One Day at a Time

Boats do not look their best in Winter - not even after a slap-up lunch of sawdust sausages and greasy chips at Milford Haven - especially a boat that’s out of the water, drenched by weeks of rain and standing under trees. Poor Blue Nun has acquired a slimy green coat and Ken, my father-in-law, who is staying with us for the week looks at her doubtfully. ‘Nice,’ he says, rallying. Tom and I talk merrily of how we’ll all go for a sail in the Spring, conscious that even ‘tomorrow’ is too big a concept for the man who has just lost his wife of sixty years. One day at a time is quite enough to cope with and this week we’re doing just that, offering small distractions every day, not to deny grief, but hopefully to provide a small glimpse of future possibilities.

‘Oh, lovely - a table by the window!’ we cry, piling into seats, glad to get out of the cold Tenby rain. What could be nicer than a grandstand view of the magnificent beach? And, look, the sun’s just peeping out! Refreshments arrive and I’m about to take my first bite of a carrot cake when I become sharply aware of the conversation between the elderly ladies on the next table.

   ‘It’s very good, you can hardly see the difference between the two. How does it feel?’
   ‘Well, quite comfortable, actually. Better than the eye patch. I was nervous at the fitting, especially with all those rows of eyes looking at me. (Jolly laughter all round the table). But in the end it was a bit like choosing a new handbag or shoes to go with a dress. They said it was a perfect match!’
   There is a chorus of approval but, feeling slightly green, I’m relieved when one of the women working at the cafe is hailed by the dear ladies behind us heralding a change of topic.
   ‘Your hair!’ they say, ‘it’s so different now. Did you have a perm?’
   ‘I lost it all with the chemo,’ comes the reply, ‘and it grew back curly.’
The sorry saga continues and it’s not that I’m unsympathetic, far from it, it’s just that we’ve seen so much of hospitals lately. ‘You haven’t finished your cake,’ says Tom. We leave the cafe and walk into a watery sun and a rainbow arching over the town. It’s too much, at first, for FiL who chose ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ to close Rita’s funeral service but eventually he takes it as a good sign.

A good news day beckons; Rose and Si have finally completed on the purchase of their first home. Hurray! I’ve resisted furtive ‘drive pasts’ for fear of jinxing the sale so today’s our chance to have a proper inspection. Rose and Si will be living three hours away, between Bristol and Bath, but what should be a straightforwards journey turns into gridlock just outside Swansea. There’s no traffic info so I check my phone to discover we’re in the fallout from a fatal accident. More misery. Five hours later, my spirits are considerably lifted when we see Rose and Si in their new home which is bright, light and spacious with a beautiful garden. We round the day off with a brilliant meal in a splendid gastropub, The Lock Keeper, which is right on their doorstep. For a few hours all seems right with the world, but on the way home, I hear FiL weeping. Even one day at a time can be tough.


Lesley Cookman said…
A lovely post, Chris.
Claire McC said…
Love to you all, Chris. x
Georgina Troy said…
Such a roller coaster of emotions for you all. Hugs. x
Kathryn Freeman said…
Yes, you made me cry, Chris Stovell. Thinking of you all - as you say, one hour, one day at a time xxxx
Teresa said…
What a roller coaster post. Wonderful. And so you.

I could say "go to run and that will pass" but YOU KNOW it's not that easy. It won't be easy. Until it is :)

Take Care and Be Strong!

Clare Chase said…
Such a moving and lovely post, Chris. Thinking of you all. xx
Carol Hedges said…
reading with tear in eye. After more than 40 years of marriage, I can slightly see how unspeakable it must be to lose oneself - for that is what it must be like. Poor, poor man. My heart goes out to him. He will not *get better* from this, why should he? But he will get to a place where the memories will be sweet and the pain less bitter. Glad you are there for him.
Chris Stovell said…
Thanks kind of you, Claire - and to you. Cx

It is a bit, Georgina, thank you. x

Oh, sorry, Kate, but thank you for your kind thoughts - very much one hour at a time x

We'll try, Teresa - but I understand what you're saying. x

Ah, thank you, Clare x

Yes, you're quite right, Carol - how can anyone 'get better' as you say after such a loss? I do hope that the painful memories will be eased by sweeter one. Thank you.
Frances said…
Dear Chris, your well written post very tenderly conveys lives being shared by people who love each other and are finding ways to travel through a very sad time together, I have a good friend whose husband died several months ago after several years of keeping a cancer diagnosis at bay. My friend is still in a very fragile state. Some days are good, she is managing to get out and about every so often. Yet, I can never predict when she will go through a sudden dark phase, when nothing seems cheering. I'm hoping that time will continue to also offer gentle uplifting stimulation, and that her view of the future will gradually brighten.

There is certainly no set schedule.

xo to you and Tom and all your loved ones.
Pondside said…
Thank goodness your FIL has the two of you to reminisce with. Thank goodness he can cry. What a hard time, and one which many of us in long-term relationships know will come, eventually. My father is losing my mother day by day - the mourning is drawn out and terribly sad. I hope that you and Tom are able to be good to yourselves while you are caring for everyone else.
Jean Helsby said…
Aw Chris, I've got tears streaming down my face. You have such a wonderful way with the English language.
I'm sure your FiL couldn't have asked for a better daughter in law! You are so caring and thoughtful.
That's wonderful news too that Rose and Si have a lovely new home.

Chris Stovell said…
Dear Frances, your hopes for your friend are exactly those we wish for FiL. My Ma bravely carved out a whole new chapter in her life - 10 years on her own - but there's no predicting, it seems to me, how each person comes to terms with great loss. It's very early days, of course, for FiL, for Tom, for all of us - I almost can't believe what's happened - so, yes, it's very much a question of finding a path through a very tough time. Many thanks, Cx

I'm so sad, Pondside, reading that painful sentence about your father losing your mother day by day. We were always grateful, when my dad suffered his final illness, that he was very much himself to his last conscious breath. With MiL we were not so fortunate and it seemed that everyone's suffering was protracted - I certainly hope not to be in that position when my time comes. My thoughts and love to you and yours too, Cx

I've only done what anyone would do, Jean, and I feel pretty inadequate as it is. But, yes, we're absolutely delighted for 'Rose' and Si - lovely to have happy news, Cx
Flowerpot said…
You are wonderful with your FIL - poor fellow he is not in a good place, but it isn't easy for you either. But very glad that Rose and Si have a lovely new home. Take care - it will get better.Just sometimes you wonder, WHEN? XX
Chris Stovell said…
Hmm, does feel like that, Sue! I know you speak from experience and that better times will come. Rose and Si's news promises happier days ahead. Best to you too, Cx
Ah. When we wheeled my dad, already suffering from MND, into the room in the hospital where my mother had been taken by the air ambulance and saw her lying, clearly dead, all that my father said, with tears rolling, was "Fifty seven years". There is nothing to do other than offer some company, some love, some distraction. As you are doing. Glad about the house. Life will go on quicker for you than for him but it does keep running and leaping and flying. That is just what it does! Take care. xx
Chris Stovell said…
That's so sad, Elizabeth. Your poor father (and you). I hope very much that FiL will find the joy in life again, I know it's very hard for him right. It's certainly been a period of turbulent emotions. Thanks so much for your kind comment. Cx

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