Its been a long time since my last confession.../ blog. We are approaching the time last year when we received the news that there was "nothing more they could do". I remember it well. About this time last year, he came home one day and said, "I'm not driving any more, I can't co-ordinate properly," and just after that he started to struggle with tying laces and using his hands. He went into a hospice, they looked at his pain control (he thought that was the issue), then they found it had gone to his brain. To me the season of merriness was fake. I put on an act, he wanted to enjoy Christmas, it was his favourite time of year, he was a big kid at heart.
So, why the sudden blog? All the Christmas adverts, and the invites that are coming in, remind me of how I felt last year, and strangely, evoke feeling of how I feel this year. Last year was all fake to me. I performed my Christmas duties, loving wife, loving mother, going through my own little psychological hell. I wanted to pull the tablecloth from under all the ceremony and scream "its all fake", but Kevin was determined to enjoy his last Christmas, because he always loved Christmas. Kevin just wanted to get on with it, and wanted to enjoy watching his menace enjoy his favourite time of year. I couldn't talk to the menace about it, he just wanted Christmas to come quicker, and really didn't understand what was happening. In fact I was told (not Kevin) at the beginning of December, when he was in the Peace Hospice in Watford, that he probably had 4 months to live (his oncologist talked to me on the phone, but this was his speculation, he needed to do medical tests to know - he also told me not to tell him, he would, when he knew). We were told officially just before Christmas.
For me, I was just performing a role, I was putting on my front of house persona (Goffman refers to how we portray ourselves to others, but hide the chaos e.g at a dinner party, the kitchen can be in tumoil, but the guests don't see it), internally I was in tatters. I went into my "robot mode", in a crisis I go into "automaton". I needed to be strong for my husband and my menace. So I busily carried on with the christmas shopping and planning. We did all the christmas celebrations, we went to them, and "enjoyed ourselves", it was all very surreal. This blog has been sparked by my annual invite, from my father, to his charity carol concert and cocktails with people I never would get a chance to otherwise (famous people). Kevin used to LOVE it. Last year he came out of the hospice and we went straight up to London to this event. (our good friend Sandra drove us there, and got her ex-husband to pick us up, so we could just concentrate on "enjoying" the evening) He was seriously in pain, but desperate to do it. He tried to walk in, had to leave, then came back. We got to the service, and half way through, he was lying on me, with coats wrapped around him (other people, were even offering their coats) and then we had to leave. We went back to the hotel, he went to bed, I sat on a stool outside the room and phoned my friend who was looking after the menace. She told me he had nits, but she was dealing with it, I felt like an awful mother.
I sat in the hallway of the hotel in my cocktail dress for 2 hours on the phone to my friend. I have never felt so alienated from reality. Dressed in an emerald green dress, with sparkly jewellery, I felt like a a very unqualified, but overdressed nurse, while my husband slept in the room behind me, and I waited for my father and brother and his wife to return from the reception. They returned at nearly 11pm with another couple I didn't know, happy, they had had a good evening, and, to be honest, I was angry. How dare they be having fun???
My father wangled us dinner, they must have hated us, the kitchens were closed, and here were some tipsy revellers and one angry lady! The couple joined us, I was rude to them, I didn't want them there, I was scared and in turmoil, I just wanted to talk to my family, I (very capital I) needed help, not strange people joining us for dinner. We got through the evening, we went home the next morning. Kevin SO wanted to go, and we did it, even if badly. I got my invite this year, spoke to my dad, he talked about the logistics, my sister is going and he told me to talk to her about it (no mention of last year). In the end I did say, I wasn't sure I wanted to go, he acknowledged my feelings. Of course he understood, he, who lives with the burden of sickness and potential death every day, but still manages to "perform" these social rituals that matter so much to him, and to us. I am going again, it is important I face these memories, and prepare myself to carry on as before. At least this year I can acknowledge how I feel, I don't need to keep my "front of house" face for Kevin.
I also have to face the pantomime (Kevin didn't make it last year either) and the annual "do" at a friends, the last thing he made it to, and was on "top form" before he went home and collapsed (took of his party face). I will do them, with friends and family and support, but this year it is "real", not fake, the menace is in on the picture too, we will support each other and get through it. In a strange way I am looking forwards to Christmas, we are spending it with Kevin's family, we can all support each other without him, and make the best of it, learn to enjoy Christmas without him, he was the Christmas obsessive. No doubt the tree won't be up to scratch, and I will have to get up and make the coffee myself before the "grand reveal" (he would wake us all up on Christmas morning - yes, he was awake before the menace), but we will all be aware of what we have, but also what we don't. We are all in on it together.