Snow. What does it mean? Transport chaos. The wrong kind of snow. The right kind of snow at the wrong time. Trying to keep warm. Treacherous pavements. Problems with deliveries to shops. Unable to get to shops. Nightmare journey to work. Even worse coming home.
I guess it depends whether you’re 6 or 86. Grandad used to dread it, the cold, that icy layer when the top bit has melted and then re-frozen, the grey stuff by the side of the road, the slowdown in the economy…
To Bear, it’s the pinnacle of winter. The stuff that he’s been waiting for since the sun first dipped in the autumn sky and we started needing coats and proper shoes. The anticipation is almost as good as the event itself. He was sorely disappointed when Monday’s offering didn’t settle. He’s been listening to weather forecasts and checking for updates on my phone as if life itself depended on it.
It’s almost time. For the past couple of days the frost has still been on the grass mid-afternoon. The early-morning icy layer on the puddles is now an all day event. One more sleep and if the forecast is to believed, we will be living in a Christmas card by mid-morning.
So if you’ve no place to go (and have sufficient food and heating!) let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!
Grandad decided to give Bear some money to spend. Given a free rein, Bear would probably take it to the Lego shop. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. It’s just that something a bit more special was in order. I’m not sure Bear can remember Dad at his best, even though it was under a year ago! Children live in the present. Sometimes it’s a good thing, but I want to protect his memories of Grandad. He enjoys Lego, but I needed to think of something that he could treasure.
About a year ago, a Build-a-Bear shop opened in a nearby shopping centre. Bear has been very interested ever since. He loves looking at the little outfits and shoes and hats, but most of all he dreams of having his very own bear to bring home and love.
Build-a-Bear. That’s the thing to do. He chose him! He stuffed him! He dressed him! And right now he’s snuggled up with him. I’ve never seen such a happy pair of bears!
The Large Family are firm favourites in our house. The cheeky young elephants appeal to Bear, while Mr. Invisible and I can relate to Mr. and Mrs. Large as alcohol-free versions of ourselves. Five Minutes Peace particularly resonates. Mrs. Large takes steps to secure this evasive pleasure, as desirable as chocolate and as rare as Kryptonite. It may take days in the planning and still something could come up at the last second to destroy it. Mrs. Large manages three minutes and forty five seconds for herself, but she still has to clear up the mess. There’s always a price to pay!
My morning has been a struggle. Bear was ready in his school uniform promptly, waiting by the front door. Homework, tick. School bag, tick. PE kit, tick. Lunch, tick. But we had to run more or less all the way for him to just about get in last before the door closed, before I got around the corner and wept down the phone to Mr. Invisible. The reason. Grandad. It’s not his fault. It’s not mine either. I just don’t want anymore mornings like this.
So when I unexpectedly found myself between places with five minutes to spare, I jumped at it. Toasted cheesy crumpet and proper coffee with hot milk. On my own. Completely. Priceless.
My Dad was 40 when I was born. I was almost 40 when Bear was born. I sometimes wonder if I am seeing them both through a weird mirror. Is Bear anything like my Dad was at age five? Old photographs give the nod, but they are unreliable witnesses. Even if Grandma were alive to tell me, the passage of eighty years might distort her vision. Will Bear be anything like my Dad when he is 85? They have some personality traits in common. I probably have them too. This is where it gets complicated. I am the mirror, but I am also a link in the chain. This is my story too. But our stories are not the same. I don’t look at Bear and see myself at his age. We share some of the same passions: teddy bears, books, building things, but he is not me. He has his own thoughts, his own dreams and desires, his own fears, his own soul. His life will be a mixture of the things he chooses and the things he chooses to do about the things he can’t choose. (I’ve just got back from the Donald Rumsfeld school of plain English!)
Dad has incurable cancer. It was diagnosed four years ago. Three and a half of those four years were ‘healthy’. The last half has been a challenge. But in the scheme of things it’s not that bad. He isn’t in constant pain. We can still talk about stuff and have a bit of a laugh (as long as it’s timed correctly around medication and exertion!) So what does ‘dying’ mean and is he doing it? Scientists can explain ‘dead’ and ‘alive’ pretty well, but ‘living’ and ‘dying’ is the stuff of philosophers, poets and those on first name terms with Mortality.
Maybe it’s about now. Maybe ‘living’ is about being in the moment. Not just being there, but inhabiting that moment and making it our own. Forever. Once we’ve been in a moment, it’s too late for anyone to take us out of it. Once it’s passed us by, there’s no way of getting back into it.
So as long as his medication has kicked in and he isn’t between places, Dad chooses ‘living.’ Long may it continue.
It’s almost a week since my last post. And what a week! We had a holiday club for children (I was a volunteer), the Olympic Opening Ceremony (I was transfixed) and a Family Fun Day today (I was doing too many things!) It’s a struggle to do all this stuff with Dad. He was at Auntie’s until Thursday evening, and I was already done in! I should be getting up-to-date on my own jobs and re-charging my batteries a bit when he’s at Auntie’s. But this time last year he was walking to places and playing cricket with the kids, so I can hardly blame myself for having said yes to stuff. Without Mr. Invisible I couldn’t have done it. He helped Dad with the morning routine yesterday while I was at holiday club and again this morning when I was setting up the Fun Day. I think my world needs to shrink a bit.
Dad and Bear and I watched the opening ceremony of the Olympics last night. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and we have been waiting years for it. Just as the seven young athletes were in position to light the copper petals, which would combine to form the Olympic cauldron, Dad decided he needed the loo. Between the walking frame and the stairlift, I managed to get the gist of what was happening. And in the modern age, there are plenty of opportunities to see it again. So remind me, why did I stay up for it? That it’s all happening just along the road might have something to do with it. I’ve never taken any notice of the Olympics before, but now I’ve got Olympic-coloured nails and am well on the way to getting the total fever! Actually I love it. I love the hype, the atmosphere, I love that Bear is so engaged with it. I love that I can’t go anywhere without seeing an Olympic cycling team in training or an Olympic volunteer on the way home from a shift.
Anyway, Bear is in my bed now. He woke up an hour ago wet with perspiration, hiding under the covers from the monsters. Where these monsters have come from I don’t know, but they are real to him. Mummy’s bed with the lamp on is the best place. Monsters wouldn’t dare go into Mummy’s room and they are definitely scared of the light. I hope he’s still there when I go to bed. I’m happy for my world to get smaller if I get to look after Dad, give Mr. Invisible a break and enjoy Bear.
Bear has gone to Grandma and Grandad’s (Mr. Invisible’s parents), so we have some time to ourselves. Just like old times! We could do exactly what we like! We could go to a gallery and actually look at the artwork. We could take a stroll along the South Bank, stop at every watering hole on the way and then go for dinner or the cinema. Or we could just have a clear out. A lovely, soul-cleansing, cathartic, thorough clear out.
A couple of months ago, our nephew Ashford moved from his room on the first floor to the attic because Grandad (my Dad) was struggling with the extra flight of stairs. We wanted Ashford to have a lovely student den up there so we moved a load of stuff from the attic into our bedroom. Somehow, we haven’t done anything about it. Disgraceful!
Mr. Invisible decided to make a start in the cellar, while I tackled ‘the pile.’ This is a way of working together to promote the utmost harmony. A few boot sale boxes, recycling crates and bin bags later, I’ve made a huge sliding tackle of a start and we’ve had just the one disagreement. (Mr. Invisible thinks I won’t use my bike again as I haven’t used it in the last 10 years. I think it is my bike, so I will decide whether I will use it again or not when I have time to make such a weighty decision!)
Before Bear was born, we had stuff but not this amount and the stuff we had, we had time to keep tidy. So I see this as a bit of a new beginning, an opportunity to get back the tiniest bit of control.
So just like old times? Never again. Our lives have changed so completely, that it’s impossible to go back even for a weekend. We will enjoy a quiet dinner and glass of something this evening and a bit of a lie-in in the morning, thankful for the time together and that Bear is making memories with Grandma and Grandad.