some are only just coming to light now. I do not know if I will be able to recover it all. Despite my daily routine being somewhat relaxed, insomnia and concerns are wearing and damaging to the health and mine has suffered, along with that of my partner who has been at my side, supporting me every step of the way.  He is tired, for that read exhausted and already suffering ill health it has really taken its toll upon him, I must look after my rock and not let it crumble. As he pointed out to me, life is for the living and we are still here.

Last night I visited one of his close friends, I called round on the off chance and we talked for over an hour about the funeral and how he would normally be home by now. That he still shows up now and then, in the strangest of ways.  She has been married to his best friend for over 20 years and they were a very large part of my brother’s life, always there for him come what may. Only 3 months ago I had never met her.  It was the case for so many of his friends throughout his life he kept them and his family separate.  But the love and warmth that they had for him has been extended to me and the rest of us and never fails to move me.  I came home happy but emotional it was good to talk about my brother, but I am conscious that we also talked about other things in our lives such as making plans for the future. It was just what was needed after a week where I have been going stir crazy at home, seemingly chasing my tail to get things done, although I have made small progress nevertheless.

As time goes by, things are slowly changing, things which are forcing me to re-evaluate and make new plans.  I need to concentrate on improving our health and moving us onward.  I hope that down the line I can begin to follow some of my dreams with regard to work and I want to be able to write again, not just poetry but other things.  The future could be a long time, there is much to do.

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Christmas, The Holidays How are you spending them?

This was going to be my “Happy Christmas” post when I began it last week.

We are still enjoying or enduring the Holiday period here in the U.K. As we head now towards New Year. I am grateful for the fact that I am enjoying it.

This Christmas I knew would be vastly different for us and I honestly did not know how it would go. After the year that we have had it couldn’t help but be. It is the first one where we have not had Kato physically with us, he was here only in spirit. He entered my thoughts daily and although I looked for signs I did not see any. However I still felt that he was part of the family here enjoying Christmas morning together.

The past week we have been getting ready for the occasion and I have never felt so unready before. I went for a job interview the week before and it went well. I came out with such a positive feeling about both the job and myself and hoped that I may be offered one of the two positions they had spoken about. That weekend, my partner told me to call my friend who was emigrating this week and book a ticket to visit her. It was a wonderful thing to do, I feared that she would be too busy but she jumped at the suggestion. So I had a fabulous time with her and her family before they went, I came back having felt such love, I was on cloud nine.

On coming home I tried to fit in getting the house “Christmassy” but had only just enough money to get food and a few small gifts for family, so had to buy gifts wisely. Whilst my partner and I sold a few items, the people came to collect. The truck went this week, I didn’t feel stressed about letting it go. The relief that we would have funds for the shortfall again this month outweighed that.

It also meant that Hope, my Beautiful blue car has been brought out of the garage and I  able to drive her again for the first time in months again thanks to the assistance of friends who made sure that she was safe for me. I played Santa and delivered gifts and cards on Christmas Eve and got to see and hug another friend I have not seen this year.

So being broke has been the new norm for this past year along with so many other emotions. But as we end the year I can’t help thinking we have lost a lot of people. Not just the ones who are old, but the ones who are taken far too soon. When faced with this situarion, you cannot help but rethink how you wish your life to be as the new year approaches.

I did not hear about the job, but that did not stop me from applying for many more this week. At some point, someone will offer me one, when the time is right so I must trust that the right one will come along too. It felt like I have turned a corner being invited for an interview can do that to you. Lift you up spirits and all and make you concentrate on the positives.

However recently my partner has been ill, he is feeling very stressed out about making ends meet but it has all come together just in time and he is wondering where the next bit will come from, looking for things he can turn around for a little profit to keep our heads above water until that elusive job comes along. But his heart is heavy and it’s making him tired and he is in pain with the various health issues he has and damage to his body over the years. He has been told to take it easy by the doctor, but the doctor knows that he doesn’t know how. Which can be a bit of a cycle for him, it also makes me worry about him.

This Christmas we did not get fancy gifts for each other. He bought me something lovely when we were in Scotland in the Autumn and I have kept it for Christmas. I bought him something he needed, a pair of boots to keep him comfortable whilst we walk the dog together and our present to each other was our beloved Roki. For Birthday, Christmas and my Birthday. No other gift is necessary as we have the love and happiness that he brings us. We collected our new baby seven weeks ago and he is the family we craved to have again.

We awoke on Christmas morning and all piled onto the bed for a big family hug. The day was mild and bright and we made plans to go out and see it. I did not spend the morning wrapping gifts for others as I had in previous years. I had managed to wrap the few that I had bought and most had already been given by then.  We sat talking, played music and had a lovely breakfast of smoked salmon omelette which is an all family favourite. I thought about the big Meal that I would make later and planned to speak to my friend to wish her a safe journey.  Our Christmas Day was non eventful to the outside world but just right for us. We sent and received messages of good cheer to family and friends but to see the face of your child as you give him presents on Christmas Day was just the perfect way to spend it.

Our boy had two fleece blankets which were donated by the emigrating friend and he was so thrilled with them. He had a rope toy which I had given him a couple of days earlier when I had returned from my trip and a woven cloth toy, which in our house is known as “A wonderful fling to be flung” which my mother had made for him. He also had some treats and was so ecstatic that he didn’t know what to play with first. So he just decided to pick up as many as he could at once, throw them all into the air and then roll on them. He is happy. I sent a message to his old family Thanking them for the most wonderful gift to us and received a touching response.

It was late evening by the time I had prepared and cooked our Christmas meal which meant we were up until very late and watching the films on the TV till the early hours. It didn’t matter so much. On Boxing Day I collected my brother and took him to our sister and her partner’s house for a feast. It was lovely, I haven’t seen any of them in months it was just nice to sit around and enjoy a meal, we also watched a funny film and laughed together.

They say it becomes different as you get older, but that is the true meaning of Christmas to us. We have love. We are not in Scotland for the first time in three years we have stayed at home. That in itself felt a little  bit odd but less stressful for me as I didn’t have to pack or travel Christmas week and it never quite feels like the holiday until you arrive at your destination.

My good intentions as to how we should spend Christmas did not come about, again we did not decorate the house for the occasion. My partner said it wasn’t important and we just ran out of time before the big day. This Christmas was about sharing Love and Time, after all who knows how much of it we have left, that was the most important thing and we achieved that.

So however you have spent yours and however you choose to spend the holiday time you have left, I hope that you enjoy it.

I want to Thank you for following my blog since I began in February, for the friendships that grow along the way and the support that you have shown me over the past few months.  I hope that we all continue on our journeys through the next year and find new inspiration, experiences to write about and I will enjoy hearing about yours.

The Daily Post – Festive

The House with the Green Door

Our first house with it’s green door
Where an ear of corn, grew through the floor.
Only one ear, it would yield,
Although I hoped to grow a field.

Thinking of all the times with my brother I’d play,
Bike and scooter races along the pathway.
Chips on the TV or Starsky and Hutch
Followed us into our games so much.

An office and workshop both he had,
Where he could hide and not be Dad.
Packed with tools and random stuff,
Would venture in there when he’d had enough.

The larder cupboard, where deep inside,
I would sit with my friend and hide.
Eating sweets and cubes of bread,
If we’d got caught, we feared we’d be dead.

One day outside a picture we would take,
Of Mum and Dad’s wedding cake,
I wondered why we couldn’t eat,
Kept for years was no mean feat.

Cooking together, or knitting a hat,
Next door had a beautiful cat.
It played in the house and sat on the stair,
when you wanted to stroke it was always there.

Would walk through the garden taking a look,
Sit under a tree with colouring book.
Colouring in the pictures and drawing,
No sign of me when day is dawning.

The cupboard where I would sit and read
When some of my own space I’d need.
A box room so small, to call my own
Drawers so full that they would groan.

With everything there so close, Oh my
Teddies and dollies standing by
A King, A Queen a Copper or Thief
Sometimes a Squaw or and Indian Chief.

The games we play, when imagination runs riot
Mum was worried when we went quiet
Fought with my brother he was so strong
Our garden was wide and very long.

Tennis with the kids next door
Over the fence rolling on the floor.
A net across the bit that was grassed
Fun Summers there, endless passed.