The Empty Nest – Happy Birthday.


Dearest Nick

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Happy birthday!  You would have been 57 today.

It has been 3 months since you passed away. I still can’t say ‘died’. It sounds so unreal. You wouldn’t believe the effect you’ve had on us all. I didn’t know you could feel this sad.

I’ve learnt a lot over the last three months. I’ve learnt that some people like to take advantage of the situation and some people are extraordinarily kind. 

Family and friends have been constant. They have looked out for me, sat through my tears and listened without hesitation. They’ve badgered me to make contact even when I’ve been reluctant and antisocial. I feel very antisocial. I can’t cope with large groups – you know I wasn’t good with that anyway. I always made my way round the room to find you at parties when it got too much.

Work wise it has been difficult but I think we’re getting there. Somehow with help, I’ve managed to keep things going. For now.

How I’ve got to this point is a miracle. I’ve cried so many tears I should have been washed away in a torrent of waves by now. Grief comes in waves. Huge uncontrollable ones that crash over you unexpectedly and soft sobs, that pour down your cheeks at a kind word from a friend. I never know when they will sneak up on me to blur my vision, so it makes  life difficult. Difficult to go out, even on the necessary daily dog walk in case you bump into someone who says innocently ‘How are you?’ Instead of replying ‘How the fuck do you think I am?’ which is what I want to say, I politely apply the English reserve, stamped on my placenta, and reply ‘I’m fine.’ They need to say ‘How are you today?’ Because each day is different. Each hour is different.  Each minute is different. Some people don’t want to know that you’re not coping. They want to hear that you are ok, back to normal, everything’s fine. I suppose it shields them from their feelings.

But I’m not fine.

I’m not fine because I have lost half of me. There is a huge gaping hole where you should be. I’m not whole. I am existing. Not living.

The bed is too big without you. Sting nailed that one. I wake and there is a split second of calm before I look across at your empty pillow and remember. Then I must get up. Straightaway. What is the point of lying in bed when I’ve spent half the night awake trying not to recount the past months? I’ve taken to putting the TV on. The chatter fills the silence left after the kettle has clicked. One cup to make. The dishwasher to empty, dogs to let out into the garden and cats to feed. Our morning dance we used to perform together. Performed and perfected over many years. Each of us knowing the steps.

I do a mean solo performance now.

I’ve realised that I can’t revisit places we enjoyed together as it’s too painful for now so I must make new memories. This house, our home, is a mixed blessing. While it is our safety blanket which envelopes us in its familiar fold, it has turned into a house of sadness because we all expect to see you here. You are in the kitchen cooking; I swivel my chair in the office and expect to see you beavering away at your desk; or stretched out on the sofa watching TV; you don’t call out anymore in reply to my ‘hello’ when I come through the door.

You would be so proud of the kids. They are struggling but they are made of your stoicism and are battling through to find their equilibrium again.

You would be aghast at how difficult it has been to deal with the admin surrounding your death. It shouldn’t be. I think you must be the first person ever to die. Santander thinks so. After two previous appointments I am sitting in an office with a member of staff who looks as though he’s just left sixth form college.

‘I’d like to open an executor account please.’

‘What documents do you have with you?’

‘What documents do you need?’ Your colleague has already taken copies of every possible document I have. I’ve been carrying a folder around with everything but my bra size in it.

We started to fill in yet another form on line.

 ‘Have you grant of probate?’

‘No, I don’t need probate to open an executor account. I just can’t access the money in it until I have it.’

‘You need probate to open the account.’

‘Please can you check, as I’m sure I don’t.’

That was just the beginning. After phone calls and more paper waving (by him not me) it ended up with me walking out in tears of frustration. The sixth former rang later that day and sent flowers as an apology. They don’t seem to realise every time you have to ring or visit to explain what you need is like Brutus’ knife plunging into your heart.

But you’d be proud of me too. I’ve had to man-up. With the help of kind friends, I’ve sorted the boiler when it broke and the car when it wouldn’t start. I’ve had a few melt downs though. The best one was when the wine stocks began to run dry. I can see you raising your eyebrows at me. But you always knew the kind of wine I love, I didn’t need to know, I’d just ask you – now through trial and error I can answer a Malbec or Shiraz.

 I have lost half of me. I am not whole. I have people to do things with but have lost the person I did nothing with.

Not many are lucky enough to have the kind of relationship we had.

So we will keep going, my darling, because that’s what we must do.

All my love birthday boy.

Teresa x

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About Teresahamiltonwriter

Recipe for a Writer Ingredients: • 1 woman • 1 writing habit • 2 husbands • 3 children Method 1. Whisk suburban childhood; followed by a tablespoon of teaching. 2. Mix with travel to produce a stewardess. 3. Stir in love potion, marriage; resulting in daughter. 4. When mixture reaches boiling point, beat in divorce. 5. Slowly marinade extra love potion and 2nd husband. 6. Blend in two more children. 7. Steep in inspiration by relocating. 8. Toss in imagination and perspiration producing: articles, novels, children’s stories and a memoir. 9. Bake in Sussex countryside. 10. Serve with competition successes,publication, red wine and enjoy.
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