It’s been five years since I last said goodbye to you. In some ways, that’s felt like a long time. In other ways, it feels like no time at all.
This is a time of year that I’ve come to hate. Flashbacks of you in Papworth Hospital. Flashbacks of phone calls on the day you fell. Constant flashbacks. Only the other day I heard a Led Zeppelin song that took me back to sitting in the car with Mark as we parked at a hotel preparing for another night of very little sleep before going back to you at hospital.
I regularly think of the last time I saw you before you had the operation. I have no idea whether you actually knew I was there. You looked at me as if to say, “Bloody hell, what are you doing here?” As daft as it may sound, that thought makes me smile. I got it. You didn’t want me worried about you. I’m sure that had you come through and woke up you’d have gone mad at Dad for even telling me that you were in hospital. But, for as short a time as that was, I’m glad I have that little memory. One last little laugh.
Memories…there were a few weren’t there? I laugh out loud whenever I think about the phone call where you told me Dad got you an air fryer instead of a hair dryer (because you’d been after one for so long…). I remember when we looked at moving to Lowestoft and we had the boat hired on the broads. You were essentially captain. I sometimes think that you were sold on East Anglia by that boat hire, visions of riding the waves in a small boat…it makes me wish we’d done it more.
I will never forget the karaoke/BBQ party we put on at the house. A multitude of disasters. Eyebrows singed, choosing not to eat but instead cook for everybody else, still drinking a lot of gin, breaking the microphone in half…and eventually “Me drunk, me sick”. Going through uni and in the immediate years following uni I found myself and others in various bad, drunken states…but that is still the standout “bloody hell you were drunk” moment.
It’s these little memories that I cling on to and try to think of when I start thinking to those days at Papworth. Thoughts of you picking us up from school, having mates round and talking of your amazing food…memories of you looking after us. Memories of you laughing.
I find myself sometimes down because I struggle to remember your voice. I feel like five years shouldn’t be long enough to forget such an important voice but I fear I have. I can just about hear you saying “Roy!” when moaning at Dad. I can remember you groaning at me when seeing me at Papworth…but that’s it. I hate that. I wish I could remember it more.
I blame myself for that, too. In those final years we’d sometimes see each other only a couple of times a year. I should have gone home more. I’m sorry.
I also wish I could remember our last proper conversation. I watch these things on TV and people say, “We spoke about this and that. That was the last thing we spoke about.” I don’t remember it at all. I don’t know if it’s just time and me approaching middle age…whatever…I just don’t remember. But, then, does that really matter? Surely it matters more that I remember the times we all had? The time you gave us.
Memories. Good for those with good memory.
Five years. Mum…so much has changed. I could bore you with everything that’s happened in the world but I won’t. It’s probably best you don’t know some of that, anyway. But a lot has changed with me.
For a long time prior to your days in Papworth, I wasn’t happy. I think you knew that but didn’t say anything. I got engaged not because I wanted to, but more because I felt it was what I should have done. Forget the happiness aspect…can’t always be easy, can it? But there I was. That’s where I was when we said goodbye.
A year and a half later, I took the decision to put myself first. I left.
I hate it because you taught it to me in the worst way, but I think the biggest lesson that you ever taught me was to live life for now because it’s too short. I was fed up with drifting along, unhappy on a path I didn’t really want to take anymore. I think you’d have been proud of me…even if a bit worried for me as I essentially signed myself up to sofa hopping for a while.
I’ve ended up meeting someone else and, this time, getting engaged for the right reasons. Lori is a lot like you, personality wise…I wish you’d have been able to meet her because I honestly believe that you would love her. I can picture you both sat watching some terrible horror film that’s probably more comedy than horror…I can imagine you on the dance floor together after a drink. I can just imagine you having a good time together.
Another pretty massive change to my life is having children. You’d have been a Nan! Both of the kids are amazing. Our little lad is crazy, but seems so developed already – a proper little character – and our little lady is equally as cheeky. We named her after you and Lori’s Mum, giving her the middle names Mary Jean. Jean, Lori’s Mum, passed away when Lori was pregnant. We want both of the kids to know about you both…we talk about you to them…and I like to think that, by sharing your name, you’ll be with our little girl everywhere she goes.
It’s one of my biggest bittersweet feelings in life. I’d always wanted kids and felt so ecstatic when we had them but that emotion was always hit by the feeling of wishing you’d also been there to meet them. I really do wish that you were here now to see the kids, to hear them call you “Nanna”…I know you’d have loved them. I also reckon you’d have moved in with us by now to be with them!
Five years…so much change…one real constant. And that constant is you.
I always found it ridiculously over sentimental when people said “I think of them everyday”…but it’s true. I do. Every day, since January 27th 2015, I think about you. From hours of thinking to seconds…you’re always in my head.
I miss you so much. There’s so much that I wish I could show you, so much I want you to see that you can’t. So many Thursdays where, even now, I will have a moment of thinking “I could give Mum a call, it’s her day off.” I miss you.
Losing you when we did…it took it out of me. I didn’t react well, getting angry at small things. Such small things. My mood dipped. I really found it hard. This was me…I can’t begin to imagine what Joy and Dad were feeling. 55 years old. It’s not fair that we lost you at that age. You’d be turning 60 this year. I’m not sure you’d like that…but I can’t believe you never got to see it.
You sparked the change in me when you went. We started raising money for Papworth Hospital…I was never really a charitable person before that. I decided to do things to make myself happy after seeing first hand how life can just be taken away. You didn’t deserve to be that person to show me that. But you were. Nothing can change that.
Those changes that have happened in my life may never have happened without you.
Perhaps, somehow, you can see all of this. You’re probably sat by me thinking “why on Earth write all of that on there?”
The answer is simple. I wanted to write to you. I wanted to let you know that things are okay. I wanted to let you know that I’m happy. I wanted to let you know that you’d be a Nan right now. I wanted to let you know how much you have helped make me the person I am today.
But mostly I wanted to let you know that I am thinking of you. Now and always. Every day.
I love you. I miss you.
Love you, Mum.