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Memoirs of a Christopher

A raw and honest look into the life of a Young Widow(ish).

The Perfect Timing

The first time I began to realise my family life was a little bit different, and the first time I felt shame over what was to become an apparent mental illness for my mother, was when my Year 5 classroom teacher asked the students to ‘pray for me’ (I went to a Catholic school).

My mum had disappeared, on Mother’s Day, with the only trace of her being a small pool of blood dried up on a newspaper. My present that I had made for her, a poster with glued on pictures of me, remained rolled up on the kitchen table unopened.

Her boyfriend told us that she was never coming back. We rang the hospitals and she wasn’t there. She had up and left and flown to the other side of the country, not to tell a soul…

Evidently, she was fine (well fine if you disregard the unacknowledged mental illness) and returned three weeks later with presents, like your mum disappearing for almost a month without explanation was not that big of a deal…

Bloody Mother’s Day. She has always had good timing!

Fast forward 15 years and her lack of acknowledgment has seen a rapid decline in her mental illness. Many years of burning bridges, of accusations, lying and bullying has meant that she has very little in the way of supportive relationships.

I returned from the UK buoyed by my burgeoning love for Chris and excited by our future plans to move north to continue our lives together.

My mother’s response? “Fine, if you’re going to move away, I’m going to move away too!”

So there began her plan to move to the other side of the country. With no money. No house. No job. And no friends.

“Umm… Ok?! Do you really think that is such a good idea?”

“Oh shut up C, stop telling me what to do, III am the parent here, stop treating me like a child!!”

Her mind was made up. She plonked some of her belongings onto the removalist truck which was headed for my house (without letting me know), gave away the family dog (god knows what happened to the cat – I’m too scared to ask) and left with whatever belongings she could fit in the back of her car.

She was mad. Boy was she mad! I don’t think anyone quite knows mad unless they’ve seen my mother in full flight…

Why wouldn’t I take the dog? (I don’t know where I’m moving to, if they allow dogs, and where I’m moving to has consistent above 40 degree Celsius temperatures). Why wouldn’t I take the cat? (Um.. same reason) Why won’t you take the rest of the furniture? (I might be in an apartment and it might not fit.)

WHY WON’T YOU CLEAN UP MY MESS ONCE AGAIN?!

Because, according to her, I’m a terrible daughter that’s why.

I’ve always been ashamed to speak about my mother. My mother in fact, was part of the reason my relationship with a boyfriend prior to Chris was ruined.

But Chris wasn’t ashamed. He wanted me to talk. He wanted to know. And when I didn’t want to talk to him, he was supportive of my idea to go to counselling.

Off to counselling I toddled, scared of what the session would hold.

“So… It definitely sounds to me like your mother has a mental illness by what you have described. And you say she’s on the other side of the country by herself?”

“Yes”

“And… She has no money?”

“Yes”

“And… No job?”

“Yes”

“… Do you know if she’s ok?”

“Uhhhh… Acttuuuually… I don’t.” She had made it pretty clear that she didn’t want me contacting her. In fact, she was pretty nasty last time we spoke.

Cue familiar guilty daughter feelings

“Do you think you should get in contact with her?”

I tried to do the right thing. I called her multiple phone numbers (for her multiple phones) to which she hung up on me. So I messaged her… I let her know that I hadn’t heard from her for a few months and so I was worried about her.

Her response? I was an awful daughter for waiting that long to get in contact with her.

I was done. So done. I couldn’t do it anymore. I gave her an ultimatum.

Do not contact me until you have received mental help.

She said I had a mental illness. That I was a horrible person. And that she had disowned me as daughter.

And then a couple of months later Chris died.

She had no idea. I didn’t want her to know…

I gathered my own strength. I flew to the UK by myself. I organised 3 ceremonies to say goodbye to Chris. I did it on my own. And it was time to go back to work.

Work was hard, but I had been missed. The students and parent’s faces broke into massive grins when they saw me. I was, dare I say it, even having a good day!

Then the phone call came.

“Hi, we’ve received a phone call from Sally, she says your mother is really sick and you need to call this number.”

My first day back at work. Always amazing timing.

Bonk, bonk, bonk, I press in the numbers into my phone press the call button.

“Hi, I received a call from a Sally saying my mum is really sick?”

“Oh hi, I’m a nurse here… There isn’t a lady called Sally here, that was actually your mum calling.”

Mum was high on drugs. She had attempted to kill herself. She told me that my brother was dead, that the bones in her neck had collapsed and that her teeth were falling out.

I gave her sympathy and said that we cared about her. She hung up on me.

The medical staff weren’t telling me anything.

I didn’t tell mum about Chris.

All on my first day back at work.

ANYWAY… As you can imagine our relationship still isn’t great. I’m not sure that a relationship even exists. But the whole reason for this story is because mum sent me an email about a month ago asking for her sewing machine. Most of her things I actually threw out/gave away after Chris died. He wanted to do it when we got the stuff originally, but I said no.. We can’t do that to mum’s stuff.

I actually did send it over, hoping that it might give her a healthy hobby to which I received the following computer typed letter.

“Dear C,

Thank you for the sewing Machine.

It was unexpected and still works perfectly.

Thank you again,

(My mother’s name)”.

This was surrounded by love hearts. What does it mean?? Why has mum spelled machine with a capital m when she has always been highly competent with grammar? Why has she written her name and not mum? Why has she printed it out from a computer?!?

I guess there are just some questions in life that can never been answered.

(PS: On a positive note my friend and I’s photo was chosen to go on the front of the social pages in our local paper, woo whole page spread! Just message for my autograph hahaha!)

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MY DOG ATE CHRIS’ HAIR!

Is one of the more peculiar phrases I am finding myself saying as a Widow(ish)… But it’s true.

She really did.

When Chris died the police officers said I wasn’t allowed to see him because of his horrific injuries. I fought them. I physically fought them, pushing them, kicking them, throwing myself at them. It didn’t make a difference. All it did was make the female police officer start to cry…

The officers gave me a promise to calm me down. A ‘white’ lie if you will, but I’m not sure how white it really was. They told me not to worry. That the morning wouldn’t have been the last time I saw him – with hungover, blurry eyes as I mumbled a goodbye. The coroner will have a look at him, and you will be able to see him then they said.

The young girl on the end of the line, she sounded the same age as me. She stuttured as she spoke and I knew it was bad news… More bad news. I wouldn’t be able to see him. At all. So badly disfigured, not even the morticians could patch him up. That was it. He was gone. Really gone.

No more Christopher. Ever.

It was like being told he had died again. I howled, and I broke, and I fell to the floor.

No more Christopher. Ever.

Ever.

I wanted to stroke my hand over the soft hairs on his chest and lay my head down so I could hear his heart beat. I wanted to stroke my hand over the back of his neck where I could feel the stubbly, prickly hairs starting to grow back from his haircut that I had given him. I wanted to cup his face, stroking his coarse beard with my thumb, and smile at him as I did whenever I felt that extra surge of love that just randomly hits you when you are with THAT person.

I couldn’t do any of it. He was gone. And I couldn’t even say goodbye. …

But back to the eaten hair.

The next stop after the coroner’s office was the Funeral Home where I was actually lucky enough to be able to hold his hands. I even tried to have a sneaky look underneath the white sheet, trying to grab as far as I could to give the best cuddle I could give (which consisted of me hugging his forearms basically).

I still wanted to stroke his hair. I still wanted to stroke his beard. Our Funeral Director was this lovely short and stout Scottish lady, loud and brash and full of humour… I wonder how she got into the business? Anyway, I digress..

I started making my ‘weird’ requests.

“Could I please have a lock of his hair? And ummm… Could you also cut off a bit of his beard for me?”

She reassured me that wasn’t the weirdest request she had ever had, and I don’t actually doubt her one bit.

I received the hair in two small fetching (sense the sarcasm) blue, velvet bags. On the inside the hair was zip locked into two miniature ziplock baggies, probably to keep it safe I imagine, rather than keep it fresh like it’s designed to do to cut up carrots.

I opened them up and took a whiff. This was it, this was going to be my connection to Chris I was so badly craving! I sucked up the air through my nostrils like one tries to suck up a thickshake through a straw at McDonalds and… “BLERGH!” I felt instantly sick. His hair didn’t smell like him at all. It smelt like a mix of cheap deodorant and formaldehyde (which the cheap deodorant was trying to cover). Now that was a smell I did NOT want to remember.

It didn’t even look like his hair! Well it did… But his hair had become ultra blonde from working in the sun however clumped together in this little tuft it was mousy brown. And without the contrast between the spiky hair on his neck and his skin it just felt coarse and, not like the back of his warm head at all.

Now don’t get me started on the beard clippings… I could have just got the same effect digging out his old shavings from the sink!! I don’t know what I was imagining when I asked for these things, but I guess it wasn’t this.

So there the two blue, velvet bags have sat, in a basket, in the corner of my kitchen bench for 10 months now.

Our dog is half beagle, half cocker spaniel. She LOVES jumping up and getting into things. ESPECIALLY bags. It was probably only a matter of time before they got grabbed… And I like to think she can still remember the smell of her dad.

Really she did me a favour in the end.

Here is a video of a Beagle doing what our dog loves to do. No joke I once came home from work and she was STANDING on the kitchen bench.

Enjoy!

Intelligent Beagle

The Randomness That is Life…

Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds – Into My Arms:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lEUgORVsECs

As many of you are aware, Nick Cave suffered the shocking loss of his teenage son on July 14. For those of you who don’t know Nick Cave he is a famous Australian musician who has had a profound impact on the Australian music scene. Oddly enough, he was also on the same flight as me as I returned home from the UK after laying Chris to rest there.

After 20 hours of flying, many of them with silent tears falling from my eyes, I was a greasy, broken mess. And there Nick Cave stood. Right next to me. With his flashy clothes and his giant gold watch. At one point I even thought he was talking to me, before realising no, he was actually speaking to his manager who was standing directly behind me. His baggage came out first, as it does for a first class passenger, and then he was gone.

And there I was.

Still tear stained.

Still broken.

Still waiting for my bags.

I was bitter. I was angry. I was hurt. “Why do some people get all the luck??” I thought to myself. “Not only money, but fame, security, a loving family. EVERYTHING…”

Then this tragedy happened.

No one deserves this. No amount of money, no amount of achievement counteracts the amount of pain you feel when you lose someone so loved.

It was at this moment I realised we are all in this together.

Amanda Palmer puts it so eloquently here: http://blog.amandapalmer.net/20150716/

We all have the same vulnerabilities no matter who we are.

I wish the Cave family the deepest of condolences and the love of those around gets them through..

XX

Going Down the Rabbit Hole

Ruminating. My counsellor defined it as giving deep thought to something… Well, he was my counsellor until I saw him when he was ridiculously drunk at a beer and wine festival where he proceeded to follow me around and give me hugs all night. I chose not to see him after that… Too awkward.

Anyway… Ruminating. Obsessing. Mulling over. Apparently it’s not advantageous when it’s about something you cannot change.. Like your partner being killed when completing his day job.

I once read on someone’s Facebook status that I should ruminate about the things I want to make different in my life. The person giving this advice had just had a baby and gotten married. I wanted to punch her in the face.

I tend to ruminate a lot. What we could have done differently. If we had never met. If he hadn’t gone to work that day… But I also live this weird parallel universe life, where I imagine what could have been.

I imagine our baby Molly. Our house that we painstakingly renovated together, the constant debates over minute details and the trials and tribulations of having to live and work In a temporary construction zone. Hell, I’ve even imagined our proposal!

Just before he died Chris would spend 20 minutes a day with our puppy training her different tricks. The last trick he was developing, which he never had the time of fully teaching her, he would call out “Find mum” and make her race through the rooms until she found me and jumped on me, giving her a treat as a reward.

I lost myself down the rabbit hole imagining that perhaps he had been training her that trick so that one day he could attach a diamond ring to her collar, and there he would be behind her, on bended knee.

OK,  in reality he was probably just teaching her that trick because he thought it was funny that he could get a puppy to jump all over me at a moments notice, whether I was in the shower or on the toilet or otherwise! But still…

And therein lies the problem with ruminating.

‘The Road Not Taken’

For as long as I can remember, I have been a planner. Chris even used to make fun of me and my constant lists, and my holidays’ itineraries I would prepare 6 months in advance. It probably stems from growing up with the unpredictability of a bipolar mother and it’s consequences… Like not knowing where our next meal was coming from or whether I was going to be screamed at that day. Planning gave me stability. It gave me a goal to aim for… And for the last 10 years that strategy has been working well for me. I graduated from high school. I went to uni. Got a good paying job. Travelled, and met a (fantastic) life partner. Money was building up for our first house… But no one could have planned for this.

So now I am totally lost.

Here are my options (If I were to continue to be my old organised self.)

OPTION A

I try to imagine how it would have been if I had never met Chris, what my plan would have been then. Perhaps I could just continue on that path? But it just doesn’t seem right… If I had never met Chris I would have returned from travelling and gone back to the city to continue teaching there, buying an investment property, wining and dining on the weekends, playing netball on Wednesdays and socialising with friends from high school and uni. I would have continued to do these things with my ultimate goal being to meet someone, granted I was going to have fun doing so… And if I didn’t? I would have been enjoying my journey along the way too much to even notice. Now, I want to meet someone, but I also DON’T want to meet someone. It’s more out of loneliness and comfort rather than wanting to meet a new partner. An investment property? I have no idea what I’m going to be doing in a week let alone throwing down a coupla 100k on something that will tie me there. As for my old friends? This plan would have worked fine 3 years ago having only been out of their lives for 2 years, it would have been like nothing had changed. Now I have been out of their lives for 5 and in that time I fell in love and lost my partner in the most tragic of circumstances. They didn’t even know him… They and I are very different people to who we were and I almost don’t even want to build that reconnection at the moment. Too much effort for my already broken soul. So at the moment OPTION A is out.

OPTION B

I continue working up here in the country with the friends who became like family and who knew Chris and I inside out. They watched as our love blossomed and became our first friends as a couple. They saw us develop our house into a home and grow our family with our puppy, Willow. We shared our dreams with them and they shared their dreams with us. We held their newborn children. They were there when I got the news. They cried with me and they held me. Now on the face of it, ‘Option B’ seems like a winner… But… It is here I feel lost. It is here where the accident happened. It is here I feel like I am keeping going just for the sake of keeping going. This place represents every hope we had… And everything that is now broken. Everything I see and do reminds me of him here. From the shops to where I walk my dog. Understandably my friends want to talk about Chris with me here, which most of the time is great… Except sometimes I wish my brain would stop constantly thinking about him. That hurt is always there, here.

OPTION C

I kind of fell into teaching and although I do enjoy it, I do wonder if this is something I would do for the rest of my life. In the past it didn’t worry me, as Chris and I were discussing having children in the near future and I believed my new ‘career’ would be staying at home and mothering them. We did say however, that being a stay at home (for me) probably wouldn’t be enough. Although undoubtedly it is the hardest job in the world, the constant monotony of certain aspects of it would probably drive me bonkers.. The idea was floated that I study midwifery part-time, off campus, while I had the kids (see what I mean by being a planner, it was all mapped out!!) Birth has always fascinated me and seeing as it was going to be a part of my near future I was incredibly inspired. I also took inspiration from Chris’ past bravery… After leaving school and qualifying as an Engineer at uni he landed a cushy job, but for him it wasn’t enough. It wasn’t a true passion. So he left his job and went back to school to qualify as a carpenter, a job that resulted in a pay cut. To his dying day he was using that skill to build furniture, a career he wanted to do in the future. I just loved that he had the balls to do that. Anyway, back to ‘Option C’. I go back to the city and study midwifery, using my teaching degree to teach casually. I will live with my dad and my mind will be occupied by full time study… This sounds good in theory, BUT midwifery earns a whole 20 grand less than what I currently do AND I will be losing all my benefits I’ve gained over the last 5 years of working as a teacher. I will be leaving my ‘family’ up here, and I will still have the same disconnect issues from my old friends as with ‘Option A’.

I guess the moral of the story is every option is now fucking scary. The world and future that once looked so bright and hopeful is now dark and full of unknowns.

I just hope I choose the right one…

The Difference Between a Young Widow(ish) and a Young Widow(er)

Chris and I had a whirlwind romance. It was no joke, like the plotline of a movie. One of his friends even suggested that we write a book about our story!! Chris was travelling around the world from England, and I was working in a small country town in Australia as a Teacher. He and his mate had ran out of money so they went their separate ways and began working as farmhands to get some extra cash. One night in my town there was a rodeo. Now, if you met Chris or I you would soon realise that we are both not your stereotypical rodeo attenders!! The likelihood of us both being there at that moment in time was so small… Anyway, we had a literal eyes lock across the room moment, he came up and spoke to me and as they say, ‘That was the end of the story!’ Except it wasn’t. We ended up chasing each other around the world, knowing that we were to be together forever… Which I guess brings me to why I am a Young Widow(ish) and not a Young Widow(er). Chris and I never married. We didn’t ever fully intend to either. Sure the idea was always at the back of our mind, but we were committed to each other. We loved each other. We travelled across the world for each other, and would do anything the other needed. We didn’t NEED a wedding, so made commitments in other ways, Chris giving up his life in England to come and join me here. The fact that he was a mad motocross fan and would spend thousands of dollars on motorbikes probably affected the choice as well.. “You can’t ride a wedding!” he’d always joke.

I guess that’s one of the reasons I’m writing this blog.. Even in the ‘Young Widow’ world, I don’t seem to fit. Young Widows range from 18 to 60 somethings, however the most vocal seem to be that middle aged group who have built their houses, had their children and their marriage for at least 20 years. When they’re talking about their children who are the same age as you, you tend to get a bit resentful and bitter that they were so lucky to have that time. I am not saying it is any less painful. It’s just so different. So damn hard to relate to! I live in a town where the median age is something ridiculous.. Like 7 years old or something. That’s because it’s a working town, where young men and their partners come to earn some serious cash and set up their families. Exactly what Chris and I were trying to do. Although marriage wasn’t really on the cards, children definitely were, with him even saying the week before he died, “I’m ready. I want one.” It was a topic we would discuss daily. We were saving up to buy a house, and if he was still here we would have done so by now. What I’m trying to say is, I’m surrounded by people who are having babies and getting married. 9 weddings so far just from my workplace alone this year. The babies have already started popping up from them. I guess I just feel so isolated. From my little bubble that I’m living in here, but also in the online bubble as well. I hope from doing this I will maybe find some people I can relate to.. Or even better perhaps someone will read this and be able to relate and get some relief themselves.

Early Mornings

The crisp air. The smell of the damp soil. The small things that remind me of him… The early morning flights returning to see him, filled with excitement and exhaustion. The trips we took together, all beginning in darkness with smiles of exasperation. The enthusiasm of a little boy bouncing off the walls ready for a day of racing motocross. The warm cuddles beneath the blankets before a long day at work. How do we keep going when just living our days hurt?

Driving to Broome

Driving to Broome with my dad by my side and I just can’t seem to budge this constant ache of sadness in my chest. This constant ache of what should have been. Broome is a top tourist destination, 8 hours from where Chris and I lived. We had planned to go on the Monday after he died. In fact, he should have been at home packing and cleaning in preparation for our trip, instead of being at work, when the incident occurred. We hadn’t been on holiday for a while, with our combined work efforts making it difficult for us to go anywhere. Chris had bought this trip as a gift for my 25th birthday. In preparation and as a surprise on my actual day he had gotten me a beautiful picture frame where he had hand drawn pictures of us in Broome, ready to be replaced by the photographs we were to take. Sometimes I fantasize about the parallel life I would have lead had Chris still been here.

I miss you Chris. I will try and soak up the beauty of the place for you xxxx10407123_10154533339782925_643982496616021707_n

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