When everyone is at school and college there is routine and structure, the holidays throw this into disarray. Bedtimes and wake up times are out of the window, mealtimes become flexible. It's a familiar story for any family but the impact is multiplied many times over within our family.
People with autism and with learning disabilities need routine, structure and predictability, no wonder the long summer holidays become such a battle ground in our house.
And then this is the first year without Andy, the first long summer holiday. It's a year of firsts, every one of them significant.
I have been dreading the summer months and that dread was not unfounded. Andy always took the summer off. There was never much call for Management Development with his clients during the this time of the year, I like to think it's because he spent so much time working with them on the importance of work/life balance that many of his clients also took time off to be with their families over the summer.
When Andy was around , not only did I have a comrade in arms to get through the school holidays, there was at least another parent around for the children to do stuff with, spend time with or even argue with. Now it's just me. Somedays I feel like I am living in a student house, somedays I feel like Cinderella as the older three come and go, leaving cupboard doors open, dumping my washing out of the machine so they can get theirs done in a hurry, using up the last of the milk.
Sometimes they just don't want me, they want their dad, and I can't be him.
I crave adult company. I crave Andy's company. At least we were a united force and I felt less outnumbered. I had someone to discuss things with, make important decisions with, laugh with.
At the beginning of the summer I went away for two whole nights, the first two night break on my own since before Andy had died. Daisy went to respite and I went to a school reunion. It's thirty years since I left my school, a very progressive, alternative international boarding school in South Wales. It was wonderful to be back among friends, many of whom I had not seen in 30 years. Conversation and wine flowed and I relished every moment of grown up company. My voice was hoarse on the drive home, I had talked so much and my brain cells felt like they had a long overdue work out.
|One of my friends took this pic at my school reunion and another friend commented that I was still dancing 30 years later...I like to think I am, even though the soundtrack to my life keeps changing.|
No age is a good age to become a widow, but 47, and a parent to three teens (plus Daisy of course), is not great. There were already life changes happing, as the mother of teenagers, I should be relishing the freedom, my children are becoming more independent, they don't want to spend time with me any more. Now is the time when Andy and I should have more time for each other.
But of course we also had Daisy and spending time together always had to factor in her respite nights as well as the children's school holidays. So here I am, on the cusp of an empty nest, with one who will never fly the nest , on my own. I am having to learn to be alone and it's hard, I was in a relationship with Andy for 27 years, I don't want to say goodbye to that part of my life and move to the new phase. I am learning to be alone, no longer through choice, but now through circumstance. My legal status is now Widow, I am finding it hard to make that leap, I am and will always be married to Andy.
I am what is called a young widow apparently, there's support groups for people like me, but there's not many people like me who are widowed but not free to just take off and go away whenever they need to have some space. I am still very much stuck on the endless round of outpatients appointments and medical interventions that Daisy needs
Nearly all of my friends are happily married, that's what happily married couples do, they surround themselves with other happily married couples. So when you are no longer part of a couple you feel like the odd one out, even more so than before when we were the couple who couldn't commit to things without first checking to see if we could get a respite night.
It's tough. I am still watching endless episodes of Fireman Sam with Daisy. Daisy, who every day reminds us that Andy is gone but asks for him daily and tells me she is sad. We are fractured as a family. This summer has been hard. I need the routine and structure as much as the children. I need to keep busy, because when you stop you dwell and think. It's OK to think but sometimes it's just too raw and painful
I have so many life changes going on at the moment, of course I will adjust, but I need time and I need to do it all in my own time.
We have just about got through the summer. Roll on September. The new school year. Got to keep moving forward.
I have plans, there are some really exciting things happening in my life at the moment, I wish I could tell him all about them, he would be so proud.
You all know what he would say though, onwards & upwards, Steph, onwards & upwards.......