Sunday, 20 March 2011

Getting rid of Bertie

We had two cars, an old battered (my fault) ford galaxy, better known as Bertie (the big red bus), and a little burgundy A class merc called Ruby. Personalising the cars happened when we got Ruby, she was my mum's car, she is also ill and can no longer drive, so my father gave her to us. At the time Kevin needed the big car for his work and i also needed a car for work. Ruby was a real help in our lives. Ruby was always my car, but after my unfortunate incident in the multi storey car park, i was relegated to driving Bertie.

One day after Kevin's death we were coming back from somewhere, in Ruby, when Dennis made some comment, i can't even remember what it was, but he was talking about Bertie. I casually mentioned that we would be selling Bertie, as we didn't need two cars any more. Up until that point, he had been a very brave boy and was going really well (too well, in fact). I was not prepared for the reaction i got. He was really angry at the decision to sell the big car. I explained that we didn't need and couldn't afford two cars. "but daddy paid for that car, its ours!" He went running down the road in his socks, he was screaming "you can't sell Bertie!"

I went after him, picked him up, he was clinging to the car and crying. Stupidly, i said "well technically, we didn't pay for it, daddy's brother lent us the money." The menace was insistent "Is he making you sell Bertie? You choosed the wrong car!" (I was trying to avoid being seen as the bad one, i was failing to point out i had made the decision myself) When i phoned up the insurance company, they wanted to charge me three times the ammount Kevin paid to take on the insurance, it really wasn't worth it. To be honest, since i crashed it, great though it was to drive, it wasn't very aesthetically pleasing and i wasn't expecting to get much for it. Poor uncle Paul had to take the brunt of Dennis' anger, i felt truly awful.

Dennis sobbed on the phone to his uncle "Now that's two things that have gone, Daddy and Bertie!" His uncle's reaction was to try and distract him, he talked about all sorts of things, lego, days out, letters he would write him, anything to stop him thinking about the car. After about 30 minutes the conversation ended and the menace went up for bathtime and bed. It had taken about an hour and a half to calm him down. At one point, he was standing in the sitting room screaming, he seemed to be seeing how loud he could scream, a release of all his tension and emotion, he seemed to be enjoying it. (I understood that feeling, i have done it myself).

My first thought was to not talk about Bertie, just sell him and be done with it. But my policy has been to be honest with him and i didn't want to break his trust, so instead i took the stance of talking him through why and how we would sell him. Over the nest few days Dennis came up with all sorts of reasons for why we needed to keep Bertie. "How will we take Tom and his family to the cinema? How will you drive my friends to my party? What if we need to pick up something big from Granny and Grumpy's?" All these questions i tried to answer as best i could.

I explained to Dennis that cars do not last forever ( i regretted that i had personalised them with names). I told him how they deppreciate in value, i explained tax and insurance, petrol costs and maintenance. I had to explain these quite a few times, they are not easy concepts for a six year old! In the end he accepted that Bertie was going and changed his tack, "Can we sell him to someone we know." I explained that not everyone wants a 7 seater car, and that it was unlikely we would see Bertie again, but we could always remember him.

At the same time all this was going on, they changed the law on owning an uninsured car, i was getting very nervous as i still hadn't sold the car, and i did not want to pay the £1500 odd they wanted to charge me. I phoned the insurance company and asked for an extension to the one month's grace, they would not. I thanked the woman for being most unhelpful and put the phone down. This was not going well. My friend (@i_amnotdan) phoned the police and asked about the law, and kindly sent me an e mail entitled "Car insurance - the facts"

This did calm me down, but i still wanted to get rid of the car, it was starting to feel like a millstone around my neck and i didn't really want to go through all the reasons why we were selling it, all over again.

In the end the menace got his way. Some friends bought it off us, Dennis was happy, he can still see Bertie and i am happy i no longer have an illegal, uninsured car sitting on my lawn. And huge thanks to Uncle Paul for helping me with the difficult conversations, and @i_amnotdan for helping me with the selling.

I promised Dennis that was the only thing that would go, nothing else would change. I really hope i can keep that promise! I am also going to make a conscious effort not to personalise the cars again!

Saturday, 12 March 2011


On World book day this year, the menace wanted to go as a "robot", not really stretching his vocabulary, so i turned him into an "automaton". This seems an apt way to describe myself at present.

I feel everything is a rush. I have never been good in the mornings, Kevin always got up, made the coffee and waited for me and Dennis to surface. Now i get up, perhaps a little later than i should, rush around, shout alot (well - chivvy) my little menace, who has no sense of urgency. I force the dog out into the garden, chirrup at him until he has done the necessaries. I have no time to waste with sniffing the garden and strolling around in small circles, my neighbours must laugh at the mad woman standing on the lawn and beckoning the dog to get things done, so i can get going myself.

I then deposit my son at the neighbours, and leave for work (they take him into school). After i have lectured i apply the same sense of urgency to preparing for the next day, printing things out for reprographics, meetings with students and staff, and then i leave with the same hurried approach with which i arrived. It is like being on a conveyor belt, i have to apply a strict schedule to everything until i am home and safe and can relax until the next day, when i go through it all again.

I have also been applying the same sense of urgency to walking the dog, i allow an hour slot, and i get impatient if he wanders off course a bit. All this rushing is exhausting and stressful. Thursday seems to be a particularly low point, by then the dog is a bit neurotic and so am i. I think it would be fair to say that by Thursday evening i am maudlin and depressed, i am also a bit short tempered!

Friday i work from home and start to relax again, ready to wind myself up again next week from Monday to Thursday! Its not exactly ideal, but i am not ready to give up yet. I have outsourced the cleaning and that has helped, although i still have to reserve time slots for all the other roles that i am juggling. I am sure over time i will work out a way of letting go of the some of the things that i needn't focus on, but i am still struggling to know which ones they are.

I have worked out that Thursdays are a low point, and best to avoid difficult conversations on that day. I have identified my areas for concern, and i have plans and contingency plans in place for them, but the constant calendar and clock watching is tiring me out and taking up alot of time in itself, time i just don't have. There is no time for spontaneity and relaxation, not unless they can fit into any of the small slots of time that are free (there are occasional 15 minutes which have not got anything diarised in). Anyway i must now go to bed, i have reserved the next few hours for sleep, i cannot waste them on anything else, because i will not get them back! Tomorrow i must get up and do it all over again, with the same level of impatience!

Thursday, 3 March 2011

A month on...

Today is the 3rd March and Kevin died on 30th January, i suppose that is a month on. I have been doing well, almost too well, but tonight i feel awful! Yes, i am a strong person, yes i will take it one day at a time, but one day leads to another, which is exactly the same!

I am not afraid of being on my own, this is what i told Kevin and i did mean it, but it is honestly hard trying to do two roles, well maybe i should say more! A mother, a father, a full-time professional worker, a dog owner and a student.

I know many people juggle more than one role, i did anyway, but support helps. However, i need to clarify that, because i do have support. I have the help of friends, but nothing replaces that support of the one that you love. Friends go home, relatives are at the end of the phone, and even if they were all here, they would not be Kevin. If they were all here, they would be an irritation, to be honest, sometimes Kevin was! But i still loved him, even if he was an irritation!

Dennis gives me strength to "keep calm and carry on!" without him the temptation to do a "Reggie Perrin" may be greater. The problem with "life" is there is no respite! I went back to work early, mainly because i worried that if i stay away it will get more difficult to go back.

One month on, i feel this deep appreciation and sadness for all that Kevin did for me, even though perhaps i didn't realise it. He had been ill for a while, so it wasn't the concrete stuff, like the cleaning, cooking, helping with Dennis' homework, dog walking etc. Once back from China, last October he hadn't really done any of that, so i haven't taken on much that i didn't do for a while (although he was a very hands-on dad and house-husband before then), but it seems so much harder now, as there isn't any support or appreciation for the effort put in.

Once the little menace has gone to bed, it is hard to motivate myself, when there is no-one to perform this act of conscientiousness in front of. I always worked hard, but i knew he appreciated it and actively encouraged it. I know it was our vision to create an environment for when he was gone, but now he is, there isn't anyone to share the vision with and it all seems hard to "act out" the roles i have to play.

Going back to work and starting "normal life" felt like being hit by a bus. I am sure this is just a stage as the realisation of being a single mum sets in. The worse thing is that i haven't got Kevin to come home to and say "i've had an awful day!" I know friends want to take that role, but its not the same thing.

I feel responsible for so much and that isn't something you can share!

Its just a stage i have to go through .......