I hope for you and for me (and the entire human race) that 2017 brings more good than bad. 2016 (as with any given year) had some truly shocking and awful moments for lots of people around the world, including some of those around me and, of course, inside my head.
Looking back from a personal perspective, I break down 2016 into three periods:
1) Infection and Dejection (January to April)
The first four months of the year were dominated by Leo’s various struggles with feeding, colds, viruses and poor weight gain. I was a bona fide stresshead during this period!
2) Affection (May to August)
The four months in the middle of the year brought a thriving Drama Boy. My emotional come-down from the worries took a while to catch up but intellectually I knew that his health was good. So I was good (mostly) and enjoyed lots of family time. Except when the migraines that developed during this period occurred, which were an annoyance when they happened but not much more than that.
3) Detection and Resection (September to December)
The final four months of the year began with a bang on 1 September, when I had the first of hundreds of seizures and the Squatter was discovered. See previous posts on this blog for more details of this period!
Some people have said recently that I have been positive in the face of some pretty bleak news over the last four months. I see it more as taking a realistic view of my situation. At times, that perceived positivity has, to me, been an “instinctively” realist’s view that it could be better but it really could be worse. It’s not like I wasn’t already aware that life can be “unfair” – the evidence was already there in the lives, struggles and deaths of those that I know or knew personally as well as those that I don’t or didn’t.
I therefore know (both theoretically and empirically) that there are many people who are in a lot more desperate situations than we are. My rational and logical reaction could therefore never be one of “woe is me” as if I were somehow meant to be protected from the pain and struggles that befall others. I’m not special compared to my brother; he didn’t “deserve” to die aged 28 anymore than I “deserve” to have lived longer than him.
Sometimes, however, my instinctive inclination for rational and logical thoughts about the Squatter (and the future of the world, for that matter) fails me (can I blame the Squatter for that in both a literal and metaphorical way?). I don’t ignore the scary, frustrated and upsetting thoughts about my predicament that come to mind. In fact, I sometimes actively search inside to find them and I dwell on them at times. I think that’s healthy, though, not least because it proves that I’m not in denial!
At some point during such times of dwelling, however long or short it might take, I make an active choice to employ logic and that includes focusing on the positives. This last week has been difficult but it hasn’t been wholly difficult. Just like 2016 was difficult but it wasn’t wholly difficult.
To counter any thoughts of “good riddance” to 2016, which would (in my mind) be writing off a precious year in our lives, Graham and I made a list the other day of all the positives for us and our family in 2016. There were some truly magical and good moments, both in ordinary and extraordinary ways, and I felt that we needed to remind ourselves of those.
Similarly, as well as writing this blog, I’ve been trying to put down on paper some thoughts that I want to share with J and L. I’ve written some letters to them and have started a physical scrapbook to share memories. Four months in, though, and I’ve had neither the time nor the energy to make as much progress as I’d like with this project. The sitting position I need to adopt for writing by hand (as legibly as I can!) is much more tiring than the prone position I can adopt in writing this blog on my iPhone/iPad. That’s why, recently, I’ve been increasingly sharing memories on the blog as a way to get something down for my children.
To help me enormously with my scrapbook, which is one of my biggest ambitions for 2017 (apart from the obvious!), I would appreciate it if those of you with photos and/or stories about me and my family, particularly my brother, would be so kind as to send them to me. It’s currently a series of A4-sized sheets of card and paper in separate plastic wallets inside a ring binder but we can cut and paste anything you send, or print things out. The scrapbook is intended to be a mix of photos, mementoes (so far, football ticket stubs from momentous matches are dominating those!), handwritten scribbles and typed-up stories for them. In other words, there’s no prescribed form. I’m not planning to edit anything you might send, but I might add to it if it triggers a memory or story I’d like to share.
Note that this is not a call for sanitised stories (we can always add age guidelines and restrictions to the scrapbook!). Far from it, in fact, as one of my worries is that J and L will grow up knowing only an idealised version of their mother and uncle. Nor is it a call for exclusively Momentous, Meaningful, Hilarious or Happy Moments. It’s intended to cover all of those things along with anything and everything in between.
One story in particular about Graeme that I can’t fully remember is about the “Team Graeme” wristbands we had made to show solidarity with him. Does anyone remember details of the story of the kid/teenager wearing a Team Graeme wristband, or who noticed that Graeme was wearing a wristband, and telling Graeme and someone else that it was in support of a guy with a brain tumour? The kid didn’t realise he was talking to THE Graeme of the Team. Graeme, ever humble, didn’t let on. I’ve been trying to remember who the kid knew and how he ended up with a wristband. Answers on a postcard (or whichever medium you prefer) please if you can fill in the blanks.
I’d also appreciate it if you would consider sending me thoughts and regrets about things that you wish you had asked or known of loved ones who are no longer with you. That might help shape some of the things that I will include.
Thanks in advance.