Probably the penultimate first – a holiday

We are just back from the first holiday just the three of us. I was rather worried before we went, but we made it through without casualty or involvement of police, coastguard or social services.

We went to Cornwall for a week, staying in a lodge on a site in St Minver, near Rock and Polzeath. We have stayed on that site previously so it was all nice and familiar.

Sunday was rather wet, so we had a look at Boscastle. They had a display up about the floods that just reinforced the power in nature.

On the Monday we went to the beach at Polzeath – a nice easy day, plenty of body boarding. Tea was a barbie on the beach and we finished the day with a scattering of some of Susanne’s ashes on the beach there.

Tuesday was a bit ropey weather wise, so I asked the boys to look at the leaflets we had for somewhere to go. Reece announced he wanted to go to look at the Lost Gardens Of Heligan as the picture looked likr they had Orange pigs. It was a good, interesting day, and we even did the rope bridge.

Wednesday we went down to Watergate Bay where we met one of my local friends Kimberley for lunch at the Beach Hut Cafe, and then with Matt,Gemma, James and some of their family – James is a school friend of Robert’s. It was fab having the company and seeing the boys playing with other children.

Thursday saw a return to the Eden Project, and again we didn’t see everything! The biggest new attraction was the high viewing platform in the Rain Forest Biome. As the last time, we had dnner in the mediterranean terrace restuarant – fab.

Friday we had a look at Daymer Bay. A lovely beach, but not really us. Access was mainly single track roads which are hard work in high season traffic. The beach being in the camel estuary wasn’t as good as the likes of Polzeath for surf.

Saturday we loaded up and headed to Devon to spend a few days in Jo‘s B&B. She was a fab hostess. Along the way we dropped in at Tintagel and had a look at the castle. I finally managed to get a cream tea! We had a walk down to Saunton Sands for a quick look and something to eat. Saunton’s a lovely beach, and I’d recommend Jo’s place.

Sunday was eleven months, so we went to Woolacombe. A lovely little place that Susanne wanted to revisit, but we never made it. A beach day, dinner at The Captain’s Table – we ate there a lot last time we were there – and again a scattering of ashes.

Monday was Croyde. I know it’s a bug name surf beach, but the layout is a little inconvenient. Compared to Woolacombe where you come off the beach an are in the town, Croyde probably has about a mile walk using the obvious exits from the beach to get to the town.

Tuesday saw Matt join Jo and myself with about seven children between us on Saunton Sands. Another lovely day where the boys got to meet other children, and lots of the supposed responsible adults catching up 🙂

Overall, a fab break for us before we get beck to normal routine.

Wedding anniversary

17th June 1995. The day Susanne made me unbelievably happy.

The date also has some associations that are, shall we say, less good. I’ll get those out of the way first.

17th June 2010 – our fifteenth Anniversary. While to all intents and purposes we already knew, it’s the date we were formally told of the test results that confirmed Susanne had Cancer.

17th June 2015 – our twentieth anniversary, where things went about as far away from plan as they could get. Instead of celebrating, Susanne collapsed in front of her oncologist. She was admitted to hospital never to return home.

There. I’ve acknowledged them. They can now do one.

I’d still do it all again. I still feel priviledged to have known Susanne and that she chose to spend her life with me. That’s quite a big deal really – While all too short, I got all her life from when we met.

I have also met many new friends that are in the same club. My WAYers and Warriors. I’ll be eternally grateful for the support I have from them. They are an absolutely awesome bunch. I have shared my story with them, and I have listened to many of their stories.

From those stories I have learned a lot. While I’d go back in a heartbeat, I am grateful for what I have had. Many people don’t get what we shared.

I’ll not claim any marriage to be perfect, but we were good together. We understood each other. We got twenty years married – that’s something that is denied many. I have no concerns about the medical treatment Susanne got, nor the decisions made on treatment. While different decisions may have made a difference to the way things went, there’s no real grounds to think things may have gone better. We made the appropriate decisions together.

I’ll now say something that may sound a little odd.

I am proud to be a widower.

Why do I say that? Some of this is awkward to express in words

We stood up twenty one years ago and made promises. and we kept every single one of them. It’s just some of them got kept rather sooner than we would have liked.

But it’s not so much that we made and kept the promises. They can be said easily, but it’s not a duty. It’s what you do when you love someone, because you want to do it. Those promises were an expression of the way we felt. we delivered on that love. Susanne taught me what I can be capable of.

It’s actually pretty awesome to realise someone spent their life with you. No one can give more than that.

So, I am now in about as a good place as I can be.

I accept that my old life is over, and I have a new life to forge with the boys. That’s an adventure I look forwards to, admittedly with a degree of trepidation! We have a couple of adventures planned for this year, and I am sure there will be more.

I like seeing people post memories or pictures of Susanne or mention her to me. It doesn’t upset me as you may think. It lets me know she had an impact on your life too. That makes me happy.

Six months

Hello all, after a little frivolity and daftness with my last few posts, it’s back to being a little more serious – an update on how we are doing.

Today is six months since the most horrible day of my life. Doesn’t time fly when you’re having f, er, doesn’t time fly!

Anyway, we are over in Scarborough to start the scattering of Susanne’s ashes. We are scattering them at places that Susanne loved, It’s going to take some time to get round them all, but it will also be a journey of happy memories. We are here with Susanne’s parents. I had planned it to be a first trip just me and the boys with them maybe joining us for the scattering, but they decided to join us for the break. I may grumble occasionally, but I have to acknowledge that they have lost their only child. I really can’t imagine what that must be like – regardless of the age of the son or daughter.

It was only after I booked that I realised that this hotel is the same hotel we stayed in the last time we were here, and that was the last time we all came away together. On arrival, it looks like we are even in the same room as last time. I was saying nothing, but Reece noticed.

We have been out to the headland, where we found a spot with a nice view over the south bay and scattered a little there. We didn’t make any big speeches or anything, we can all have our own thoughts. There were a few moist eyes, but all of us scattered a little.

After that we complied with tradition for a visit to a seaside resort and had fish and chips. Norman and Freda had a walk around town, while the boys and I walked round the headland back to the hotel. They asked if it was quicker through town or round. I said town was probably shorter, but the headland is mainly flat, we just have to climb up the cliff to get to the hotel. Reece was not impressed at that comment!

Anyway, the three of us are doing OK at the moment. We have most of the main firsts out of the way now. All our birthdays, even things like meetings at school. The good news for you lot is that as a result these missives will be getting a little less frequent Remaining for the three of us now are our wedding anniversary, our first big holiday and then the anniversary in September.

Robert is Robert, those of you that know him will fully get that!

Reece is currently doing well. Winston’s Wish have worked wonders with him, and he is a much happier boy than he was. He has dropped most of his anger now, and the sadness that followed it has receded hugely. Even with what has happened, he is doing well at school and meeting targets. He is also taking less time out of class now.

As for me. As I say I am doing OK. I am being positive. I am looking forwards. I am getting out occasionally. I am even starting to enjoy life more. You lot have had a big input to that – the support from you all – family and friends old and new.

Once again I’ll mention my new friends from WAY, and the associated group WAR. These guys are just fabulous. I have made new friends locally and nationally. Far from being a morose bunch all sitting around licking our wounds, they are a group that get it. There’s support and sympathy, There are laughs, there’s the understanding that we all move forwards at different rates, and that is just fine. mIf any of you have friends that are in the same boat – widowed young – mention WAY to them. They may choose not to join, but doing that has been one of the best things I have done. By all means point them my way to talk about WAY.

The WAR group I keep mentioning are not officially connected to WAY, but they are totally hatstand. Again, finding them was a good thing. None of us want to qualify, but having qualified it’s like being with old friends. The way we can sit down together and talk rubbish, have a laugh or discuss our personal stories.

As I have said before, I am totally happy to have met Susanne. Knowing what I know now, I’d do it all again. There’s one decision that I might change, but that’s only because of information that has become available since. BRCA1 in the family may have altered decision on treatment. I could beat myself up about it, but that information wasn’t available. We made the best decisions we could on the information we had. Even if we had known, there’s no guarantee that the treatment may have worked better.

New friends:-)

Before Christmas I joined a group called WAY – Widowed and young. It is a group for people widowed up to the age of fifty, and is an opportunity to talk to people in a similar situation. It is surprising how many of us there are at times. Even before I qualified for membership I knew a few young widows (for the sake of simplicity, I’ll use that as a generic term), despite not really noticing just how many I did know.

You may also remember that at Christmas I said I was looking more for reasons to say yes to invites, and to grasp opportunities that present a little more. So following some discussions on the group forum I “organised” a meet today. I was a little twitchy about anyone turning up, but quite a few did and we had a fab few hours, and we have loose thoughts of a few more meets.

What I will say is that if any of you that have friends in a similar situation, mention WAY to them. They may find it useful, they may choose not to join. Just let them know.

https://www.widowedandyoung.org.uk/

Two more firsts

Hi All. Given how I haven’t exactly been backwards when it comes to landmarks, you will probably have been wondering why I didn’t say anything about mother’s day. Those closer will understand that there was a second landmark right on the heels of it, and I wanted to just do the one. Yes, it would have been Susanne’s birthday yesterday.

Thanks to all that have been in touch, here, privately or in real life.

To say it has been strange would be putting it mildly – for the last month or so I would normally have been sneaking around a little arranging presents, cards and flowers. That secrecy normally drove my organisation somewhat so I was a little later than normal ordering the flowers for my mum and Susanne’s mum.

At school Reece was still involved in the card making, but he made the card for my mum instead.

Sunday I deliberately didn’t make too much fuss in the morning. Both boys knew what the day was, so I didn’t remind them too much. We had a visit from one of Susanne’s old friends at lunchtime then we went round to see Susanne’s mum for a bit, then off up to my mum’s – basically what we would normally do, but with a quieter morning.

Robert was Robert – he has shown very little emotion, but that’s the way he is.

I told Reece I was proud of him. He had a couple of moments but managed the day fabulously well.

Onto yesterday. This was probably the strangest one. Susanne’s birthday was always the one I like to make a fuss of her on. Of all the events through a year that we mark, a birthday is the one that’s just about them. Everything else is shared – Christmas, Anniversaries, Valentine’s day, Mother’s day. They all apply to at least someone else.

As we got up, again I deliberately said nothing to the boys, as I didn’t want either swinging it to try to get a day off.

To mark the day we all (Susanne’s parents, my parents, my brothers me and the boys) all went out for a curry at our favourite Indian – The Mahabharat Restaurant in Hindley. A few Chicken Tikka Tangas were consumed, and a few glasses of red were drunk in her memory.

As per Mother’s day, Robert was Robert, and Reece had a couple of moments. He has been told I am proud of him.

Today at school Reece came home with a little present he had made for Susanne – he wanted to do something for her.

We are now coming up for six months. We have got most of the firsts out of the way now. All that are left for the three of us really now are our wedding anniversary in June, Our first Summer Holiday (Still not decided what we should do) and then the first anniversary in September.

A few things to think about!

OK everyone, This one’s a bit serious. Following a couple of discussions elsewhere, Here’s a few thoughts for those of you in relationships, especially if you have children. This may seem a little morbid, but these are important things to consider.
1. Make sure you have adequate life insurance. Make sure both of your are covered on it. Even if one of you is the breadwinner, and the other a home maker, if anything happens to the home maker, the mortgage being covered makes life a whole lot easier for them at a difficult time.
Make sure there’s enough. You want any mortgage to be paid off. It would help to get any other liabilities covered too, and if there’s something left over so the breadwinner can have the choice to take a sabbatical so much the better. Don’t forget funerals are not particularly cheap. Having the money at least on the way makes it easier to handle.
2. Make a will. Make sure people know where to find it. This is particularly important if you are not married.
3. Talk to each other about what you want to happen. Buried or cremated? Religious service or not? If Cremated, what do you want to happen with your ashes. There are a LOT of decisions to be made quickly.
4. If you are not married, consider it (or a civil partnership). It doesn’t have to be a big flash wedding, but being married (or in a CP) brings on extra rights as well as changing where any estate goes if intestate. Being married may also bring extra entitlements, especially if you have children – Things like Widowed Parent’s Allowance or pensions. That can be a few hundred pounds a month. This and making a will are important, especially if there are children from previous relationships.
By all means decide not to get married, but make it a conscious decision, knowing some of the fuller implications.
5. Document your finances. Make sure you have a note of all your bank accounts, and any liabilities. That will make it easier for your partner or executors dealing with your affairs.
6. Even if you run your finances separately, it is a good idea to have a joint account with enough for a couple of months worth of bills in it (unless you each have that sort of money to hand). The insurance policy may take a little time to come through, and your partners accounts are frozen on their death. You only get access once you have a Grant of Probate or Letter Of Administration. You need to fully value the estate before you can apply for that. See note 5. If accounts turn up slowly, everything gets delayed.

7. Tallying up your bank accounts once in a while lets you see what your estate is worth. Don’t forget to get a reasonable idea of the value of your house too. This is very useful as there are two very important numbers to look at. The first one – £250,000. If you are married but intestate the first £250,000 goes straight to your spouse. Above that it starts to depend upon whether or not you have children or other surviving family. A Will of course sorts all that.
The other number of importance is £325,000 for inheritance tax. This isn’t an issue for passing to a spouse, but if something happens to both of you, it isn’t a tremendously high bar if you own a home. Add in insurance cover, death in service benefits from employment and it is easy to hit. Better to know and take advice an plan up front.

Thoughts while running…

While running or cycling I tend to let my mind wander. It’s good for my mental health, but some strange thoughts do run through at times.

The thought for this morning was my most unpleasant experience. Excluding the obvious, I settled on a medical procedure a couple of years ago. I suggest the squeamish move on now…

Still with me? You sure? OK. Here goes.

When I was four, I had surgery for a squint. I was OK for many years, but a few years ago I developed a divergent squint – my eyes pointed outwards a little. The decision was made that it would be worth revisiting the surgery to try to get better alignment. This was two years ago. The surgery is basically detaching the muscles that control eye movement and reattaching them. If you want to see there are plenty of videos of similar surgery on youtube. Just search for squint or strabisimus surgery. This isn’t the unpleasant bit yet.

As a result of the previous surgery, there was quite a bit of scarring on some of the muscles. This meant after surgery I was left with a convergent squint – a bit cross eyed.

The first treatment to try for that is an injection. Doesn’t sound too bad. The injection is into one of the muscles that controls the eye. Starting to sound a little icky isn’t it. This is done under a local anaesthetic in an operating theatre. You walk into a fully equipped theatre wide awake and look at all the kit. They wire you up as normal. They put drops in to numb the eye, and wire up your face to electrodes. You need to look forwards while doing this. Did I mention it’s in an operating theatre? Have you seen the lights they use? Can you imagine what it’s like looking up at one? It’s so bright it hurts. It is difficult to look forwards it’s that bright.

Then they ask you to move your eye so they have a better chance of getting the injection into the muscle. So you look that way. Then they come at your eye with a syringe. It’s only natural to look at the sharp pointy thing heading to your eye, with the bright-as-the-sun lamp behind it. So you go through a few cycles of look to the side, they approach and you look at the needle.

Eventually you manage to stay looking in the direction they want gripping the sides of the operating table tightly, and they insert the needle. They then have to move the needle around until they have it in the right place. That’s what the electrodes stuck to your face are for. They listen to the noise being made and wiggle the needle about they have sticking into your eye. Eventually they decide it is the right place and squeeze the botox into the muscle. They then send you off home a little while later.

A couple of dates…

Just to take the edge of the nice neat new year new start, the year opens with two significant dates. Yes – I am that unusual creature – a bloke that remembers dates!

Today marks 23 years since the day we actually met. Despite me being from Bolton and Susanne from Hindley we met in Stockport at the all dayer they used to have every year.

I have mentioned previously about not exactly being socially gifted. One thing I really struggle with is striking up a conversation with someone I don’t know, regardless of gender.

I also struggle picking up signals – positive or negative.

I had been seeing Susanne around at various events for about eighteen months and had been, er, noticing her. I was totally oblivious to the fact that for a similar time she had also been paying attention to me. I later found out that I was a regular subject of discussion in the factory, and I was asked by one or two of her friends from work what took me so long?

As I have said previously, in mitigation she was normally sitting with her parents. That filters out all bar the truly keen from saying hello. As always in Stockport she was with her Mum & Dad.

One of the main bands on that night was the Metrotones. A UK based doowop band. I had already seen the band a few times. That gave me a possible subject to talk about. You will all now be aware of my relationship with music I can talk for hours, whether you are interested or not! All I needed was opportunity.
In a way they were instrumental (geddit?) in Susanne and I getting together. A gig of theirs led to a separation from a previous girlfriend, and then Susanne and I met at one of their gigs. Two in one from the Metrotones!

Ever the subtle one, I was sitting with my friends, my back to them gazing over. When her parents got up for a dance, it was a now or never kind of moment. Fortunately, we hit it off and the rest is history.

The third of January was our first date. We had arranged to meet in Westhoughton, outside the town hall. From there it was over to The White Hart in Farnworth. There was DJ on playing Rock N Roll. Strangely for me, I was rather distracted from the music that night!

Christmas

I appreciate many of you will be wondering how we got on. Well, we made it.

You’ll all have noticed recently I have been very positive. That deserted me halfway through Elf on Christmas eve, as we got to the point where Christmas really kicked into gear – leaving treats out for Santa (I forgot to get any mince pies or carrots) and where we would have been trying to smuggle in presents and distribute them appropriately, while closely monitoring the boys for sleep.

The day started similar to our normal plans. They could unwrap anything that had been left in their rooms, but we had to have breakfast before the living room doors could be opened.

All through this was rather subdued as Susanne’s absence was unmissable. Her excitement was normally palbable as the boys unwrapped their presents, and she wondered what surprises I had in store for her.

Both boys seemed reasonably pleased with their haul this year.

I then got the technodad job of setting up the new WII-U and integrating it with everything.

From there the day changed a little. Recently everyone has been round to ours, but I asked the boys what they wanted to do. Susanne’s parents came round late morning, and then when they left we headed up to my parent’s.

Regardless of the weather, it was rather a wet Christmas for us.

Reece in particular was clearly missing Susanne. He has a habit of claiming “it’s the worst day ever” when the slightest thing doesn’t go his way. I have always tried to persuade him otherwise. When getting ready for the bath at my mums, he described it as the worst Christmas ever. I could do nothing other than agree with him, and we were in a ball together in the hall.

Reece is now on Minecraft Story mode on the XBox, and later we are off to our boxing day bash. The journey will be accompanied by the Yarbirds and The Rolling Stones. Tomorrow will be quiet as I give the boys a chance to play with their presents, and try to persuade them to put some away.

Monday I am expecting carnage as Reece’s friend comes over to stay, then Wednesday a bunch of Robert’s friends are around. I think I am looking forwards to work next week for a rest!

Feeling Better

As I think back over my mood for the last few weeks (I can be very self analytical!) I can see a turning point where I think I started to feel better. And I think someone needs a note of thanks. He’ll probably be a tad embarrassed by this, but why not?
The turning point? When I was nominated for the seven in seven. It didn’t so much reignite my love for music or anything like that, but the thinking through the seven songs reminded me just how much I get from music. Since then there has been much more music around the house. As type I have a little Merrill E Moore going – ace piano boogie, and I was privileged to see him live back in 1998.
Anyway, for that innocuous nudge Thank you Steven Cumbo.