My Dad’s A Goldfish – why the long interval from the last post

Tea dance - 02

The Goldfish – despite appearances – enjoying an afternoon out with best-support-worker in the world on the left and daughter on the right.

Every night for the last two weeks and more I wrote ‘Goldfish post’ on my to-do list for the following day. At the end of every day I transferred it to the next day’s list – sometimes underlining it several times, sometimes adding a row of exclamation marks. Other things always ‘cropped up’ to take precedence.

I had not forgotten December 3rd was the anniversary of his death. Wee-sis and I talked about it on the day. It wasn’t until I was in the garden centre the other day (anniversary of his funeral though I hadn’t been conscious of it being that particular date) and found myself suddenly welling up that I understood my inability to write anything for the blog.

The Goldfish loved going round the garden centre, especially at this time of year when all the Christmas displays are on full dazzle. As well as trees and lights and tinsel, this garden centre has various tableaux – one with full size reindeer, another winter scene with igloo and snow and ice and – his favourite – a St Bernard dog, complete with brandy barrel around his neck, which nods and turns his head. The Goldfish always liked me to stop the wheelchair so he could have a word with the dog. “Hello,” he’d say, “You’re a fine big fellow, aren’t you.” The dog would nod in agreement and we’d head for the coffee shop, via the book shelves, for banoffee pie.

On the way out, we’d stop to drool over the displays of Christmas treats – chocolates, truffles, cakes, fancy drinks. I usually bought the Goldfish a bar of Guinness chocolate. I didn’t buy a bar this time. It’s embarrassing enough being all weepy in front of a nodding St Bernard, I think if I broke down while clutching a bar of chocolate – even if it did have real Guinness in it – staff and customers would be seriously concerned. We really don’t do crying in public, do we? I didn’t howl properly until back in the car.

I’m sure my inability to write a post was connected with the subconscious knowledge the anniversary of the Goldfish’s death was approaching. And although I felt sad on the day itself it was a self-conscious sadness. Standing in the garden centre, which is awash with memories – happy, funny, embarrassing (a place, even, where I learned not to be embarrassed about things which happen when out with a person with dementia – stuffing his wet underpants in my handbag for example) caused an emotional unravelling I had not expected.

I will go back to the garden centre again – and I’ll buy a bar of Guinness chocolate which I will enjoy eating in memory of the Goldfish.


22 thoughts on “My Dad’s A Goldfish – why the long interval from the last post

  1. On my Facebook page the other day, share your memories came up and I was reading what I had done on that day over the previous year’s. “Having a cup of tea in a cafe to pluck up the courage to go to church for the funeral of a much loved family friend”came up first for this day last year. I stopped in my tracks. I couldn’t believe it, a whole year already. I think because we’re still reading your blog it feels as if time has kind of stood still. It certainly doesn’t feel like a year. Go back to the Garden centre before Christmas if you can and have some Guiness chocolate for your dad on Christmas Day. I’m sure the garden centre have seen worse sights than an adult crying, I’ve seen a few having many a strop about garden ornaments and furniture etc so it will be nothing new to them.

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    • It’s hard to believe a year has gone, isn’t it? Maybe I will try to call in and grab a bar of Guinness chocolate for Christmas. We’re going away this year – felt it would be good to do something different. Last year we were still numb but this year I think the memories will be harder to deal with so we’re having a week away over Christmas. I can take a bar of chocolate with me.
      Your remark about people having a strop over garden ornaments made me laugh out loud – thank you for that 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. When my mother was 55, she told all of us that her family never saw 60 so we should be prepared to say goodbye. Each Christmas she’d remind us that it was likely to be her last–for the next 35 years. We’d all laugh and make death jokes. Death was so funny. Then she was fading fast and we were all there and it was so great to be together. Death was a great excuse for a party. Then a few months later my father followed her and we all gathered again to divide their things according to a spreadsheet my mother had left for us, and making sure that everyone had special things of theirs–no arguments, no fuss, just lots of memories. Death wasn’t nearly as difficult as some families made it out to be. We sold their house, resolved their estate, and moved on. This whole death and grieving thing just wasn’t nearly as big a deal as some people need to make it. Only… I moved houses a year later and realised I wouldn’t be able to tell my mother about the new place. Standing in the middle of the home improvement store, I started crying as I tried to choose a new kitchen faucet. The son of a man who had been on my father’s flight crew during the war contacted me and I bawled when I realised I couldn’t tell my father about it. And I realised that grief isn’t something you deal with and then put neatly onto a shelf, only getting it out for a good dust on certain special anniversaries. It pops up at weird and inconvenient times, it has its own agenda, and nobody gets a free pass. So I hope you go back for the Guinness chocolate. And I hope your father is with you for every wonderful bite of it.

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    • Thanks, Barb. You are completely right about grief popping up at weird and inconvenient times. And there seems to be no timetable as to when it lessens or when the need to share things stops. I met a woman at a writing workshop recently who has written a book on Clydesdale horses and she has one of the Cyldesdale family trees dad used to make. She also thought they had corresponded when she was doing research for her book. I so wanted to rush home to tell him all this.
      I will definitely go back and buy that chocolate.

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  3. Thanks for this lovely post Mary. Anniversary’s of of such sad occasions are always an issue for me. It’s almost forty years since th death of my first wife and Christmas always brings back memories of those last few weeks. When the day arrives in January I always do something that reminds me of the lovely times we had in our short life together. I’m not sure what Christmas will bring this year for Maureen and I. We may just let it pass having an excuse at last to ignore the commercial glitz of what is a very important occasion for some folk. I always say to Maureen your presence is my present: i don’t need anything else!

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    • Thanks for commenting. I hope you and Maureen have a peaceful and contented Christmas together. Dad did enjoy Christmas and seeing all the decorations and the glitter – and having his sweet tooth indulged, though he forgot it was Christmas the moment the gifts were unwrapped.

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  4. Grief hits us at the most unexpected times. I didn’t cry at Dad’s funeral – I was too busy making sure my mother (who also had dementia) was all right. But a month later, I sat at the back of the funeral of a friend’s father and howled. It’s 15 years since my father died, and the immediacy of it all has gone. Anniversaries don’t seem important now – what is important is the lasting legacy he gave me, and I’m sure I love him more as each day passes.

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    • It is strange not knowing what will trigger the sudden stab of grief. I find it difficult to believe a whole year has gone since dad died – sometimes it really feels like it was only last week though I am sure that will change as time goes by. I like what you say about the importance of your dad’s legacy – that’s true in my case, too. Thanks, Jenny x

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  5. Beautifully written post, Mary. I lost my mum to dementia in September this year and this is the first Christmas she won’t be here. When buying Christmas cards for the rest of the family a few weeks ago, I had the same experience as you. I still bought her a Christmas card and have written it. I’ll place it on her grave next week.

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    • Thanks, Hugh. Sorry to hear of your own loss. I’m sure your mum will appreciate the Christmas card.
      Dad had only died a short time before Christmas last year so we were all a bit numb and in shock. It’s been the run-up to this Christmas it has really hit me. They say you should do something different and not try to recreate the usual but with someone important missing so we’ve decided to go away for Christmas this year.

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  6. Mary, I’ve read all of your posts about your dad many times. To me he is still alive because he lives through your memories and writings. This season can bring on incredibly emotional memories. I cannot walk into a garden center near where I grew up, because it was one of the last places my mom and I went the Christmas she died. I had no idea she’d be gone in a few weeks time.The greenery smelled so fresh and alive that day. I’m crying now, sixteen years later. Holidays are difficult for everyone. Best to keep them simple.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Clare. The Christmas/New Year time is difficult. A friend whose dad died in March thought she was getting over his loss then when it got to Christmas she had a dreadful time – hadn’t realised how much it would hit her. We went away for Christmas this year so as not to be reminded of the usual rituals. Of course, I realised you don’t leave the memories behind, although it was definitely easier than it would have been at home where the constant rain and grey skies would have been doubly depressing.
      I realised from your blog you;ve had some difficult family times, too. We just have to keep going and keep hold of the good memories. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.

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      • As I read the blogs of people I follow, I began to realize many were having difficulties with the holiday season; illness, family issues and death among them. I thought I’d write a post with some hope in it. I tend to write about my book, our travels and adventures, life with Roxie Dammit…I think only 2 of my posts this year were on more serious topics. So, I felt it was a good time to write about keeping things simple and having hope during these difficult times.
        I want to thank you again, Mary, for your always encouraging words and the interest you’ve shown in my writing. Your opinion is one I truly respect.

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