Saturday, 12 February 2011
Today is the nineteenth aniversary of my first husband's death.
You never forget anniversaries. I didn't realise this until it happened to me, but as the years roll round and we come yet again to February 12th, everything comes back .
I remember so clearly the phone call (he was in hospital at the time), the mad rush to get someone to take our two younger children to school, the fact that the car wouldn't start (our cars never started in the winter), the crazy dash to the hospital. And arriving too late.
There are little things, too. The flowers - so many arriving almost at once, that we had to borow vases. Someone phoning to ask if there was anything they could bring (more tissues, please), the crowds of people sho suddenly seemd to appear. And worst of all, telling the children.
Two were at school, and they were brought home by a teacher so that I could tell them myself. But two were in London, and I had to find a kind friend to track down my daughter, so that she didn't have to be told by the hospital authorities (she was a student nurse). I am still appalled that she cried all the way home on the train, and no-one - no-one at all - stopped to ask her if they could help. I remember a neighbour who had come round saying "she wants me to light a fire, but she doesn't really need one, does she?" (why on earth did I want a fire lit?), and the birthday cake my small son made for me (my birthday was the day before the funeral) but which nobody ate.
The funeral was huge. He had been a headmaster, and the entire school turned out for it, but we also had lots of friends and family, too. We didn't want black cars, so my brother-in-law drove us. The car had heated seats; I'd never come across those before. I remember the lovely funeral director saying "I've got children at the school. I only sent them there because of Dr. Garrood". And there was the tiny bunch of snowdrops - our special flowers - that I dropped onto his coffin; and the mud and the wind and the cold of that day, like a funeral in a film.
And then the long, long journey afterwards; finding out that with grief, there are no short cuts. The evening when I drove out into the country and screamed and screamed and screamed. That helped. The journey the children had to take; a different one for each, because they were different people at very different stages of their lives. One of my sons checking on me at night, to make sure I was still alive. And all those anniversaries.
We are all right now. We have survived (we had no choice, really), but we have all been affected. I have married John, who has been wonderful, and the children are all well and happy. But for all of us, the scar is there; not as painful, but there. And sometimes it flares up, reminding us of the huge gap he has left. And one small granddaughter still weeps for the grandfather she never knew.