Tag: family

Signs from…somewhere?

It’s been a month today since my Dad died. Those words…they hurt. Some days I can say them quite matter of factly. Others, not so much.

On the day he died I couldn’t see as far as the end of the week, let alone further forward. A month seemed a lifetime away. But here we are. We’re surviving. Adapting. Doing him proud.

I wanted to share with you a whole host of things that have happened in the wake of Dad’s passing. Weird things. Stuff that, on it’s own, might seem just a coincidence. But, together, it seems much more. I’m not at all religious, I don’t believe in heaven (it would, after all, be so over populated by now!) and I’ve never truly believed that anything really happens after death, although I do struggle with the idea that someone can live a life full of laughter, memories and experiences and then it just ends and becomes nothing. Maybe that’s because I don’t want my own life’s work just to be snuffed out when the time comes, and I don’t want to think that my Dad’s character and zest for life just completely disappeared as he took his last breath.

I wouldn’t say that the things I’m going to tell you about have changed my views. But they’ve certainly made me think slightly differently.

signs-from-somewhere

As you know if you’ve read this blog for a while, my Dad had cancer, diagnosed in May 2014. It was already inoperable by the time it was detected and we’d been told the end was not far away back in August this year. He was starting to deteriorate quite rapidly and was due to go into a Macmillan hospice on the day he died. Early that morning he had a massive stroke and was rushed to hospital. I received a call telling me I needed to get there urgently.

Dad struggled on during that day, much longer than we all expected, right into the night time, sleeping or dosed up on morphine. All the family were there, in a private room with a big window. During the afternoon we heard a dull thud at the window and saw a tiny pretty bird bounce off the glass and land on the flat roof below. Rather than fly away he just sat there, looking at the window. He was like nothing we’d ever seen, certainly not a common bird, with red and orange markings on his head. He sat there for quite a while, before flying at the window again. The next day my Dad’s sister sent us a message saying she’d identified the bird – it was a zebra finch, known as the bird that sings while it sleeps. Weirdly, my Dad’s wife realised she had them as pets when she was a little girl.

When my Nan received a call to get to the hospital, that same morning, she noticed a white feather on the wedding photo she has of my Dad and his wife. When she got in the car to drive over, there was a white feather on the windscreen of the car. The morning after my Dad died, when someone came to visit, we found a white feather on the floor in the lounge. Most of the family have had feathers just appear to them, including three that fell in the garden and caught Dad’s wife’s eye while she was in the lounge with Dad’s Mom and his sister (one feather each), and one that was perfectly placed in her bed when she pulled back the covers one night. Even my Mom, who divorced my Dad many years ago but spent time with him a few weeks before he died, had a white feather appear on her lounge floor when she got back from holiday.

After Dad died, when we left him at the hospital, we went back to his house in the early hours of the morning. His wife originally said she wasn’t going to let anyone know immediately, then changed her mind and sent some texts to friends. A guy my Dad worked with about 20 years ago, who is now a hospital porter, text back immediately to say that he’d been called to take my Dad from the ward to the mortuary, and that he’d looked after him professionally and personally. Of all the people and wards in the hospital, the chances of that are pretty slim. It was a great comfort to us.

On the day we went to register Dad’s death, the registrar turned out to be a lady that Dad’s wife used to work with, who she hadn’t seen in years and didn’t know her whereabouts. The first thing she said was “I remember you, you married (my Dad). Who’s death are you registering?” Her face fell when we told her.

As Dad got more and more poorly, he asked me if I would like one his watches to keep. I kept putting it off, not wanting to face the inevitable, thinking there was plenty of time to have it. A few days before he died he told me to fetch the watch and insisted I have it there and then, which I did. I wore it on the day he died, and for the next few days after that, before noticing it had stopped, at some point, at 10.55. Dad died at 10.40. Maybe just a coincidence, albeit a close one. Then we realised that on my Dad’s wife’s watch it was 10.55 when he died. She’d noticed earlier in the day that her watch was fast, and not altered it.

(to add more significance to the watch story, my Dad had his own Dad’s watch in a draw for many years after he – my Grandad – died, and decided to wear it on his wedding day. It hadn’t been looked at or touched for years, so he took it out in advance of the wedding in order to replace the battery. The watch had stopped at the time he was due to get married, and on the same day (5th). He took that as a sign and didn’t replace the battery, wearing it as it was).

On the day of the funeral, a multitude of things happened.

I wore the watch my Dad had given me, that had stopped. I hadn’t worn it for over a week, and noticed it had crept forward a few minutes, in spite of me not replacing the battery.

Not long after we left home, I was saying hat I thought there would be a lot of donations from people at the funeral (we requested donations instead of flowers). One of the charities we chose to support is the Retiired Greyhound Trust. My Dad won a lot of money on greyhound racing over the years and owned lots of different racing dogs. As I said it, we saw a man walking a greyhound down the road. The husband had never seen a greyhound being walked as a pet before.

We went to my Mom’s house first, and I told her the strange coincidences that had already happened. I was talking about white feathers and how it seemed I was the only person in the family not to have received one. I realised I’d forgotten to put earrings in, so my Mom suggested I see if my little sister had some. As I opened the jewellery box, there was one odd earring – a dangly white feather. A coincidence, or a sign? Either way, it made me cry!

Finally, as I mentioned, my Dad was very into greyhound racing. A lot of his friends from the track were at the funeral, and at the wake in the pub afterwards. They all sat together and had the local race track streaming on their phones, betting and enjoying themselves as my Dad would have wanted (and as he’d have done if he’d been there!) Late afternoon they called me over and said there was a race coming up where they had a good tip, on a dog called “Bonny Lass”. Quite a few of them were betting it, so a few of my family got involved, as did I, betting £25. The form was that if the dog came out of the trap well, it would win. It didn’t, it came out poorly. A couple of the guys actually said “it’s got no chance”. But that dog came from behind, bearing in mind the race was about 30 seconds long, and it weaved through it’s race companions and it only bloody won! Photo finish, but it won! I won £100, the husband won £100, family members and friends won, it was amazing! Not only that, at the end of the race a beautiful full rainbow appeared over the racetrack, and also outside the pub we were in. It was like my Dad sending us all a win, and a big smile to let us know what he’d done.

Am I bonkers for thinking these things mean anything? Maybe! If they were happening to anyone else, would I think they were significant? Perhaps, perhaps not. And I don’t think any of these things mean my Dad exists in a parallel universe or is in heaven or anything like that. But it’s nice to think that somehow, some way, it’s a continuation of the energy he exuded in life letting us know that he’ll always be with us, even though he can’t be.

I miss him so much.

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

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If cancer had a voice…

…it would sound like Vincent Price in the Michael Jackson Thriller song. Creepy and eerie and taunting.

If cancer had a face it would be twisted and ugly and distorted.

If cancer had a conscience it wouldn’t take over innocent people’s bodies and minds. It wouldn’t cause pain and fear.

Cancer

(image from Medical News Today)

But it doesn’t. Instead it’s stealth like in it’s progression; silently attacking, spreading, taking over.

Last time I posted about my Dad’s illness I was full of admiration for how he’d continued to live a full life; travelling and socialising and eating out.

Since then his condition has deteriorated fairly rapidly. And now we’re faced with the finality of his last few weeks, as confirmed by a palliative care consultant.

Now talk of hospice admission, sticks for support and a wheelchair is our horrifying reality. Life changing days ahead where things will never be the same again.

I’m full of sadness. Fear. Hatred. Upset. Anger. So many destructive emotions as we try to come to terms with a life without him in it. We’ve known the time would come. It’s played on our minds, silently taunting, for over 2 years now. But all of a sudden it’s really real. There in front of you. Palpable loss. It hurts so much.

Hold your family tight, people. Spend fun filled days and joyous evenings together. Hug each other. Don’t keep secrets. Say things that need to be said. Show you care.

You don’t know how long you have left.

Thanks, as always, for reading.x

 

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My first…best friend

This month is my Dad’s sister’s birthday. My Dad’s sister, as in my auntie. Unusually, she’s only two years older than me. We spent a lot of time together growing up, so she was my first best friend.

My Mom and Dad were young when I was born, only very early 20s, and my Nan and Grandad on both sides were always around to help them out. Because of the closeness in age between me and my auntie, I used to stay over lots. We played with the same toys, had the same Christmas presents and even dressed the same! My Nan used to knit us matching cardigans and my Mom would make us matching skirts. We looked like sisters, sometimes even like twins!

Me and my auntie

I’m on the right – spot the matching nurse outfits!

When we were little she used to take advantage of her status sometimes, by making me call her Auntie if she was being bossy. We used to argue, as close family does. We were laughing only last week about the time she punched me on the nose and gave me a nosebleed! I would stay at her house for days and weeks on end during the school holidays. We used to go out on our bikes and make dens in the garden using deckchairs and my Nan’s old net curtains. We’d put on dancing and singing shows for my Nan and Grandad on Saturday nights. My first holiday was with her, in Ibiza when I was 6 (read about it here).

When I was 8 and she was 10, my Grandad died. He was only in his 50s and had a massive heart attack. She was sleeping over at my house that night. It changed her life forever.

Losing a parent so young, so unfairly, could have made her into a bitter person. She could have gone off the rails. But she didn’t. She was a tower of strength to my Nan who, understandably, lost the plot at being widowed so suddenly. She was very quickly thrown into being an adult, helping around the house and being a support network. She never complained, even though I know life was really difficult for her.

As we got older our lives took different directions. I became something of a party girl while she settled down with her now husband. She has two amazing kids, an enviable outlook on life and positivity for days. She’s so incredibly helpful, going above and beyond to organise Christmas parties for the kids of her work colleagues and family get togethers. She’s strong willed and strong natured whilst being laid back and fun. She amazes me in her approach to life, her stoicism, her parenting and generally being a great human being

I don’t actually call her Auntie these days! But I’m proud that she is.

Love you Manda. x

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

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My weekend in pictures

Hey, how was everyone’s weekend? I had quite a busy one, with two Mother’s Day celebrations, and a night out for a friend’s birthday. As a result I’m rather jaded and tired today – roll on hometime!

On Saturday afternoon we went to a pub about half an hour drive from us, called the Warwickshire Lad, with my Mother in Law for lunch. She’s not big on Mother’s Day, and doesn’t like doing anything on the day itself, so Saturday afternoon was ideal. It seemed a few people had the same idea.

The pub is both traditional and contemporary inside; lots of wooden beams and a big original fireplace mix well with sunny windows and big mirrors for a really spacious and bright feel. The menu is a mix of good solid pub grub and gastropub specials.

I went for honey glazed duck breast with rum and blackcherry sauce and new potatoes. The duck was cooked perfectly, not too pink, a bit of crispiness to the skin and succulent and juicy meat. The sauce was subtle; no over riding flavour of either rum or cherry, but it was sweet and not too thick.

Duck with rum and blackcherry sauce

The husband went for Fillet Steak Boston,. which he was incredibly excited about (steak, scallops and whisky sauce; all box tickers for him) but unfortunately it didn’t quite deliver – the steak was medium to well done, rather than medium as requested, and the sauce lacked flavour. A bit disappointing for a £20 main course.

What wasn’t disappointing was my new most bargainous dress – just £6 from the New Look sale! It has bell sleeves, which I love, and a pleasingly swishy skirt. I matched it with tan suede boots and a tan fringed bag.

Looking forward to the weather being warmer and being able to bust this out with bare legs and sandals.

On Saturday night we went to a rock bar in town. I debuted my new Collection Lasting Colour lipstick, which actually isn’t new at all – I bought it months and months ago after seeing it on Holly’s blog (Closing Winter) but haven’t got round to wearing it.

Collection Aubergine Kiss lipstick

Aubergine Kiss lipstick

It’s called Aubergine Kiss and is much darker in real life – a deep black cherry which is very vampy and gothic.

I also wore my new tassel jacket, which is frickin’ awesome, and received many compliments (as well as a description of a gothic Big Bird from Sesame Street!). It was, believe it or not, from Tesco, and reduced to just £20.

F&F tassel jacket

There’s no way I couldn’t keep it. It’s actually the same fabric as my feathery skirt from H&M, but don’t worry, I won’t be wearing them together!

Sunday morning loomed too quickly and I was feeling somewhat delicate, but had to pull myself together to celebrate Mothers Day with my own Mom. She and my sister came over, I cooked baked lamb and potatoes (so much yum) and we drank lots of wine, took lots of selfies and laughed a lot.

A most enjoyable Sunday afternoon and evening.

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

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My first…

I thought I’d start something a little different, with it being the first of the month, and share my first “something” and then perhaps you can share something back and we can all have a good old laugh, or cry, or reminisce or whatever and it will all be grand.

Failing that, I will share my first “something” and you can read it or not read it!

So, for the first in the series…

My first…holiday abroad!

Bucket and spade

I’m firmly in holiday mode now, having planned and booked two trips. I love holidays. I’m always thinking where to go next, looking for good deals, searching city breaks and checking out hotels. There’s nothing I’d rather spend my money on than travelling (although obviously shoes, clothes and food feature heavily in my life too!)

I first went abroad when I was 6 years old. In fact, I first went abroad before my parents! My Nan and Grandad on my Dad’s side always went overseas on holiday, and they asked my Mom & Dad if they could take me. My parents were pretty young when they had me, and money was quite tight for them so they wouldn’t have been able to afford to go themselves. Which makes me feel pretty sad and special and very humbled that they paid for me when they didn’t have much money themselves. That’s love.

My auntie (my Dad’s sister) is just over 2 years older than me, so we grew up together and spent a lot of time together. Going on that holiday to Ibiza, with my Nan and Grandad and young auntie, was such fun. There was (and still is) something different about being on holiday abroad. An attitude, a feeling, a laid back nature that I’ve never known in the UK. Maybe it’s because you know the sun will be shining every day. Or because hotels on the continent are so much more laid back with things like meal times and dress codes, compared to the prim and proper UK B&Bs where breakfast was served between 8.30 and 9 and you were expected to wear long trousers for dinner. I remember the freedom of running around on the beach, playing in the white Balearic sand and paddling in the warm as bath water Mediterranean sea. Staying up until it was way past my bedtime and speaking to strangers who my Nan and Grandad had made friends with. Looking at all the ceramic pots in the market and picking a vase to bring home for my Mom. Being mistaken for twins with my auntie because we were dressed the same and looked so similar. The blue and white bathing suit with the multi colour palm tree that said “Tropicana” on the front. Peeling sunburnt skin off my auntie’s back and her doing the same to me. Eating continental breakfast and trying apricot jam for the first time. The smell of the heat and the warm balmy nights. Fishing with bread like the local fishermen. Seeing a man catch a squid and watching the ink run along the promenade. Being out on a pedalo.

I’m forever thankful to my parents for sacrificing their own enjoyment so that I could have such an experience at such a young age, and for instilling a love of holidays and travel in me that grows stronger with every year that passes.

Share your first holiday memories with me!

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

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5 things about 2015

Firstly, Happy New Year! Hope you had a good one welcoming it in whatever way you chose.

I meant to post this yesterday but got distracted by procrastinating doing…er…nothing…so although it’s now 2016 and technically I should be looking forward and not backwards, well, tough!

Goodbye 2015

So I woke up yesterday morning wondering how come I was in bed (I got very very drunk on New Years Eve Eve) and whether I was in trouble with the husband for being a pissed up handful (I wasn’t) and between the drunken confusion and not being able to sleep because my tongue was stuck to the roof of my mouth, I spent a few minutes thinking back about the year and the things that defined it.

So, here they are!

  1. Family. I’m very lucky to be very close to both of my parents. They divorced when I was 21 and I’ve been through bad times with both of them, but we came through the other side. They’re always there for me and, because I’m an only child, they have no-one to compare me to so they think I’m great (kinda kidding here). And, you know, family is so important. My mother-in-law is an amazing woman and I know that when we’re in her company we’ll always have fun. My extended family are fun and close knit and there are times in the past when I haven’t made the most of them. Time is limited and precious and I don’t want to regret not making the most of my folks so in 2015 I consciously spent more time with them, and will continue to do so this year.
  2. My job. I’ll never be defined by my career because I’m strictly of the mindset “work to live” and always have been. But this year I got made redundant (which is cool because I was semi-looking around anyway) and I now work for a company that makes a difference to people’s lives. The ethos is very different to my previous role and I never want to go back to that corporate money making bullshit I was in before; where lies and bad morals are acceptable just to make a buck for the fat cat owners. Plus I get that warm fuzzy feeling hearing first hand from people who’s lives are literally changed. It’s good.
  3. This blog. I started this blog on the day I got made redundant; a knee jerk reaction to change and the thought that I might have a lot of time on my hands! And it’s been great! I wanted to start a blog for a really long time and never got round to it, and I wish I’d done it years ago. I love the writing process, I love the interaction with other people, I love having an outlet that’s mine. Long may it continue.
  4. My hair! Screw the deep and meaningful stuff, my hair has been a pain in the ass for the past year. Totes my own fault for cutting it off, but I needed to do it and scratch an itch and have now learnt my lesson. It’s long all the way from now on! (well, when it finally gets there).
  5. Not seeing friends. Back to the serious stuff. The husband and I totally overcommitted last year, in between holidays, and festivals and weekends away, and other plans. Great as it sounds, we didn’t nurture the core stuff. Friends we haven’t seen enough of. Birthdays missed. Presents not exchanged. Spending 3 weekends in a row in different hotels in different parts of the country because of gigs and weddings and trips. Something to change this year.

So, a retrospective, an introspective, and a goodbye to last year.

How was yours?

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

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Christmas considerations

I grew up loving Christmas. Long past when it was cool to do so; long past when most teenagers lost interest. It’s always been such a special and exciting time for me, and my parents always made it fabulous.

When I was 21 my parents divorced, and our family dynamic changed. My Mom’s new partner had two young children, which was just magical for me as a Christmas lover. Seeing their little faces as we lavished them with presents, having a genuine reason to play with lego and dolls again in my mid-20s, the joy of buying toys and clothes for little people; I loved it.

Now we’re entering into another Christmas experience – the kids have grown up and don’t play with toys anymore (wah!)

And these days I find the lead up to Christmas very stressful and, dare I say it, less enjoyable than I used to.

Christmas 2015

Sadly, and completely playing into the hands of all those people who complain about the commercialism of the season, the main reason for this is gift buying. It hurts my brain. And, in a way, it’s my own fault. We’ve always bought multiple gifts for family members, meaning that a bottle of aftershave or a new shirt just isn’t enough. That’s not from the gift recipient point of view. It’s from mine. I have it in my head that there must be oodles of presents to open, therefore increasing the stress on myself!

The trouble is that these days things are so accessible that people tend to buy themselves stuff throughout the year as and when they want something. If we’re lucky enough to be in the position of having disposable income, there’s no need to wait for those shoes/bag/earrings.

Plus, the older people get, the more stuff they already have.

And don’t get me started on gifts for men!

It hurts me that I now look upon the festive season with a sense of apprehension and fear, when I should be concentrating on the fun things like seeing friends, eating, drinking and being merry. We’ve been watching Christmas films for the last couple of weeks but they only serve to remind me that the big day is getting closer and I have little idea of what to buy my family. The German market opened in Birmingham city centre last week and the very thought of it even being there gives me a headache.

On that note I’m off to breathe deeply into a paper bag while making a list of things people don’t even need…

P.S – if anyone has any cool/unusual/inspiring gift ideas, do let me know!

Oh, and while I’m on a Christmas rant, what’s with the mild weather? It’s not even cold enough for a winter coat, let alone for Santa. We need some festive temperatures so I can drink mulled wine without sweating. Because nothing says Christmas less than stripping off layers of clothes and fanning your face with a festive flyer.

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

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