Happy Fathers Day Mom

Today I logged onto Facebook (as we do in order to pass a few minutes with our morning beverage of choice) and my news feed was filled with loving posts to various men from across the board, from dads, to grandads, to loved ones of the male variety in general. Which is lovely.

It is, afterall, fathers day. The day we are told to thank our fathers for all they do for us. The only thing is, I never knew mine. He was around for a short while but soon lost interest and vanished around the age of 2 or 3. My very young mom raised three kids on her own for the most part (albeit with the help of my powerhouse super human nan who dashed between work and school to collect us and help where she could.) But on the whole, my mom raised us kids and was the one that put us to bed each night and spent that time with us.

So, I have to say, I find fathers day a bit of a funny one. I do not feel obliged to thank a man I do not know and have not seen since I was 2. Neither do I feel I owe anything to a man who made my moms life utterly miserable through neglect and abuse, leaving her as a young mom of three with no money and bad memories. He never bothered contacting us again, until too long had passed, somewhat of a relief looking back, and paid no maintanance for his children EVER, moving on to impregnante another woman whilst mom raised his first three alone. I cant be thankful to a man that by birth right is my dad, but by presence has been none existant. I can, however, be thankful to a few people and Im going to take the time to do that today, before the day is over, to give my thanks publicly, because although my mom hates these forced days where we are told what to say, I know her and a few others deserve a few good words on fathers day.

Firstly, to my step dad, Rob. My mom got remarried to a lovely man after we all become young adults (or old teenagers in my sisters case.) He has been the one who has supported her and loved her and helped her. He has also supported, loved and helped all of us kids in equal measure, individually, at different stages of our time knowing him. We have brought, in all fairness, a lot of distruption (as kids do) to his previously probably a lot more peaceful child free life. However, we have also added another dimension he never had before, a positive one, like that feeling of belonging to a unit and life being about so much more than yourself . Like having a family to call his own (without having to do the pooey nappy stage-he got the difficult young adult stage instead!). And the unconditional bond that you get as a family when you realise these are truly your people and that, even if you fall out, you know a year down the line you can see them and give them a great big hug and mean every squeeze of it. We have had our moments as a family, all of us, but you have done as you promised you would and stuck by mom through thick and thin, as you have stuck by all of us too. For that, and for the person you are, I truly am thankful that you came into our lives, having enriched ours also with something that we have never had before either. That being a positive male role model who says what he means and does what he says. One that knows and wants his responsibility and looks after those around him. I know we scare you sometimes (ha!) but I wouldnt change you being in our lives for anything. I am so pleased you and mom found each other when you did. It was so lovely talking to you today and we look forward to seeing you in August. WP_20140221_174

Secondly, to my daughters dad, Adam. The pain I felt after you left, breaking a decades worth of love, work, family, hopes, plans and life, is not an easy burden to bear for anyone. On occassions since that time, for one reason or another, things have been trying, confusing and frought. Seperations are not easy, especially unwanted ones. However, we have somehow, someway, managed to create the most beautiful, intelligent, funny little girl. We did that. I dont know how she came out so wonderful. Or so clever. Or so talented. We have had back and forths, ups and downs, trials and trouble. We have also, however, had family time still as a unit, co parenting on your days here to make sure Emi knows her parents are both around still, regardless of our personal situation, having plenty of moments of happiness, joy, friendship, laughter and pride along the way. Whatever has happened, a families bond, if they were a genuine happy family, is still there. You are still family, in whatever way we can now call it. The obvious resentment is there for me as a single mom now, doing most of the work all week on my own and being the one that now builds my life around Emi, which is so much harder by yourself. That is natural I think. I am still working on that. However, as it is a day for being grateful and thankful, I would like to say that I am thankful you still turn up when you say you will. I am thankful that you help out with the nursery runs when you can, giving me a much needed break on those days. I am still thankful that Emi has a dad and that you didnt do what a lot of men do when they leave and simply walk away and forget about her. I am not saying its perfect and you know I give you it when I think you can try harder for her, thats my job, im her mom, but what matters is you are still here. That is more than my dad did and I can only hope that it lasts so that Emi will always have two parents who want to be around her, in her life, wherever we may be, showing her she is loved and wanted. It hasnt been easy, granted, but somehow, even after what happened, Emi is surrounded by love and happiness in her home, both by me as her main person each day on our days alone together and also as a family still when you come and visit. It is so healthy to teach her to be kind. To be kind to those even who have hurt you. To be kind to those you love. To be thankful for the things you do have even when you dont have what you feel you would like. Emi still has her people around her and I am very thankful for that. Thank you for letting her enjoy opening your fathers days presents today. She had a ball. 20170221_085447

Last but not least, to my mom. We have had our ups and downs. I personally think its a girl thing because Emi already acts about fourteen at four! You dont always say what I want to hear, or you might question things I think dont need to be raised. You annoy me and I annoy you. Sometimes. Thats life. Then, sometimes, you phone me up, just for a chat, just because you miss me, just because you miss Emi, just because you want to see how I am. You live 300 miles away, yet, you are the one that phones me after ALL the important things that go on in my life, like health appointments or personal stuff, you always phone to see how it went and how I am. I was thinking about this the other day. Dont think I dont notice that. We may have fallen out before. Plenty. You have raised strong feisty women with an opinion. It wasnt going to be a smooth ride. We may have really pissed each other off before too. You may not have been able to raise us in the idealic situation we are told by society we should have. But you did raise us. You are still here. You are still present. You are still calling. You drive up 300 miles just to get a cuddle from your grandaughter and make sure you can still be involved with her upbringing. I know people with mothers on their doorsteps they dont hear from for a year at a time. You bother. You make the effort. You are someone that Emi completely trusts and puts her own care in Grandmas hands because she knows shes safe. She has decided that for herself because she feels it. You have taught her, through what you taught me, to feel what she needs to feel. To follow her emotions and to go with what she needs. You are constant. You are here. I admit I have taken that for granted in the past and as we all do, have sometimes focused on certain bits I may not like or agree with. You have also done this in return. However, we fight, we make up, we get over it, we move on. We mend, we heal, we progress, we live, we love. That is what a true family is about. To be able to tell you straight then get over it. To not always agree, but to get over it. To accept youre not always right then get over it. To be there because they want you to be ok. You, I know, would never cut me out of your life as some have done, or leave me to my own devices to never hear from you again. You are too concerned with knowing if I am ok. I hear of people, friends I know also, who dont speak to their mothers or daughters. They fall out and never speak again and years pass and they die having never spoken and one person is left feeling horrible about it. I think that must be unbearable. I would feel heartbroken if Emi didnt want to know me. I would also never even consider turing my back on her, unless given no choice of course, as I appreciate some are. Now I am in a position of being where you were all those years ago, on my own with a child, I fully understand how hard it must have been. The loniless can be dibilitating. The work load can be exhausting. The constant reminder that you dont have what you wanted can be hard to take and effect how you feel around the children. However, you managed. As I am. I am more than managing on the whole actually. Thats because of you. Because I have been raised to be silently secure enough to handle my own. To feel every insecurity but to work to the best of my ability with what I do have. To have that fighting spirit within me that you took from nan also and to simply survive, even when you feel you dont have it in you. Because the alternative is not an option when you look into the eyes of your child and know you want them to have a happy upbringing. I want so much for Emi and I know you feel the same for me. So I just wanted to say thank you. For being both mom and dad for all those years. For doing it all. See you next week. looking forward to our holiday. WP_20160620_17_38_41_Proxx

 

Remembering Nan at Christmas

How is it December 11th already?! This month has been a whirlwind of house sorting, tantrums (Mainly Emi, honest) seeing visitors and friends and getting ready for the big day on the 25th. Of course, it’s really all about the children when making grand plans for presents and trips to santa,which with a 3 year old, this year is ALL about those things as well as family time. However, this year is going to be a bitter sweet one for me and many others since the loss of Nan in July. It almost feels like it happened longer ago, I have to remind myself sometimes it was only this July we lost her. So I wanted to make sure I remembered the adults this year too as best as I could. This year really is about making sure that EVERYONE is ok, because in all honesty, it’s going to be really strange on the day without her here. WP_20160411_16_59_17_Pro[1]

Last year, even though ill and with very little appetite, Nan still managed quite naturally to insult my cooking to my face across the dinner table saying “Sprouts are a bit crunchy”, whilst making a point of screwing her face up and over exaggerating how difficult she was finding it to chew them with her ill-fitting false teeth. My brother kept his head down, apart from a side glance to see my reaction, probably knowing the effort it had taken me that year simply to hold any sort of Christmas after my partner had moved out only a few months before. Meanwhile, I clenched my teeth and tried not to tell her to go home. (I wouldn’t have really but I was annoyed.)

I had dared to venture away from the standard boiled sprouts option, instead adding lemon, garlic and breadcrumbs, but when faced with a 79 year old woman who knew exactly what she wanted and expected from a christmas dinner, this did not go down well at all. I remember at the time, after hours of cooking, being really annoyed at her for feeling the need to even say anything like that, she could have just politely not eaten them. But then that would be asking for her to be someone else. Now I can look back and laugh. It’s actually a really happy memory for me now because it’s just so silly isn’t it?! To get annoyed over sprouts?! People of a certain age do tend to think they have the right to say and do whatever they like and they let it out of their mouths wherever and whenever they please. Nan was no exception to this theory. It’s a humorous thing really. The best part is, they know full well that because of their age that they will get away with it. And they do. And she did. Because no one dared say anything back. It’s ok for her to upset someone but there’s a natural respect for that generation that I wouldn’t have tried to upset her in return. Funny isn’t it?

What I would give to have her insulting my cooking abilities this year.

There is something about christmas that just makes Nan feel alive again. This was her time of year. Everything reminds me of her. From going to choose the christmas tree, which we always did together (with Emi last year which was special), to seeing the Cherry liquor chocolates in M&S that I bought for her every year (and that she then bought even more of for herself because she loved them so much and often ate a whole box in one sitting whilst watching tv on an evening.) Everywhere I turn there is a reminder of her and it can be really hard sometimes not to just keep crying at the fact she is not here anymore. Most of the reminders are happy ones, but even the good ones can make you tear up. 20161203_1752391

The one thing that reminds me most of her at this time of year is Holly. For as far back as I can remember she made holly wreathes for friends and family all throughout December, trailing up to the local park with her drag bag in the dark so she wouldn’t be seen cutting away at the Holly in daylight. I think we have probably all been up with her at some point helping her get in her supplies. The house was a mess with greenery cuttings and ribbon everywhere all throughout the month but the end result was always stunningly beautiful. People came back to her every year because she was so good at what she did. She didn’t do it to make money. She never made anything from it. She did it because she enjoyed that the people who had them from her loved her work and would return every year for something she had made. They were miles better than anything you saw in standard florists or markets. She had a real sense of pride in everything she made and even though she would never admit satisfaction with anything she produced to anyone else, I know she was proud of her abilities and most of all aware of them herself. She knew.

This year, without Nan to make my wreath, I wanted to remember her in my own way by attempting it myself. Not for myself. I havent made myself one yet. I will. My main purpose in doing them was that I wanted to make one for those people who had one last year and would never get another. I wanted simply to gift them in tribute to Nan and as a way for me to stay connected to her and remember her. To try to practice the skills I picked up only last year when she showed me a few bits in the nick of time. Christmas to me, especially after a loss, is not about what you get. It is about gestures, love, cherishing what you have. We don’t have Nan anymore but we do have everything she taught us. It has been a wonderful experience for me. An emotional one of course too. I have retraced her footsteps and scrounged around the same park she did to get some holly and other greenery. Whilst there, I sat in the sunshine and just remembered her. I felt sad and happy all at the same time. Then I came home and had a go. That was very Nan. Just give it a go and try. I realised there is a bit of Nan in me too, as after I had made a few I started to see what I did wrong with the first one I had already gifted and was kicking myself a bit that it wasnt as good as those that followed. A bit of Nans perfectionism coming out in me I suppose. Now I can see why she was always so particular. The more you do the higher your own standards are. They also take thought, time and patience. I think I understand her a bit more having made a few of these, which I didn’t expect any insight into her when I started them. Funny how things work out. 20161208_1512151

Above: There is always time for a play in the park, even on our Holly collecting mission…

As it happens, I have been rather pleased with the outcome of my efforts. I will fully accept it when anyone says “Its good but it’s not your Nans” because it’s so true. She just knew what she was doing and if she didn’t it looked like she did. She was beyond practical and would always work it out. She knew how to do everything with ribbon and wire and arrangement. She just knew. I don’t. My version is to buy a base (she made her own) and stick things in as best as I can and hope for the best. As it turns out, I’m not too shabby at it! 20161210_1421231

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Once the wreathes are packed away, there will be lots of other things sparking off memories for me of our past times with Nan. My big tree reminds me of her huge real trees she used to get and let us decorate (Probably rearranging our placements once in bed, as I do now with Emi). Hiding Emis presents in the cupboard reminds me of the stacks of presents she used to drag up the road in her wheely bag to us on christmas day. Her face last year watching Emi open the presents she had chosen for her was lovely. The trifle she made every year will be sorely missed. (I never did get her recipe.) Things just keep flooding back to me and I will miss her so much this christmas. However, I am already making my own traditions, with my own little person hopefully remembering all the little things that I do for her too, which is lovely to know that the cycle of life, love and giving is not one that ends with the loss of someone special…..and something tells me Nans traditions are not going to stop at me 😉 xxxx20161210_1212541