2018 - the year everything stopped

As many of you will know, 2018 has not been an easy year for me. I should have known when I got ill within the first few days that it was a bad omen. I had three resolutions. 1) Earn more money. 2) Stop correcting people. 3) Spend more time with my dad. In a sense, I was about to get more than I bargained for.

In February of this year, my dad was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer. He never said it to me, but we were already at the point of no return. Having no permanent job and with the world of freelancing not exactly banging down my door, it seemed like a no-brainer that I would be going back to Norwich. He had already asked me to come and look after him for a bit, but that was before we knew how serious it all was. Or at least before I knew. 

As soon as I got back it very quickly became clear that it was terminal. Soon after that, it became clear that I was not going back to London any time soon. If these were going to be the last months I had with my dad, I was going to spend them right by his side, every step of the way. 

Memories of this time pop into my head a lot. Every morning I would bring him some variety of fruit and vegetable juice, then sit on a tiny stool by his bed, chatting about this, that and the other. We made our way through two series of The Crown, all series of The Good Wife, and a bit of Desperate Housewives. There was a lot of Escape to the Country and How It’s Made. I got my ‘Papa’ tattoo and saw him cry - only one of three times ever. Made countless cups of tea. Went back and forth from the hospital because they seemed to always forget to give back his most important pain meds when they discharged him. Making all his food just so because otherwise he just couldn’t stomach it. 

On June 15th at around seven in the evening, it all came to an end. I’d slept on the chair in his room the night before and barely left his side that whole day. My neighbour Jeanine, my absolute rock during this time, was there too, holding his hand. He’d liked her a great deal, as I do. A stream of panic arose within me as I wept, for one of the first times in company during those months. Jeanine suggested a hard drink, so I downed some whiskey to calm my nerves. I hate whiskey.   

Things didn’t let up for a while. I planned the funeral, sorted various death admin bits and began to sort out the small house that he had lived in since the divorce and in which I had also spent a number of years. At this point, I was plum out of money and no longer receiving carer’s allowance. 

Unfortunately, my dad’s was not the last funeral I would attend this year. Nor was it the second last or third last. All in all, my aching heart endured four funerals - both of people I knew and in support of people my partner knew. It was a long summer for my boyfriend and I. We held each other up. 

About six weeks after dad’s death, and on the day that I packed a bunch of furniture into a van with my boyfriend, I had a pretty huge, relationship-ending argument with my sister. We haven’t spoken since. 

So I was back in London, moving into a new house with my partner and few other friends but with no job, no money and a new gaping hole in my heart. I must admit that I don’t know how to grieve but I didn’t really have time for all that because I needed work so desperately. After a few odds jobs here and there I finally got something a bit more steady. When that ended in November, I finally caught the break that I’d been waiting years to get. 

I’m ending 2018 on a high. I have had bountiful amounts of support from my incredible friends and partner; I’m in a steady financial position for the first time in a long time; my career is finally on the straight and narrow and I can hold my head up high and say that I did everything I could this year - everything I could for everyone I could. Including me. There’s very little left for me to do except to remember to look after myself as well - to learn how to grieve and remember without getting lost in despair. 

2018 felt in many ways like the year my life stopped - my heart certainly has a few times. May 2019 be the year it starts again. 

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