Scattered thoughts

Originally Posted on September 13, 2011

Some days, I don’t know what to write. This is one of those days.

Grief group has ended and will not reconvene until early November. By then, my mother will be out from the States and I hope she will join me for the next one. She won’t be able to attend for the whole thing, but I think it’ll be good for her and me to go together, as we are processing the death of the same important person but in different ways.

Last week was the final grief group session, and I skipped it. I feel pretty stupid about it. I just didn’t want to go. I just wanted to do something fun. So I went to the mall.

Wee. Fun. I recognize that not sharing with my grief group friends made the week that much harder on me emotionally. It’s not something I plan to do again.

You make silly decisions when your world gets turned upside down. You get an idea into your brain and you just have to see it through. I go on periodic shopping sprees to make me feel better. In fairness, these are things that we needed for the most part, such as new clothes for me and the kids. Having a sudden influx of cash helps in that regard. But comfort buying was always something I did throughout my life. I find I’m leaning on that during this strange period of my life.

I also changed my room around. I can’t as yet afford a new bed, but I found it very difficult early on to sleep in our bed with it in the same old position as it used to be. So I moved it from the center of the wall into the corner and changed its direction. Janie’s side of the bed is now jammed up against the wall. I figure she won’t need to get out of that side any longer.

Also, I bought what folks in the US know as Direct TV (DSTV out here). I’m not sure why we never got it while she was alive. It sort of never factored in to our list of priorities. Now I watch TV at night once the kids are down. Other times I don’t. Restlessness is a major issue these days.

I decided I needed a new hairdo. It’s not very different than what it used to be, but I (sort of ) style it now, using gel, a product I used to never touch because I thought styling one’s hair was vain. Now I find it makes me feel a tiny bit better, just doing a little more to look… I don’t know. Alive, I guess.

On days when the kids are staying over at mom and dad Spence’s house on a Thursday, I go out in the evenings either to dinner or to hang out with a friend. Thursdays are hard. Returning to an empty house still just doesn’t sit that well with me. I wake up later on a Friday to absolute silence, which some people would think is bliss. I have to say I’m not a big fan.

I talk to myself. Constantly. I’ve said that before, but even I think it’s excessive. Still, who else am I going to talk to at night when the kids are down? I hate phones, so I talk to myself. I tend to not be a very good listener.

Weekends have been brutal, but I’m beginning to get a handle on them. The kids are now fully into the whole Saturday routine of going to the farmers market. We stop by the same stands in the same order: the mad Scottish fresh juice guy, the mushroom lady, then the fresh eggs lady, then the vegetable stand, then around the arts and crafts area where I normally buy a toy or something for the kids, then Simon Hemingway the charcuterie superstar, then Chrissie the mad English cheese lady, then perhaps the Duck Lady, perhaps the Shongweni Breweries stand (gotta have my IPA), then the Dutch stand for beef croquettes (Sophie always cheers when it comes into sight), then the fresh bread stall, then the Assagay coffee stand, then we might, if the kids have been really good, stop by Herman the German’s pastry stand and get something deliriously sweet. Then we head out. This last Saturday we went to the Hillcrest Mall. I blogged a bit about that yesterday.

Sunday sees us going to church. This last weekend we gave it a miss. Instead, we went over to the home of the estimable du Buisson household for a braai and an opportunity to watch some rugby. The whole Monk-Klijnstra clan was there, who although there are only six of them in total, it somehow always seems like more… this is meant in the very best way! It was a wonderful day. The kids had a blast. Seanie sat in Victoria du Buisson’s lap for hours on end. It’s been a while since he’s cuddled a young mom. It was sweet and sad all at once to witness.

Up and down, up and down, like waves on a vast sea. Rhythm, rhythm, rhythm. How very odd and regimented the days have become. I am coping better with the demands of single parenthood every day. I will do even better when I start looking after my health a little more carefully and get back into the gym, a thought that both attracts and repulses me at the same time. I am no gym bunny. Exercise is now a grim reality I must undertake for the sake of my energy levels and sanity. But the thought of working out… I’d rather drink beer and eat some really fatty boerwors. While watching the rugby. With a vast bowl of Nik Naks on my ample gut.

Janie was alive during the last rugby world cup. We watched it at our little house in Delaware. Janie was pregnant with Seanie at the time, and gave birth to him soon after South Africa hoisted the trophy for a second time in their history. It was a sweet, sweet period of our lives. The picture at the top was taken right after we won it all.

I can’t help but feel that regardless of how short our marriage was, we had it good together. Sure, we fought and argued, as any couple does. We were both very stubborn people and we clashed over so very many things, all of which seem trivial and stupid now. But the love was a powerful undercurrent and kept us going. We never gave serious thought to divorce. We never would have. Our children were our payment for sticking it out. Now I get them all to myself. The only thing I’d change about my life now would be to have her back in it. But then that’s wishful thinking again.

It’s wonderful to be able to look back on a relationship and see that, in the balance, it was good. I normally arrive at this point of reflection at least once a day. As much as I still cry regularly over her loss, there is no bitterness. There is no “if only.” I could have been a better husband, but every married person could be a better spouse. If there is ever to be a Mrs. Jones version 2.0, she will get a much improved version of myself. She’ll have Janie to thank for that.

But that is the very last thing on my mind. Mostly, I look back and think, in light of this new life, that our history as a couple gives me strength to do this new phase, and do it to the best of my ability. It wasn’t just her, as in her example, her love, her skill as a mother that spurs me on. It was us. What we had. What we built together. We didn’t have a tremendous amount of time in which to do it, but I don’t feel as though we were slouches with the time we were given. I think we did pretty darned well. I’m proud of us. We done good.

It makes doing this life now easier. I have been well equipped by her and us. New skills are emerging every day, as if on their own. I am a much, much better parent at the little things than I used to be. I don’t lose my top with the kids any more. I used to do this regularly before. I’m not slouching or fobbing off responsibility, which was my mark and trade before. Obviously necessity has dictated this, but I could just throw up my hands and say “enough, I’ve been beaten” and not too many people would blame me for doing so. This is not a pride thing since it was something that was built in to me through my relationship to Janie. I was just never forced to access it before.

The really cool thing is, I’ll get better at it still. Seanie is 3. Sophie is 2. I have lots of time to hone these budding skills. I’m genuinely excited about that. Maybe there’s a latent spendthrift in me that will emerge in greater force in the months and years ahead. That would make Janie really proud.

Yeah, this post has wandered wandered wandered. Not all who wander are lost. I once was lost, right at the start of this whole thing. I was desperately lost. Now… I’m perhaps not totally sure of my surroundings, but I’m beginning to find my way. That gives me hope. But it was not born in a vacuum. I have all those years with Janie and our time as “us” to thank for the strength I am finding now on a daily basis. That and, naturally, the love and support of family and friends  that have rushed to our side in our time of greatest need.

Love abounds. Gratitude is a choice.

Choose well, friends.

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