Wednesday, 30 October 2013

This time last year...

I got an email from Bounty today that got me thinking.  It is titled 'Your 42 Week Old...'.  42 weeks??  Baby Joel has been here just a tiny bit longer than the time he spent growing in my swollen belly!  How fast time has gone, and how much has changed.  It got me to thinking what was I up to this time last year?

This time last year I was feeling awful sorry for myself.  I had whooping cough and was coughing myself breathless and sick.  I was off work sick.  We were expecting the arrival of a baby in 8 weeks and were far from prepared.  The flat was upside down, in an attempt to make it baby-ready we were getting a few walls jiggled about the create a room for the baby.  Our house was covered in dust, we were sleeping on an awkward and uncomfortable sofa bed downstairs until the work was complete and I was feeling under the weather, under prepared and over whelmed.  

This time last year I still had the time to sleep in, the freedom to nip into town to meet a friend at a moments notice and no baby clutter!

But there is another chapter to this time last year.  
This time last year my uncle was in a hospice.  It was a terribly difficult time for my family.  Diagnosed with a brain tumour in the last days of the summer, Thomas was taken from us before christmas.  

During this cruel short period of time I witnessed some amazing strength in my family.  First of all I witnessed some amazing strength and determination from my uncle Thomas.  Only focusing on the next immediate stage of treatment Thomas never seemed to be overwhelmed by what faced him.  He was always first and for-most a father to his 19 year old son, nagging him about getting his provisional licence sorted, enquiring about the state of his bedroom and encouraging him on his job search.  Thomas's wish was to remain home throughout his treatment and to be cared for in his home.  Although Thomas spent much of his short last months in hospital and hospice care Thomas had the strength to make it home for his final weeks. 

I saw amazing strength in my family, Thomas's siblings who without question rallied around and helped to care for Thomas.  Thomas was never alone in his home, in the early days it was about ensuring he had company and a helping hand should he be hungry and need his tea made.  This progressed to applying a cooling cloth to his pained head, taking his weight on their shoulders to lift him from his chair to standing, or later to shift him in the bed.  They learnt to administer medication, when to call for support from the doctor on call and how to provide relief by filling the house with laughter.  It was a difficult time for them all.  Some stepped up where others faltered because it would be in-human to be able to cope with all that pressure all of the time, everyone having their own important role.  It wasn't always smooth sailing but I was so proud of them all for the strength they showed.

I saw the amazing strength of my granny, Thomas's mother.  My granny is a kind and thoughtful lady who makes her guests and family feel indulged and spoilt.  But she is also a formidable woman who does not suffer fools.  I suppose she would be considered and old lady by others but I have never seen her this way.  She is the matriarch of the family and  has an unrivalled ability for getting stuff done, whether by getting stuck in and bringing you with her or bossing about a poor workman!  It was devastating to see her so broken and sad at Thomas's wake.  We often joke with granny about her stature, a tiny lady (pocket rocket!) but this is the first time that I truly saw her as small.  She was emotionally exhausted but for those few long says she sat by her son's open coffin and greeted the hundreds who came to pay their respects.  Granny was knocked off her feet by the grief and suffered a long period of ill health afterwards, spending weeks in hospital.  I always knew she would bounce back though, I had faith.  Now it's hard to get her in the house, she's either at the bingo or down the town or organising work getting done to her house.  I know this is a difficult period of 'this time last year..' for her but this won't stop her hitting the bingo with her friends, making her beloved family a bit of tea or getting her back room wallpapered.  Her strength and get up and go attitude is inspiring.

I saw amazing strength in my cousin Jordan, Thomas's son who lost his father far too soon.  Only a young man on the brink of fatherhood my heart went out to him on that cold december day as he stood at the graveside as his father was buried.  Thomas was so excited to announce the expected arrival of his first grandson, so cruel that he wouldn't be around to see baby Sam arrive.  Thomas was also overjoyed to learn that Jordan had secured a great job for an IT company.  He was so proud of Jordan.  During these difficult final weeks Jordan went through testing and interview processes to secure this job.  He started only a few short weeks after he buried his father.  A father now himself I know his grief at times must be crippling, but I hope he knows how proud his dad would be.  The most recent photo I seen of Jordan and his big baby Sam was so beautiful and bore such a resemblance to other photos I have seen of Thomas holding a big baby Jordan.  Bitter sweet.

Looking back to this time last year can be so sad so is there any point in looking back to much times of hurt and devastation?  Returning to work after maternity leave meant returning to emails I had received to my work email during this time which I had not deleted before leaving.  Rushed and panicked in  tone - 'Thomas not good, hitting the road to his house, will call when I arrive.  Let your brother and dad know' - these snapshots transported me back to the worry of that time.
I read through them one final time and deleted them for good, they serve no purpose to me.  I choose to look back and remember the positive.  
I remember how Thomas joked that he would issue a restraining order against all of us.
 I remember how he loved his food.
I remember his admirable determination in making it to treatment and making it home again.
I remember how he still had the strength to raise a sarcastic brow to the list of names I had for my expected baby.  I'm pretty sure baby Joel has somehow developed this sarcastic brow.  It makes me giggle when he raises an eyebrow at me while I sing and dance around the room.  Joel arrived only a few weeks after Thomas left us.  Joel never met Thomas but Thomas was in my thoughts so much as Joel grew inside me perhaps he adopted this sarcastic brow as a happy reminder of a great man.

Most of all I remember the strength of my amazing family.  It was a cruel reminder of how important family is. 


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