Thoughts on a funeral

Yesterday I attended a funeral which was heartening in its beautiful memories of a kind, generous and clever man who had put his family and education of others at the centre of his life.  It was a life well lived by a man who was interested in other people and everything around him.  A life with travel and exciting work but balanced by very strong roots in the Welsh town in which he was born and ended his days.  A hugely successful professional life lived to its fullest.

And, maybe more importantly, a gorgeous family. I know his son better than I knew him, and his son is an amazing legacy of a man who spent years driving his children around South Wales to various activities and all the while encouraging and supporting them to try whatever they wanted to, persuading them to give their all to whatever endeavour they had chosen.  His son is kind, generous and interested in everything, a chip off the old block.  His wife speaks of losing her rock, her best friend, but has the determination to enter this new chapter of her life with the knowledge he would want her to find contentment and to continue being active.  The two grandsons I know well are confident, clever, curious lads who made their grandfather proud and who were dignified and mature throughout yesterday’s ceremonies.  The measure of the man is in those he has left behind.

Yesterday I learned so much about him and it was uplifting to know that marvellous people live and influence and leave behind so many great memories amongst those they worked and lived with.  Funerals are not always the most popular ceremonies (unlike weddings and baptisms?) and there is a sense of duty of attending them, but in the main I have always found them uplifting occasions.  Even in sadness, there is a comfort in coming together and sharing our sadness together.  Even in loss there is a strength to be found in sharing our memories and allowing a person to live on in those memories.

All of this is written from the perspective of someone on the periphery of the funeral yesterday.  I know that these are very hard times for those who are dealing with a huge loss and great sadness and my prayers are with them this morning, and I hope that they can glean comfort from yesterday.

Parenting moves on

I’ve written about this before, but parenting is changing more and more around here.  Possibly just in my head though.  One of the offspring moved out of his teens last weekend and milestones like that make you stop and reflect a bit.

It is an odd time of letting go at this stage of parenting, which I am very happy to do.  The weekend was great fun:  he came home and we had all the usual family celebrations of decorating the house with banners, a takeaway meal, opening presents together and a family lunch and board games.  Nothing flashy, just the usual traditions.

And then he went back to his own home.  We took down all the birthday decorations on his actual birthday, when traditionally they have stayed up for about a week.  It did feel a bit strange, but to be honest, it felt fine, just unusual.  I had a moment concerned that we were just eliminating him from our weekend as soon as he had left. Only a moment though.

I am proud and thrilled that he wanted to come and celebrate with us at all and that he wanted all the traditions which we have created over the years.  I am equally thrilled that he then wanted to go home and take his birthday with him, because it was his celebration, not mine. It is an odd time of loving two opposites, him being here and him being away, putting up the decorations and taking them down again.  I’m curious to know how this parenting thing continues to develop.

Ending a project well

As I get older it becomes more apparent that there are rarely moments of true success.  Success comes in small incremental moments, which often pass by uncelebrated.  I do try to write down small successes at the very least, but I mostly do not remember to do so.  This week I hit the deadline I wrote about last week.  I have no idea of the project is a success, but I have finished everything I can do to make it succeed and it was hard work.

My family took me out to dinner to celebrate the deadline being met and all the hard work I have put in.  Not celebrating the success of my piece of work – it may still fail, it is dependent on others now, not me.  In the same way as an exam result depends on the grade boundaries as much as the effort you put in, or a job interview depends on who else is being interviewed and what the employer wants, as much as my performance.  All of these things require lots of preparation, effort and a good amount of stress.  Yet we often only celebrate if all the other elements come together and we have a visible sign of success – a new job, the top grade etc.

My lovely family decided not to wait for the others to decide on my success and instead took me out for fizz and pizza to mark the end of a stressful time and welcome me back into a calmer phase of life.  I am so grateful they organised it and held me to it.  Left to my own devices I would have slunk to a sofa and an evening of non-stop TV.  But their kindness and cleverness truly did mark an end to the stress and yesterday felt like a new start and I felt fresher and more enthusiastic than I would have thought possible at the end of Tuesday.  I am giving lots of gold stars and loads of gratitude to the family team for pizza and fizz and a great evening out.

Mornings are changing

Since September 2014 my morning routine has been shaped by school timetables and the need to support the offspring to be somewhere at a certain time.  Over the past few years, the mornings have been marked by a family walk at a specific time as we shared some of the morning dog walk/run route with the teens walking to their bus.  It has been the perfect shape for my morning; plenty of time for coffee, writing blogs, preparing for work, then a specific time to get outside for exercise.  

I am good at planning, I am very aware of what is working well for me and what I would like to achieve in my mornings.  Nevertheless, it feels a bit difficult this morning.  That’s it, no more school in the family.  Work will start in September, but that is 11 weeks away and I cannot even begin to guess what that routine will look like, so I am focussing on this chapter.

So far it feels a bit the same as usual I have to say.  Except there is no teenager to drag out of bed – those with a knowledge of teens will know their sleep is heavy and it can take a while to rouse them and check they did get out of bed.  So that is an extra 5 minutes of morning gained so far.  

I am determined to keep to the usual time of blog writing, but the moment it’s over, I have to face the lack of routine, so I am extending it by fetching another coffee, following an email link down a rabbit hole.  I have discovered the husband tidying up the “Tupperware” cupboard – that is obviously what has filled the lunch-making void for him. 

I am suspecting a joint reluctance to make ourselves go out for a run.  The family walk made us leave the house, now we need to make ourselves. And we need to relish this new chapter with all its opportunities and its space to be filled with new ventures.

So I’m done – time to shape those new venture.

Refinding theatre

I enjoy going to the theatre.  I love the whole magic of a story coming to life in front of a live audience.  I find the relationship between actors on a stage and me as an observer tantalising.  I marvel at the craft of voice and movement coming together.  The way a group of people use a physical set fascinates me.  I am intrigued by the lighting and the music and the sound and props. Everything about theatre I love. There are few shows that I don’t enjoy. I may not enjoy everything about it, but I can just about always find something to fascinate and intrigue.

So why have I not been to the theatre much recently?  Strangely it has been a reaction to the offspring growing up.  I had a project going to lots of Shakespeare plays at the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford with the eldest offspring (it was supposed to be both, but the youngest rebelled very quickly).  When I say lots of Shakespeare plays, I mean them all – the RSC committed to putting them all on over the years.

We were doing well, missed a couple due to life circumstances, but had seen pretty much everything so far.  Then the eldest was due to leave home.  And something clicked in my brain.  My excitement at booking a whole season as soon as it was released disappeared.  I could not make myself book the winter season in advance, and then not even during the season.  The mailings and emails about the summer season were ignored. 

Friends have told me I have missed some good productions, but somehow the mojo has gone.  But last night reignited that a bit with a good production of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin at The Rep in Birmingham.  Theatre takes me out of myself, makes me look at a bigger picture, allows my brain to process life.   It also gives me a tiny teeny little window into what some women suffer from hugely – empty nest syndrome.  This is literally the only symptom of it I have experienced. 

So I am going to embrace this other, slightly random, lesson that theatre teaches and start booking some RSC tickets for when the offspring is home this summer. And get myself to The Rep more often – what a superb theatre that is.

It’s what we’ll remember…

Rewinding to the weekend before illness struck – we belatedly celebrated a teen’s birthday.  We moved the celebration to the Bank Holiday weekend due to exams falling on and the day after the birthday itself.  

We decided to go on a mini-road trip to the beach.  The coastline of the UK is one of my favourite things about this country.  Yet I choose to live about as far from it as I possibly can. No, I don’t quite understand that either, but nevertheless I love Birmingham.  And we proved we can have a day on the beach whenever we want.  

As we were travelling in convoy as a group aged from pre-teens to their 70s and two dogs, we decided to make life relatively easy and headed to Weston-super-Mare, as most of Birmingham does on these occasions

The journeys were smooth and involved various stops for various types of refreshment. Walkie talkies were used in the cars to keep up a fairly sustained level of family banter and earphones were used by those who did not join in.  The dogs were just content to be with their beloved humans and heading somewhere.  I love their trust of just being in the moment – they know they will be well and cared for, but have no idea what they will be doing.

The day had been planned with a longish dog walk on a nearby dog-friendly beach to start, followed by brunch in the dog-friendly café and then heading into Weston itself, which has reduced access for dogs on its beach.

We arrived at the dog-friendly beach in rain.  Not too heavy, so we set off anyway.  We totally didn’t see the signs warning about mud, so one person’s shoes got very muddy. About half way up the beach the rain changed from light to that horizontal yet fine rain that you get at the sea which soaks you, but you sort of don’t notice you are soaked until you realise that moving your body is much harder with the extra water logging effect.  So, we decided to head to the café.  Which was not yet open. So, we walked a bit more and then headed to the café which was adorned with a large notice saying no dogs allowed.  So much for the plans.

Back in the cars soaking wet and coffee much needed, we started part two of the plan and headed into the main resort.  Car heaters helped to dry us off, but first thing was to buy some dry trousers for those really struggling.  

Of course, the rain then stopped and we spent a lovely afternoon of lunch and coffees and ice cream and more beach walks and time in the pier fun fair.  Cafes accepted, indeed welcomed dogs, so we ate well and those of us not on the pier (which does not take dogs) were able to hide out with papers and drinks very easily.

We drove home in lovely sunshine and found dinner in a beautiful pub in Worcestershire.  Weston turned out to be very dog-friendly and – possibly due to the weather – not very crowded.

Reflecting back the day to the birthday boy I apologised for the morning plan which had been so wrong in the end.  He laughed and explained that that is what we will remember, we will only ever tell stories about getting wet and muddy and the café not allowing dogs, not the pleasant afternoon.

Indeed, just over a week later, I finished this piece which I had started several days ago.  And even this close to the event, I couldn’t think of much more to say about the afternoon, Reading the paper over a peppermint tea will probably not remain in my memory for long.  The walk along a beach in weather that was beyond inclement really will.

Here’s to the things that go wrong to enable the family stories. 

Counting the blessings after the curveball

I have half attempted blogging over the last few weeks, but have not managed to complete one; I had forgotten the cathartic benefits of writing stuff down and putting it “out there”. Today I need the catharsis.

Yesterday was one of those days that come out of the blue and knock you for six.  Thursday had been lovely, starting with a family run and ending with dinner with a friend and her group of friends who are very delightful and interesting and strong women.

Then it went downhill fast with the offspring waking with a very high fever.   Something made my maternal flags go up, so I sought medical advice.  All of a sudden we were on the way to A&E with a case of suspected sepsis or meningitis.  Neither were happening thank God. It was a long morning of tests and waiting for results, but the end result was that we were given the all clear for those nasties and sent home with a stash of antibiotics.

It was a shocking reminder that life can be fragile, things go wrong quickly and in a moment life changes forever.  Yesterday ended well, with offspring feeling better and the whole family at home.  Nevertheless the Mama-brain has spent many hours with the what-ifs, and processing the fact that I had forgotten about meningitis being a thing for teens, that I had started to think that those scary days of watching little ones be very poorly were behind me.  The scary days just involve someone much taller than me, but they’re no less scary it turns out.

I went to bed thankful for our NHS, for the friends that stayed by me via text all day, for the support of family, for having jobs that enable us to switch to a family focus with no notice (or in my case to work part-time). And most of all, that the offspring is getting better and those nasty illnesses were not a reality I am living with today.