Sunday, 21 January 2018

Yet More Rumaninations

An old acquaintance's funeral was held today and although I promised the person who told me of the death that I would present myself punctually at 2pm at St George’s I failed miserably to keep my promise. At 96 the friend was old indeed, his wife died several years ago and he had been in a nursing home for some time. I have yet to formulate a reasonably valid excuse; suffice it to say that it’s been a cold and miserably wet day, with snow and rain, the church itself is bitterly cold, there are always people in the congregation who are nursing winter chills and flu, apt to pass them on, funerals rarely do the deceased justice, and they are no longer on my list of must-attend occasions, particularly the formulaic Church dos, except in the case of people who matter to me. Call me what you like, weak-kneed, lazy, mean, selfish, all of those could apply.

Nowadays I find it hard to force myself to do things I don’t want to do. Perhaps I don’t try very hard? And I really, truly, definitely, do not mind if nobody comes to my funeral, which is going to be a very basic, simple and quiet affair.

In Victorian times things were very different; they shrouded grief in elaborate and complex rituals.

The depth of the band on a man’s hat and  the width of a black border on a piece of writing paper indicated to the world the precise stage that mourning had reached. Whether this made sorrow any easier to bear is debatable. Perhaps all that can be said of these fashions in mourning is that their intricacy kept people occupied when they most needed to be and provided an elaborate facade behind which to conceal their sorrow.” (Debrett’s Etiquette)

Lately I have started to think of the future. It’s still very hazy and rather than making plans for what I might want to do, I have clearer ideas on what I certainly don’t want to happen: having lost the most important person in my life I do not want to replace him; there will never be an unconditionally welcoming space within friendly arms again, all I can hope for is a companionable hug from a male or female friend to say ‘hello’ or ‘goodbye’. There are advantages to living on one’s own, i.e. without a co-habitee, house sharer or lodger. We cannot know what the future holds but I prefer not to have my space invaded, I prefer to be without a dependent being, or someone who tries to look into my mind and soul. I do not want to be disturbed or disarranged, and I do not want to be a caregiver again. I have brought up two children, taken care of my parents in their final years in different ways and looked after and cared for Beloved’s every need in his last year. I tell myself that I would love to be able to take care of him still, but I am not sure how keen I would be as his illness and confusion progressed into total disability. As it would have done had he lived. I miss him dreadfully, but maybe ten months later I see him more as the man he was before he fell ill.

Today I can make up my mind about what I want to do and when and how and why I want to do it. I don’t need to make compromises, I can arrange every day as I want it. Not an unalloyed pleasure, of course, it is a privilege which could easily bring loneliness and boredom and a descent into self-absorption. One can have too much of a good thing, as they say. I expect with time will come a way of finding activities that will fill the empty space.

I am not done with mourning. Strangely, grieving for Beloved has stirred up the pain of old losses. I find myself missing my parents all over again, thinking of them and their way of departing this world; I am even mourning the loss of my home country, something I have only ever done in the shape of temporary Heimweh. (Home sickness is not entirely the same) I also mourn the loss of my daughter who is alive and well, but lost to me all the same. I mourn my callow youth, the loss of friends here and in the old country and I mourn opportunities I missed and roads I have not taken.

Perhaps, with grief not as deadening and all-encompassing as it was, with finally accepting Beloved’s death and learning to come to terms with it, a period of calm reflection will bring relief and renewed hope for a bearable future. Darkest winter must turn to spring eventually.




Wednesday, 17 January 2018

More Ruminations

Goodness gracious, how lovely to see so many of you return to this tardy blog; it made me feel all warm and wanted. Thank you so much. I shall pick myself up and start visiting and commenting too; what a community we are!

One thing I’m glad about is that I stayed in our house, now just mine. At first I felt that I should move as soon as possible, telling myself that the house is too big, the garden is too big, it’s too empty, too lonely, too isolated. When your partner or anyone else you love dearly falls terminally ill and dies you feel helpless, hopeless. There is nothing you can do to regain control. So you grab at anything that makes you feel in control; moving home being one such undertaking. Rearrange the externals and you’re back in charge. Except you’re not. Less than ever, because now you have upped anchor and lost everything that gives you a grounding, the comfort of the familiar. In my case common sense prevailed, or perhaps it was just lethargy, cowardice, fear of the unknown. Anyway, I am still here and likely to stay here, who knows for how long. Somehow, Beloved is all around me, literally so, of course. I have made a small memorial garden for him with a bench, where I can sit and talk to him. It’s snowdrop time, his long drawn out dying time, has been since Christmas, when the first little bells poked their heads out of the muddy, at times snowy, then again frozen, ground. Once they have faded I shall dig up a clump and plant them in ‘his’ patch, awaiting all future anniversaries of his death.

The problem is that there is work to be done to the house, nothing major, just some painting and maybe rearranging rooms, deciding whether to live downstairs and upstairs or just downstairs, changing a downstairs room into a bedroom. This makes it sound rather grand but it isn’t, it’s just that the original owner of this house, who built it to suit her needs, more or less built two bungalows on top of each other, making it easy to divide the house.

So, what to do? When I asked a friend, idly speculating that perhaps I am too old to go in for great redecorating schemes - the usual thing: is it worth it? will I have the time to enjoy it? how long will I be able to stay? - he recalled an anecdote. ‘Two clergymen met. One of them was wearing a suit which had clearly seen better days, looking rather frayed round the edges. “Thing is, do I bother to buy a new one at my age,” the wearer asked his friend. “Buy a new suit?” his friend replied. “I don’t even buy green bananas.”

The story cheered me up no end. I used to tell Mum to go ahead and treat herself to anything she fancied, no matter how short the time to enjoy it. Now I myself am the kind of ditherer who can’t make up her mind because it might not be ‘cost-effective’. (Sorry about the word, I don’t really speak in such terms, just couldn’t think of anything more apt for our mercenary times.)

Talking of cheering myself up: I have seen a bereavement counsellor who let me talk for an hour, singing Beloved’s praises and going back over the wonderful thirty years we had together. Although close to tears at times it made me realise how very fortunate we were and what wonderful memories I  have. A whole treasure chest of them. I will see her again. Talking really is the best cure for me. My step-daughter recommended that I write to Beloved, a kind of daily diary, I may yet do that too, although I prefer to talk to him.

Another coping mechanism is increasing physical activity, releasing endorphins, happy hormones. "any of a group of hormones secreted within the brain and nervous system and having a number of physiological functions. They are peptides which activate the body's opiate receptors, causing an analgesic effect.” My doctor came up with that one when I consulted her about depression. So now I go to the gym and enjoy it greatly. I do exercises, pound (or rather went from shamble via amble to walk) the treadmill, cycle on a beautiful stand bike  and will be doing weights and other infernal machines by and by, as soon as my personal instructor gives the green light. I have to be careful because of the heart condition which is otherwise fully under control.

Eating chocolate and/or falling in love also produce endorphins; I’ve tried the chocolate cure with great enthusiasm but that had rather sad side effects for my hips. And unless you can show me a sweet kitten or puppy I shall probably never fall in love again.  




Monday, 15 January 2018

Ruminations


15th November to 15th January - a long break from blogging. Only five followers have decided that this blog isn’t worth following now, so thanks to all of you who have stayed. This whole following stuff is a bit silly, I suppose, but there you go, silly is as silly does. Or is that silly too?

The year wasn’t even 12 hours old before I had the first accident: I broke a glass and caused a long, thin cut in my hand which bled a bit but has healed nicely. At least it wasn’t a mirror; anticipating seven years bad luck on top of the disastrous 2017 might have caused me to swoon and thus made burying the shards underground, by moonlight, hard to do.

I don’t do resolutions, but I did, sort of, this year. I was planning to stop being obsessed with the news, to leave Brexit and Trump to get on with things and concentrate on more pleasant aspects. There aren’t any. Brexit is a catastrophe, getting more so by the week, because our government hasn’t the faintest idea how to go about saving our cake, never mind eating it too. And Trump? I thought if I can stop myself reading about him and he presses the nuclear button, at least I won’t know in advance that I am going to be annihilated. So far I haven’t had much luck, the stupidity and hatefulness of those lording it over us remains fascinating.

What a world we live in. Interesting times indeed.

How was your Christmas and New Year? Good? Glad to hear it. Contrary to expectations mine wasn’t too bad either. Friends rallied round and gave me meals, drinks and a cosy place by their fire. There were a few modest parties, some good conversations, good food, plenty of books, schlock TV
and candlelight. Christmas day was a delight. Dinner, decent wine, poetry and Paddington Bear, the same kind of Christmas Beloved and I used to have.

There was something else which was good. My son came some ten days before Christmas, just for an over-nighter with a sufficiency of hours on each of the two days either side for us to have a comfortable and unrushed visit. He comes to ‘do jobs’. This time I didn’t have much in the way of ‘jobs’, he fixed a sticking music cabinet drawer and maybe something else minor which I have forgotten. There was, however, a pile of Christmas cards ready for distribution and we walked around Valley’s End, my son holding Millie’s lead and me popping up lanes and into courtyards to push them into letterboxes, introducing him to villagers out on similar errands every few yards. The great thing about the visit was that we reconnected; I had ordered a Nordmann fir, the first Christmas tree for several years, which was still sitting outside, undressed and unloved. Together we brought it in and dressed it with all the old family baubles, some of them dating back to my childhood, with coloured lights and all the usual kind of kitsch decorations. We had a wonderful time, listening to ancient carols and plainchant, eating Stollen and spiced biscuits and having a turkey dinner by candlelight and incense sticks perfuming the air. We talked comfortably. I haven’t felt as close to him for many years.

Both of us felt good, both of us hoped that this might become our own, private, tradition. We might even use the same tree. I am going to ask gardener to pot it on into a bigger container in the spring and then it can come back in next year, a foot or so taller.

My darling Millie is getting old, thirteen next month, according to her inoculation record card. I had thought she was ‘only’ twelve. She is doddery on her hind legs and she had a cancer operation just before Christmas. The wound has healed well and the current cancer has been removed completely. Unfortunately it is one of those that recur. Dogs are wonderful, she never turned a hair. Surely it must’ve hurt? Just a bit? She went in in the morning and the vet said to come back for her before nightfall. At three they rang: could I come and collect her, she had woken from the anaesthetic and wanted to get out of her cage. “She would be better off recovering at home and not to worry if she didn’t want to eat.” The first thing she did when she came into the house was to stagger to her empty dish and beseech me with big brown eyes: “where’s my dinner, I haven’t had a single crumb since yesterday evening!” She is still happy and keen on her food, so maybe she has a while yet. It will be hard when I lose her too.

More ruminations to follow, so don’t bother commenting just yet. That is if there’s still somebody reading.






Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Our History In Photographs

“The single most important component of a camera is the twelve inches behind it.” – said Ansel Adams.
That’s were Beloved took up position.

He was an excellent photographer. He had kept photograph albums of his own work from the time before we were together, a round dozen of them, which I inherited. He took many more photographs in our thirty years together, those I am keeping for now. But the early ones I filleted, sorted the pictures according to subject and, where I recognised the person, passed them on. I have only two small piles of pictures left, mostly of former colleagues, musicians all, which I am going to send to the Royal Opera House for distribution. A rather larger pile is of landscapes, cityscapes, mountains, rivers, the ancient bricks and mortar of European towns, churches, cathedrals, castles, market squares, secret passages in backwater villages, balconies overflowing with geraniums in French and Italian cobbled streets. What to do with these? I have many more in the albums I am going to keep; while I am alive they shall help to remind me of holidays we took in our time together. But what about the others? What to do with them?

I am not as good a photographer as Beloved was, I shan’t feel obliged to keep my own photos when his are so much better. But I have ancient photographs from a time before I was born, pictures of figures in formal dress, people I can no longer place, if I ever could. From my parents I inherited a boxful of loose pictures as well as three albums, the last one of which is a chaos of unrelated images which, as a child, I glued in without order, with the subjects unnamed and long forgotten. There is no one left who could help me identify them. I’d love to know who the smartly dressed lady is, elegantly  and elaborately coiffeured, in a long, flowing skirt, a white frilled high necked blouse with sleeves puffed to the elbow and from there to the wrists tightly buttoned. She is standing upright next to a chair on which, standing stiffly to attention, is a small child in a dark dress with a white pinafore, white stockings and black, shiny shoes. A boy? A girl? I vaguely remember Mum saying : this is aunt somebody, but whose aunt, hers or her mother’s?

We take hundreds of photographs which we post on social media (or not) where they will be preserved for eternity. Or at least for as long as our current form of social media exists. Since I have uploaded my pictures on to a screen I no longer stick them into albums. I had a look the other day, it says there are 6.000 of them; I sincerely hope that most of them are doubles and trebles; I surely have not taken 6.000 images? What on earth for?

Since Beloved died I have hardly taken any, fewer than I can count on the fingers of one hand: one of the German Bundesadler (Federal Eagle) in the Consulate where I applied for my new passport, one of the instructions on the inside of the Aga door how to operate the cooker, (which didn’t come out readable), a couple of spring flower beds. No more.

Some time in 2016 I treated myself to a new camera, idiot-proof the salesman said; I must have given the impression of an accomplished photographer. I still haven’t learned how to use it to its full capacity, little effort on my part leading to little progress. There must be someone who will teach me. The University of the Third Age does a photography class but I think you need to know how to handle the mechanics at the very least.

Old photographs have something so sad about them, the subjects no longer exist, they have become mere ghosts of the past, our own past, or our families' past. Gathering dust at worst, stuck in forgotten old-fashioned albums at best, they slowly fade and with them fade our memories. Here are a few lines taken from Philip Larkin’s “Lines on a Young Lady’s Photograph Album”.

But o, photography! as no art is,
Faithful and disappointing! that records
Dull days as dull, and hold-it smiles as frauds,
. . . .

How overwhelmingly persuades
That this is a real girl in a real place,
In every sense empirically true!
. . . .

Or is it just the past? Those flowers, that gate,
These misty parks and motors, lacerate
Simply by being you; you
Contract my heart by looking out of date.





Saturday, 28 October 2017

Picking Up and Moving On . . .



. . . starting with a visit to the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of Marlowe’s play 'Dido Queen of Carthage’ which is based on Virgil’s Aeneid. It is a play of intense human passions.

SYNOPSIS
Fleeing a war-torn Troy, Aeneas is a refugee seeking new roots and a new identity in Europe. Queen Dido is ready to help him when meddling Gods intervene and turn help into an all-consuming love.

The goddess Venus complains that Jupiter has been neglecting her son Aeneas, who has been lost in a storm on his way to found a new Troy in Italy. Jupiter calms the storm, allowing Aeneas to land safely on the North African coast.

Aeneas meets with other surviving Trojans who have been receiving hospitality from Dido, Queen of Carthage. When Aeneas meets Dido, she agrees to supply his ships and he tells her about the fall of Troy.

In order to keep Aeneas safe Venus sends Cupid to make Dido fall in love with Aeneas to stop him resuming the dangerous mission to Italy. Venus and Juno come together to create a storm, forcing Dido and Aeneas into a cave together. There, they declare their feelings for each other and consummate their love.

Meanwhile, preparations are made for the Trojans to depart for Italy. Dido removes the sails from the ships so that they cannot go, although Aeneas denies intending to leave. Dido announces that he will be king of Carthage and they decide to found the new Troy there instead.

Hermes informs Aeneas that he has no choice but to leave as his destiny is in Italy. Aeneas reluctantly agrees and goes to tell Dido. She is horrified and burns everything that reminds her of him. Heartbroken, Dido takes fate into her own hands and kills herself while Aeneas’ s fleet, with him on board, sails for Italy.

I enjoyed the outing very much. No matter how convenient and stress-free live streaming to local cinemas is, a live performance, on stage, in Stratford-upon-Avon, is always a special occasion. There’s nothing like the buzz you get from the collective anticipation of a theatre filled to capacity.
My friends and I have already booked tickets for a series of plays starting from January. Additional excitement will be added to the trips by spotting that we were passing a branch of my favourite supermarket in a town on the way. We stopped on the way home and I indulged in some unnecessary and excessive food shopping, mostly treats and luxuries. OK, so I added a few vegetables to my cart for virtue.

There you are, something to look forward to.

Social life is picking up. I wonder if people round here are psychic? Or perhaps I am giving off more receptive vibes? For the past few weeks I have been very aware of the fact that my loneliness is always more intense at weekends. Beloved and I made something of them and sitting at the table in solitary state, no matter how tempting the food or palatable the wine, there’s none of the warmth of two people in perfect harmony sharing a meal. So I am glad to report that I have a Sunday luncheon invitation for tomorrow! I had an invitation to supper last night and last Sunday I had two invitations: one to drinks before lunch and one to lunch, at  two different houses. I will accept every invitation coming my way even those I might have turned down previously. On two occasions recently I met with people whom I liked very much, one of them a brand new acquaintance. Perhaps I’ll write about them presently.

It looks like life might be returning. In one of my prolonged bouts of sitting on the second from bottom step of the stairs in the hall after returning home from a walk with Millie I’ve been asking myself where I think my life might be going. Who am I, now that I am alone? I never did identify myself by my relationship with other people, i.e. wife/mother/grandmother. With Beloved gone there is now nobody who depends on me and, for the time being, I do not depend on anyone either. The latter will eventually change, of course, if I am unlucky. Decrepitude comes to us all in the end. Sans Eyes, sans Teeth, sans Taste, sans Everything, as Shakespeare has it. But not yet.

Finally, the relationship with my daughter has broken down again, for good I think. She won’t say why. Marlowe has a wonderful line spoken by Aeneas to his friend and fellow Trojan about his disappearing mother, Venus:

Stay gentle Venus fly not from thy son
too cruel! why wilt thou forsake me thus?
or in these shades deceiv’st mine eyes so oft?
why talk we not together hand in hand,
and tell our griefs in more familiar terms?
But thou art gone and leav’st me here alone,
to dull the air with my discursive moan.

Strikes me it works the other way round too. Or for anyone left by someone they love. Whichever way, in life or in death.

If I come up with an answer as to how I see my remaining years go I’ll let you know. Does anyone out there ask themselves a similar question?




Monday, 16 October 2017

Back to . . . .

. . . . . . a bit of this and a bit of that.

Still spending hours reading rather than writing or doing anything else creative. Still obsessed with the news, both here and across the world. How very foolish of me to search for items on Brexit, the humanitarian catastrophes currently unfolding in the Yemen and Somalia and Myanmar’s Buddhists' genocide of the Rohingya people in Asia. Who knew Buddhists are no less cruel than adherents of any other faiths can be, given half a chance and a great enough measure of hatred of ‘the other’? And then there’s the good old USofA and that magnificent example of how a democracy works.

So why do I feel this obsession? You tell me, I have no idea. As if life weren’t miserable enough already.

Book reading is different though, I am sticking with delightfully lightweight fare. I have just finished a tale by Amor Towles, a writer new to the bookshelves. 'A Gentleman in Moscow’ covers 32 years in the life of a Russian aristocrat who has been sentenced to house arrest in a small attic in a luxury hotel in Moscow. Should he risk leaving the hotel he’d be shot. In spite of these 32 years coinciding with the most harrowing period in Russia’s recent history the story is uplifting: how to make the most of a bum deal. I enjoyed it greatly. Grand literature in the Russian classic tradition it is not but tragedy is not what I’m after.

For much of the week I am ok but weekends are hard. There’s the poetry group, the German Conversation group, there’s a bit of shopping, a chat with a friendly soul while out with Millie, tradespeople and repairmen, hedge cutters, old gardener and Kelly the cleaner, the pleasure of a meal at the pub when family old and new come for a visit, or with other pensioners for the ‘seniors’ deal’. Only Kelly and old gardener come regularly once a week and I now spend quite a bit of time chatting with them rather than letting them get on with their jobs.

I remember the time after my Dad’s death when my own Mum must have been very lonely.  She used to ring me at least once a week, usually on Sunday morning. I remember feeling impatient with her, she’d ramble on and on about nothing much. Often she’d say “If only you had stayed in Germany”. Poor Mum. Even though I flew across and stayed with her every few months, particularly during her last couple of years - leaving Beloved, my relatively new husband,  alone - she had few friends and was unable to adjust to life on her own. Poor Mum indeed. I hope I will do better.

For quite some time I have been fretting over renewing my passport. I am still a German national and will forever be one. Now, after Brexit, I am even less inclined to apply for British citizenship. On the whole, people reassure me that after all these years living here, working here, paying my taxes and having British husbands throughout (one at a time) I will not be summarily deported. But if I were I’d simply sell up and move back to Germany, although I’d prefer not to. My life has been here for so long now I’d probably find settling in Germany difficult. So, I needed to renew my passport which cannot be done by post. After Beloved’s death and completion of the necessary paperwork following on, I finally had the space and time to go to Cardiff (or Liverpool) and apply with the Honorary German Consul in either of these cities. A train journey would get me there. That is until my leg and hip turned on me. I was in perfect agony for more than two weeks and the thought of travelling by train became a nightmare. In stepped my son. “Mum, I have a few days off in October, would you like me to come over and do whatever needs doing?”  Would I? Would I? He took me to Cardiff by car and we even had enough time to spend hours in my favourite department store where we had lunch, afternoon tea and a leisurely stroll around the ladies’ clothing floor. I came away with a very smart and rather expensive jumper. It’s so long since I bought myself anything at all in the clothing line that buying this jumper (sweater?) felt like a real treat. I  really am most grateful for my son’s kind deed. And what’s more, I should have a passport within six weeks, one of those European Union passports with fingerprints and eye recognition. As soon as I have sorted myself out I shall probably do some travelling again.

I have had no further news from my daughter other than a pleasant note in reply to my email, but I am still hopeful; she’s been on holiday and may be short of time. It would be nice to be on good terms with both my children. However, as I said in the previous post, I will expect nothing and appreciate everything.

As I sit here writing, Ophelia is roaring around the house. It’s a storm now, not a hurricane, but it is quite frightening enough. My main concern is about the beech tree holding on to it’s roots. Millie and I ventured out this afternoon but not for long and no further than the field. And keeping well away from trees. The forecast is for gusts of 80 - 90 mph to continue into the night. As I am (I didn’t say WE, there’s progress!) quite a way inland from the West Wales coast perhaps the strength of the wind will be less by and by. Should I go to bed or stay up? What do people in the hurricane prone regions do? I still have electricity.

I have enjoyed writing this post; I know it’s pretty anodyne and waffly, but yes, I enjoyed it. Perhaps blogging will become a pleasure again.



Sunday, 24 September 2017

Afterwards - 4th and final part

I am settling into my new life, strange though that is. I rarely cry. I am often very sad, lonely and still lost, but the raw emotion is lessening. I don’t suppose I will ever stop missing Beloved. I still speak to him, still ask what he was thinking of when he decided to leave.  Old and lonely people supposedly speak to themselves; yes, I can confirm that. I pretend it’s Millie I’m talking to but really it’s me. My conversations with myself are by no means interesting, for the most part they are questions like ‘now where did I put that key,’ or 'what did I come in here for’. So far I haven’t fallen prey to doing that in public, like a mad old woman mumbling to herself, the kind that carries a huge, shabby bag around with her. Today there was a charity concert in the Church towards the installation of loos in the annexe which included the sale of raffle tickets as well as the modest entrance fee. I paid for entrance, bought my raffle ticket and promptly forgot where I’d put it. When the raffle was held at the 'tea and cakes included’  bit in the Church hall afterwards I frantically rummaged through every single pocket asking out loud where the ticket could have disappeared to in the space of a mere hour.  My table neighbours, being understanding and forgiving, simply found that funny.

I noticed that it was dark outside at 8 pm. I dread the coming winter evenings. I’ve never felt happy during the dark months, I fear that I shall feel even more unhappy on my own this winter. Books and TV are a great help but I must try and connect more with other people. If only I were a joiner. Valley’s End has endless societies, clubs and organisations, very few of them appeal to me. I suppose I could join the more interesting ones, the wildlife and local history groups? Rejoin the gardening club? And write about them and their members? If I could get back into my slightly acid mode of writing? Would that help?

It’s very difficult to change direction midstream. It is also very difficult to change attitude. One evening not long ago I had a special supper, opened a bottle of wine, and put my feet up in front of the TV. There was a programme on I had been looking forward to all day. I sat in Beloved’s very comfortable chair, leaned back and felt strangely happy. Here was an evening which was all mine, to do with as I pleased. All evenings have been free like that for months now, why should I feel particularly happy on this particular evening? Then it came to me. I was unencumbered, not answerable to anyone, with the house exactly as I wanted it.

On two separate occasions recently I had had family staying. My son had come to help out, drive me places, assist with various tasks around the house, none very arduous but necessary. He had brought his wife along. Those two tend to spread themselves and their belongings, leaving things out overnight and carrying on the next day where they left off the evening before. Their conversation is very limited. They are Seventh-day Adventists whose world revolves around their Church, almost to the exclusion of all else.

None of that is blame-worthy. True, I don’t share their beliefs, but we all have our own way of getting through life.

I have mentioned here before that my daughter and I have been estranged for many years. We exchange birthday and Christmas cards which has been the sum total of our contact. I felt I needed to send her an email asking whether she wanted to be involved in what is called my ‘end of life’ arrangements. I also wanted to ask her the Big Question, would she be willing to help me to achieve a dignified end if the need arose. One can ask these questions and make these arrangements when there is no immediate need, when one is fit mentally and physically. I am now on my own, without any close confidante or family, no friends I would wish to burden with undue responsibilities.

I had assumed that my daughter would reply yes or no, and that further contact would continue by email. But no, she wrote to say that she would come and we could discuss things in person. I was very pleased if a little apprehensive.

In the event the visit went reasonably well;  my daughter spent a lot of time recalling the many hurts she had received during her childhood as well as her marriage to her previous husband. I hope it helped, it is always good to clear the air and dispose of burdens and grievances one has carried around for years. I hope that future contact will gradually improve; we have actually exchanged very friendly and chatty emails.

But, and here I get back to my strangely happy evening: neither visit had been emotionally uplifting for me. There had been some stress involved, even if only because of my slight OCD tendency on the one hand and apprehension about possible points of friction on the other. Perhaps I was asking too much, perhaps I was wishing for genuine warmth, less of the dutiful attitude, more of the “you’re not such a bad old stick, we like doing things for you now that we’re the do-ers and you’re the being done-to”.

Howsoever that may be, I realise that my attitude all-round will have to change, from grumpiness at not getting what I had hoped for to expecting nothing, accepting gracefully what is given and otherwise enjoying my freedom, my independence and the years ahead.

Wise words, here’s hoping I will turn them into deeds. And that there will be more of those strangely happy evenings.