My Dad’s a Goldfish – First Christmas without him

[This is a very long post. I make no apologies. I had to spit it all out. I will go back and fill in the year with the Goldfish after his wife left him and I moved in, but for now I needed to write about the time immediately after his death]

DSCF0427We have survived our first Christmas without the Goldfish. It felt strange, but life has been totally strange since he died and we entered that weird bereavement bubble in which nothing seems real. Something truly momentous has happened – that crossing of a very thin line between being alive and not being alive: gone. And outside the bubble everyone else is going about their lives as if nothing out of the ordinary has taken place.

At least Christmas gave us the chance to pause and catch our breath after the non-stop busyness following the Goldfish’s death. I found the bureaucracy surrounding death quite staggering. The hospital gave us a booklet on what to do. I read bits out to DH, Wee-sis and her son and daughter while we sat round the Goldfish in the hospital the night he died and had been ‘tidied up’ – then I put it in my handbag and we talked of more cheerful things and drank coffee and laughed and finally, watery-eyed, we left him.

In the morning the DH went to tell the step-monster. No one answered his knock so he searched around the streets and local shops but didn’t see her anywhere. I was getting a bit frantic as I’d already told the CC at social services and contacted the Funeral Director (FD) and we really didn’t want the step-monster to hear the news from someone else. Finally DH went to where her son works and he phoned his sister to ask where her mother was. Turns out she doesn’t get up before 11am these days. Several phone calls and DH finally was admitted to deliver the news – which, of course, she must already have known.

She agreed Wee-sis and I could make the funeral arrangements. DH offered to go and register the death. It took about two hours and I am so glad he went because I think if I had gone I’d have been sitting in a police cell charged with assault. As it was I took several phone calls from him – what was my mother’s maiden name? The Goldfish’s national insurance number? That was my bad because I forgot to put it with the other documents they required, according to the helpful NHS booklet. However, I did send his birth certificate as requested. It states the Goldfish’s father was a ploughman. Jobs-worth wanted to know if he had been a ploughman all his life and if not, what other jobs he had done. DH didn’t know – he never met my grandfather.

The Goldfish was an AI man but that wouldn’t do according to the jobs-worth because someone might think he worked on humans. DH pointed out he had worked for Scottish Milk Marketing Board but no, she had to go and consult her superior. Eventually it was decided to put him down as an Agricultural Artificial Inseminator. I think it would have been at this point I’d have hit her. Agricultural does not only cover cows and I know the Goldfish never inseminated a sheep.

Financial papers had to be sorted for the solicitor and meetings arranged. The FD visited with his little brochure of pictures of the most popular caskets and the question about how Wee-sis and I felt about the Goldfish being buried in a plot the step-monster owns. We were not happy but said we wouldn’t make an issue of it – after all it’s only his body that goes in there. “That’s true,” he said, “but it means you would have no control over what might be put on a headstone when she goes in there.” With visions of ‘dearly beloved wife’ floating in our minds we decided to buy a plot for the Goldfish. It has room for our ashes to be added if we want.

Both Wee-sis and I felt he’d have wanted a traditional Church of Scotland funeral service The Minister is new to the parish and hadn’t met the Goldfish. He came to see us and he listened, really listened, as we talked about the Goldfish and what he’d meant to us. We asked that he avoid mentioning marriage and wives. The funeral was arranged for the 10th December. The Step-monster’s daughter was going on holiday that day and her brother asked if the funeral couldn’t be brought forward. This was the date which suited both the Minister and the FD so it couldn’t be changed to suit someone’s holiday plans.

All during those seven days since the Goldfish’s death and his funeral I felt I had scarcely a moment to simply stop and remember him. I dreaded the funeral and equally longed for it to be over. It was much better than I feared. Of course, the step-monster was there, along with her son and d-i-l and her daughter’s bidie-in. They came into the church and walked past us without so much as looking at us let alone saying anything (there’s a sort of receiving line of immediate family and it’s customary to offer condolences). The d-i-l was heard to say, “We’ll go down to the front.” The Minister, Wee-sis and I looked at each other in some alarm but the FD had the matter in hand and was already ‘down the front’ to ensure there was no embarrassment if the step-monster’s family inadvertently tried to sit in the front row.

It was a lovely, all-inclusive service. The man the minister talked about was exactly as we’d described him (the minister would make a really good journalist – he listens properly) and there were tears when he read part of one of my poems, and laughter when he told us the Goldfish had achieved the remarkable record of 186,000 successful inseminations.

After the burial everyone was invited for refreshments at a local pub, where the first drinks were on the Goldfish. For the first time ever I actually understood what is meant by a jaw-dropping moment when the Step-monster arrived with her entourage. We knew she’d be at the funeral and probably at the cemetery for the interment but had truly not expected her at the post-funeral event. Some people will do anything for a free bowl of soup and a sandwich.

She was all weepy in the church and all sort of bowed over and distraught at the lunch yet two days later I saw her practically skipping up the street as though she hadn’t a care in the world – or maybe she was reckoning up in her head how much she’ll get once the legal stuff is done.

On the 21st December, the shortest day of the year, my son came home from university, we bought our Christmas tree, decorated it and I took down all the sympathy cards, replacing them with Christmas cards. We made fudge, biscuits and cakes and played the part of happy Christmas. And we relaxed and enjoyed being together. And remembered last Christmas.DSCF0431

Writing this up, I feel the focus should be on the Goldfish as it has been for so long but somehow the focus has shifted. I don’t like that. I want him still to be the centre of my life and it is now, after Christmas is over, I can finally stop and think about how much I miss him.

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28 thoughts on “My Dad’s a Goldfish – First Christmas without him

  1. Oh Mary, I’m so glad that you’ve continued to write about your dad. I knew you needed time to grieve and adjust to life without him,but I must admit a part of me was sad when you said you might not continue with the blog at the funeral. Your dad led a great life and was a great man to many of us who were privelidged to have known him and for you to have left the blog in the middle of his life would be such an injustice. I know you are still pondering over what to do, and rightly so, because it will feel weird for you to write about something that started in the present but is now in the past and it won’t feel the same.
    If you feel you can’t continue with your blog, but at some point feel that you may be able to turn these feelings into another book I for one would be very interested in purchasing said book,not out of noseyness,but because I had come to love reading about someone I knew and then after his death known and knowing that there are many untold stories just waiting to come out it is such a shame. I know you all need your own space and time at the moment and you cannot say “oh I’ll be better next week” because we never know how long it’s going to take. I for one will wait till the cows come home for either the next blog or the book,whatever and whenever.
    God Bless. xxxx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Ruth. I will continue with the blog, though it will be looking backwards at the year that has just passed. Luckily, much is handwritten in my diary, especially how I felt about things then.
      I’m so pleased you have been enjoying the blog.
      You are right about not knowing how long it will take to adjust. One day, not long after the funeral, I felt quite ‘light’ (only way I can describe it) and thought things would continue to get better – they didn’t and the up day was followed by several low days. There seems to be no rhyme nor reason as to why some days are easier than others so I’m just waiting it out.

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  2. Mary, I had no idea…what to say but that I feel for you. As I write there is a little note on the pinboard to my left. On it a fe w words that were scribbled in haste a long time ago: “Much love, Dad xx” The Goldfish swims on in your heart and has even taken a little dip into mine…xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s lovely, Lesley. I like the idea of the Goldfish dipping into your heart!
      Thanks for commenting. I know you went through the loss of your dad some time ago and I guess the feeling of loss – and missing someone – is always there.

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    • It sure is. Apparently he was quite in demand with the farmers because of his high success rate! Thanks for following and commenting. I know you are on the same journey with your mum and you are in my thoughts.

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  3. Mary I can so relate to your feelings about the hole in your life and how strange it is that ‘normal’ life goes on around you when you just want to apply the breaks! And all the burocracy around becoming a nonperson. Awful. But you did all you could and never allowed you dad to be lost in life, easy where dementia is part of the journey. Thinking of you x

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you Heather. I appreciate you taking time to comment. I – and Wee-sis and the DH – certainly tried to do all we could for dad. He’d certainly have been lost had he been put in a care home and though I can’t pretend it was easy on any of us, we do feel he was better off in his own home. Thanks for thinking of me.

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  4. Excellent post. I was hoping you would still write blog posts about your “Goldfish”. 🙂
    I love that you had your father at the head of the table last Christmas. According to etiquette, the host is to sit at the head of the table, but I always felt the most IMPORTANT person should sit at the head of the table. I seat my Father, or Father-in-law at one end, and my Husband at the opposite end. Makes them feel like Kings.
    You were an amazing daughter, and you always treated your Father like a KING! He was so blessed to have you.
    And I love the pictures of him when he was younger (maybe early 20’s or 30’s) with the wispy blonde hair. Handsome!!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks, April. Your thinking that the most important guest is placed at the top of the table is the same as in Afghanistan! My husband (the DH) was at the other end.
      Dad was a handsome man when he was young. Glad you are pleased I’m carrying on with the blog.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Can’t seem to reply to your last comment so am replying to mine in the hopes you see it. When you read Drunk Chickens you will find a bit in it about the etiquette of always making the most important guest set at the head – not of the table but the cloth on the floor.

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  5. Such a sweet blog. Grief comes from nowhere and bites us on the bum and can be gone the next moment, without explanation. I loved some of the Scots expressions like ‘bidie in’. Blessings for 2015 and I hope things level out a little for you while you recover. x

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much for dropping in and for your kind comments about the blog. You are right about grief coming from nowhere, when not expecting it. Let’s hope 2015 will be a good year for all of us.

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  6. I do hope you and yours find solace in the new year and that all those precious memories of a lovely man can take over. I am sure the generosity of sharing such hard times in your blog comforts far and wide. Xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Carolyn. Usually, I’m dismissive of investing too much hope in the whole New Year thing – after all it is just one day following another – but this time I am looking forward to a new year with the feeling things might get better.
      I hope sharing my experiences does offer some comfort to others – and I know I’ve received support from other bloggers goign through similar situations.

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  7. Mary, finally getting round to catching up, and so glad I found your post before it disappeared into the mists.

    Everything you wrote brought back the time of my own father’s death. I don’t remember so much bureaucracy, though I did discover that he was born in a tenement in Partick. He had always told us he’d been born in Johnston.

    I quite often think of him, sometimes with sadness, or regret, always with love. I wish I’d taken the time to ask him more about his life – though I do know quite a lot. I thought my parents terribly old fashioned when I was growing up (they were in their forties when I was born, and I guess I was growing up through the Sixties, which must have been quite bewildering for them). Later, when things went badly wrong in my life, they were like rocks for me, and I grew much closer to them, especially to my father.

    I don’t think you will ever put the memories and feelings aside, and why should you? they are what shaped you. But it will get less painful.

    It’s nearly 15 years since my father died.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Jenny xxx

    Liked by 2 people

    • Oh, Jenny, I think we all wish we had asked more questions of our parents when we had the chance. Somehow when we are young we don’t feel the need to know them as people with their past histories, thoughts and feelings. They were there for us when we needed them and let us go free when we didn’t.

      I don’t want to put the memories aside and welcome them when they pop into my head, frequntly at the moment though I suppose in time that will happen less often. I ought to jot down every memory which does rise to the surface before they get buried again.

      I hope I didn’t make you feel too sad reading my post.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Damian.
      Happy New Year – hope it will be a good one. Good or bad, mine will certainly be different from last year.

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    • Oh, the step-monster won’t disappear just yet. She was still legally married so will be waiting to claim her share of his estate, which in Scotland is a third of the removable estate. We didn’t know this until my mother died and my step-father waived his right to his legal claim, at which point the Goldfish and step-monster decided they would each do the same. The Goldfish signed the papers but, guess what, the step-monster changed her mind. By then he had made his will according to what he believed would happen when he died – not so under the law. We won’t fight her for anything but have asked the solictor to try to point out the diference between a legal and a moral right. I somehow don’t think that will get anywhere.
      How did your Christmas with m-i-l go?

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  8. That’s a lot of feelings to get out in one blog. I’m sure you needed it. It’s almost like a new era where you’ve got to come to grips with what was and figure out what’s next while grieving for your dad.
    My condolences. May sorting it all out help you in the long run. You truly loved your dad and showed it in what you did for him.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your comments. You are right baout needing to let the feelings out and I’ve been remiss in not keeping up my blog posts. They are helpful to me and maybe, also, to others. Thank you for your condolences.

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