Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Now We Are Three

My gorgeous, clever, artistic, funny, lovely wife, Karen, died on 19th July 2019 at Warwick Hospital. She'd had a successful breast cancer operation the previous month in June (only a small lump so surgery was not too invasive) but after 5 days at home recovering an infection had flared up that the best attempts of the ICU team at the hospital could not get under control.

I won't go into detail here but it was the worst two weeks of my life and I daresay our sons, Ben and Tom, will tell you the same thing. Right up to the last few days none of us had any indication of just how serious things were getting and we were all hopeful that Karen's return home was imminent. It was not to be.

9 months later I am only just coming out of shock and starting to deal with her loss and what it means for me and the boys.

The three of us are all well and safe and financially secure. Because Karen was smart she had set up various policies and insurances when we had first married that have saved us from life becoming much harder. Karen told me about them at the time - I have vague recollections of not really listening because (a) I didn't want to think about such hardline eventualities when we were just setting out on our lives together and (b) I'm crap with that kind of thing; Karen's being an accountant meant that, in my mind, this area was her domain and I was happy to defer all details and organization to her. I'm glad that I did; she did us proud and it is a comfort to know that even now she is looking after us. 

It is a bitter-sweet thing to revisit this blog and re-read the 1000+ posts published here. Karen was always very supportive of my writing and this blog in particular. Despite the many film and book reviews and attempts at comedy writing that are contained here, this blog was essentially a family archive - an online diary of our lives together. That is certainly how Karen viewed it and, rereading my posts now, I can see that inadvertently I captured much of our lives together even when I had not consciously meant to or had been writing about other things.

I recognize that by the very act of writing several posts a week I was savouring our lives together and appreciating being in the moment by celebrating much of it online. For that reason alone I regret letting this blog fall into disuse as we, in the real world, fell (like we all do) into dull unthinking routine. I know it is hard to do but, by God, seizing the day sometimes just means feeling the moment! None of us do it enough. But in this blog I had a bloody good go at feeling as many of them as I could. I am thankful for that.

Within these hundreds of posts I also recognize a happiness and a contentment in my writing that had never been there before. The source of that happiness, of course, was my relationship with Karen and our boys and our very happy home life together. I don't think I will ever have it in me to write like that again. This was a special time. A one-off. As cliched as it might be, Karen and I were soul-mates and when we were together my soul finally realized it had a singing voice and couldn't help but sound forth joyously. I had expected and hoped that it would last forever. Certainly for the rest of my life. Karen and I often daydreamed about what we would do in our retirement together... none of it very grand (a bit of travelling, days out, mostly mooching around the antique shops of Stow-on-the-Wold which had become our special place) but it would have made us both very happy.

It is hard to wake up each morning now and know that Karen is no longer here with us. It is harder still contemplating that I may have another 40 years on this earth without her. She was only 52 when she died. 2 days before our 14th wedding anniversary and a few weeks before my 50th birthday. To say last summer was a steaming pile of horseshit of galactic proportions is to put it mildly. Like I said, I'm only just now coming out of shock; the grief has moved from a hazy, dream-like pain to a sharply focused agony as the permanence of this horrible new world sinks in. 

Karen had suffered a horrific childhood. A physically abusive mother, raped horrifically when she was 3 years old... just one of those things on its own would have been enough to give someone PTSD for life. Karen had a double dose and for much of her adult life battled with the debilitating effects of it. She put an immense amount of work into getting herself "sorted out". Counselling, therapy, self-help... everything. She was incredibly brave and courageous. Some people never recover from such an awful start in life and slip into drug and alcohol abuse and worse. Karen didn't. She clawed her way out of it, determined that her relationships and any children she had would not be scarred by issues caused by her traumas. It was a long, tough, constantly uphill fight. But she did it. Anyone who knew Karen will tell you what a strong, warm, kind, wise and empathic person she was. She was the most honest and truthful person I have ever met. And, if I am honest, the only person on this planet that I can say without equivocation that I trusted 100%. I knew I could trust her with my soul. 

The boys and I feel like we have been robbed; that life has cheated us. 16 years together (14 married and 18+ months dating before that) is not nearly enough. We all deserved more. Karen deserved so much more. So there is pain, and grief, and sorrow and anger. But there is also thankfulness. I was lucky to have found someone like Karen. So lucky. Luckier than I probably deserved to be. 

Each day now is painful. Because every day without Karen feels like an utter waste. I don't want to move on. I don't want to forget or the memories to become faded and dull. I don't want life to close in around her absence and callously continue without her. 

And yet here we are.

Our boys need me. Ben is now 18 and Tom is 12. Both too young to have lost their mum. They keep me going. I mean to do them proud and to do Karen proud. But beyond that I have absolutely no fucking idea what to do or what I am doing.

Anyway, I won't bore you with that... whoever you are now. It's been quite a few years since I last updated this blog. At the time I had built up quite a good readership but like all things... nothing lasts forever. I doubt anyone will read this really but for the sake of completeness I needed to write this one last post. To say goodbye and to say thank you. I hope whoever stumbles across these posts takes some pleasure in them... even if it is only a small chuckle at my stupid jokes. I hope mostly though that a few of you are moved enough to go home today and give your loved ones a big hug. 

Because you always think you have enough time to do it later. To say all the important stuff later. 

But you don't.

Karen and I told each other we loved each other every single day - no word of a lie - and yet still, still, I regret not saying it more.

And I would gladly give up the entirety of the rest of my life just to have 10 more minutes with her. I would consider it a bloody good bargain.

I love you forever, gorgeous. I miss you.