Missing

Now that we’re snuggling into winter clothes, lighting the wood-stove and wearing socks again, the summer break seems a dim and distant memory. For us it was a mixed-up time. We did some new things and went to some new places. We also did some of our comfortable, same-old. We stayed in the same cottage in Donegal that we’ve been to for the last few years. The cottage where Tony always found something to fix. Naturally. We visited our usual haunts – the beach, Nancy’s Yard (for the best chowder in the world) and of course the Rusty Nail pub. We had fun, laughed, sang loudly in the car and played several rounds of Rummikub and Scrabble. Without him. It was Ethan’s birthday while we were away, and although I had prepared myself for the actual day, it was the night before when I wrote Ethan’s card that the unanticipated tidal wave of sadness came. His name was missing. ‘Daddy’ was not written in the card this time.

It is this ‘missing’ which overwhelms my days now. At a gathering of friends, he is not there: to tell his stories, share his wisdom and lovingly wind everyone up. He is missing when I need to seek out his eyes for reassurance and shared knowing. He is missing when I need his words of encouragement and tenderness. And I am not complete without him.

He is missing from his place at the table and we are having to learn to be a different shape. A triangle, not a square. Unspoken, we find a new position. Who will be the first to the sofa and sit in his spot? Savouring that unexplained closeness to him. A measure of JD remains in the bottle. He’s not here to take it. I can’t bring myself to drink it. There it will always stay.
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Dear June,

Dear June,

As usual, you have been the busiest, most emotional, expensive and tiring month of the year. Every year, I know it will be the same, and every year you manage to surprise me with how intense you are. This year you even brought extra luggage with you. The ‘end of primary school for ever in this family’ bag and the ‘interview for a new job’ bag which definitely fell into the ‘excessive weight’ category. It was difficult unpacking the first one and the second one seemed to take forever to empty. Now they’re both zipped up again and the contents transferred to my mind and heart where I’m continuing to process them, but at a much more leisurely pace now that you’ve gone.

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Who’d have known that driving out of the gates of E’s school for the last time would be such a wrench. What an amazing place Lough View has been for both of our children. A place of polytunnels, creativity, respecting rights, buddy systems, Lifeguards, Judo belting, musical excellence, pond dipping, Roots of Empathy, amazing teachers, oh and academic learning! We will certainly miss it.

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And who’d have known that you would bring with you the opportunity of a job which I love, made permanent. I certainly wasn’t expecting that and am truly grateful. Not just because it’s a job, but because of where it is and with whom I get to work. I am very blessed.

So, now you’ve packed your bags and gone again. Thanks for the lovely moments of variety shows, visitors, P7 discos, fairs and fun nights, plant sales, end of year ‘do’s’, Prosecco, hugs from friends, flowers and whiskey.

Thank you for the endings, and the anticipation of beginnings.

See you next year,

Much love,

Kathryn x

PS. Please could you forward some sunshine – July arrived without it!

13 days

Day 1: catch a cold

Day2: have dinner with friends – discover Cooneyites

Day 3: go to bed – cold horrible

Day 4: Dublin zoo with the boy – a first

Day 5: go blonde and short

Day 6: Mum and Dad arrive

Day 7: rain

Day 8: rain

Day 9: rain

Day 10: Andy Murray wins Wimbledon – hooray!!

Day 11: run very fast with the boy on the lawn at Mount Stewart

Day 12: drop off the boy at his friend’s and worry for 5 hours that everything is going ok

Day 13: play hide and seek with the boy in the ruins of Grey Abbey

 

So far, so wet and so wonderful.

 

Unmedicated days with the boy are up and down. He hides in his world of other places, found in the black hole of his tablet screen. My heart struggles between letting him be there and making him be present with us. The first option is so much easier. And so quiet. The second involves schedules, lists, bargaining, timers set, goals made, constant questions about the next screen time, arguments, chocolate, fridge raiding, movement, hyperactivity, requests for help, abandoned activities, tears and mediation.

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The summer break is always longed for by me. No rushing in the mornings, no packed lunches to make and no busy activity schedules. I love the quiet first thing in the day, the cup of tea, my garden bench (the one Katy and I sat on yesterday and it collapsed under us!), space to think and read and write. I relish and cherish these moments. They are precious. They set me up for the rest of the day, strengthen me, flood me with quiet energy and restore me. By the end of the day I feel emptied and at times struggling to find patience, but the sleepy ‘I love you’ from the boy softens my edges and reminds me that I am blessed to be his Mummy. No-one else got that job.

 

I struggle sometimes (often) to believe that I am doing that job well. I struggle sometimes (often) with the disappointment that our life isn’t screen free simplicity. I struggle sometimes (often) with how other people respond to Ethan. I struggle sometimes (often) with how I respond to Ethan.

 

But tomorrow morning, and the next, and the next, I will sit on my bench (the other one), with my tea and breathe in the stillness of the morning, the presence of Creator, ready for another day.

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Champion week

This morning began with a coffee in one hand, a pen in the other and this beautiful gerbera as my table companion. Not quite a salubrious setting (Sainsbury’s car park), but with the sunshine warming me right through to the middle, this was the best start to my day. I was definitely IN the moment.

This week off work had been eagerly anticipated (extreme understatement!) and has lived up to every expectation. I have found a place of rest, peace, achieving and sharing and I feel all the better for it. Relaxed, revitalised, re-motivated. It’s amazing what a little space in life can do – it frees you to BE and to GROW and to THINK. The rhythm of life doesn’t allow for that too often. Well, not in my experience anyway. How do YOU make space to BE and GROW and THINK? Not just the bleary-eyed, morning, quiet space, but a more prolonged time of escape (a day or two)? I’d love to hear your experiences. And try a few of them.

I think I’m marvelling a bit at this feeling because it’s happened with family in tow and particularly the last two days shared just with Ethan. A boy without medication for 5 days. Non-stop chat, non-stop movie/video dialogues, non-stop moving, spinning, jumping and climbing. Happy and FULL of fun. Without argument he’s sat and done his holiday homework with his assistant (me) by his side, redirecting his deficit attention back to the task in hand. He’s a clever boy. I wish I could work things out like he does.

His week began with a judo masterclass alongside a group of other children with similar conditions/qualities. Hooray! He didn’t feel weird, awkward or different as he does for most of the rest of his life. The adult and youth coaches at this event were amazing (big shout out to Dromore Judo Academy). Their acceptance of and encouragement to every child was a joy to watch (through the tears). Where else could a 10 year old bring down a 13st giant? (Probably even bigger than that but I’m not good at guessing weight and I don’t want to offend!).

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Headlining the event were two champions. Commonwealth, Olympic and European: Ashley McKenzie and Danny Williams. And they were much more than JUDO champions. They were ‘drawing the best out of these kids and loving them’ kind of champions. Ashley is a 25 year old with ADHD who as a boy discovered  judo as a way to channel his energy (and get his Pokemon card back!) . He has overcome his own challenges and won Commonwealth gold for team GB in 2014. He is now another of Ethan’s heroes. Move over Will.i.am. Make room on the bench!!

So it’s been a champion week in more ways than one. I am still enjoying BEING in the moment and not thinking ahead to Monday morning, relishing every moment of this ‘at home’ solace.

Leaving home. Going home.

It’s quiet. Oh, so quiet. No voices calling for me, no guitar playing, no continually repeatedguitar movie dialogues, no lengthy exchanges about the fact that it’s time to get dressed/eat dinner/turn off/go out/come back/go to bed. I can hear myself thinking. It’s wonderfully strange and strangely wonderful. I have left them all at home and flown to my other home to visit Mum (and Dad, but Mum’s the patient with the broken wrist.)

In my quiet thinking time I have wondered how they will survive without me being there to organise them, mediate and feed them. In my quiet thinking time I have told myself not to worry. In my quiet thinking time I received an email from the boy to say that (while I was still on the way, on the plane) they had been locked out of the house and he’d had to ‘break in’ and save the day! Reward – £5! Mmmmmmm, feeling the anxiety climbing.

As much as I love my work uniform I didn’t really want to wear it on the way over, so got changed before I left. That’s when I discovered that my water bottle had leaked into my ‘change of clothes’ bag. There was no option. I flew damp.

I’m not a happy fly-er at all, but with my last minute ticket I’d been allocated 29E which was the very back row. Hemmed in by two sleepers, head down in my Good Food magazine, I enjoyed the happiest flying in a very long time. Anyone else find the back of the plane is better? I’m choosing back seats next time.

My friend Claire had kindly agreed to pick me up and so I waited outside the airport along with several other fellow fly-ers. Sure enough, a car pulled up with Claire’s hubby Jon driving. He smiled, I smiled. AND waved. AND leant to open the door.It wasn’t Jon! Embarrassed laughter. Obvious but pointless explanations.

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Home, the one I’m returning to, has been famous throughout the centuries for a whole number of reasons. From martyrs to incapacity benefit fraudsters, from being voted the most boring town in the UK to now being the home of TOWIE!

Brentwood has been home for my mum for her entire life (coming up 82 years) and she is a mine of information on its history and has been interviewed by newspapers, local radio and a local author, all gleaning facts from her memories. She’s resting now with her broken arm on a pillow, but fortunately her fingers are wiggling enough to text!

Having home far away from home would leave me feeling pretty helpless in a situation like this, so I’m very thankful I was able to get over this weekend, see my sister in amongst all her own busyness and cook up a few meals for Mum and Dad’s freezer.

I have enjoyed the quiet, I must confess, punctuated by incoming texts from Katy, keeping me up to date! I am relishing each hour of it. But, equally looking forward to hearing their voices soon.

And my clothes are nice and dry for tonight’s flight back home again.

Changing lenses

A few weeks back I had an idea for a new blog which was going to be reflective and have a devotional feel to it. You can have a look at it right here if you like! Please do. But, in doing so I began to rethink this blog, which I have pretty much neglected over the last year (a bit like my garden), and let’s be honest, have never really faithfully done anything about it.

The reason for the new blog was to try and ‘get writing’. Well, get writing and get it out there where someone would actually read it – hopefully. And then I started to think about this poor blog, dormantly hoping I’d get back and give it some attention.

I had to have a rethink then about the purpose of this blog. I needed to hone things a bit in my mind. The ‘mud and sparkles’ of life with the Fyfes was its original intention and I guess it still is to a degree, but there are some specifics of our life that I wanted to be able to express.

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Just over a year ago we brought home our Lacey from the animal sanctuary – our 13 week old mad puppy. A week later, Tony (hubby) had a stroke. In the weeks following that, late at night in the middle of winter, Lacey and I would wrap up and walk the streets of Belfast. She was probably oblivious to the oceans of tears that I shed on those walks. I was trying my best to look after a recovering stroke patient, a hormonal ‘tween’, a 9 year old son with ADHD and ASD and now a puppy! Mostly the tears were from emotional exhaustion, but I had to try and see the funny side. It’s a good job God was walking the streets with me, because he and I had some very long conversations during that winter.

There were a lot of stories to be told in that year, and if like me you keep a journal, you’ll understand the pages of outpouring. Maybe it was wise that they weren’t all spilled into a blog, maybe it’s time to share some of them and maybe it’s time to talk about the rebuilding of our life together.

So, I’m adjusting the lens a bit on what I want you to see in our ‘mud and sparkles’ , refocussing I suppose, and hoping that our journey will inspire and encourage  you in yours.