Sunday, 19 January 2014

Saturday 19 January 2013

As I advised for the previous day’s blog, “forgive me if some of what I write appears a bit all over the place. It matches my emotions at the time. Also what follows you may find uncomfortable, disturbing or harrowing. As this is an honest account, I apologise in advance for those of you who can stomach the tale.” This still holds good. 

After precious little sleep I woke up. I was still furious at Laing. He was looking at me. I have never seen him look like that before. I have no idea what was going through his mind. Sometime or other he wanted to go to the toilet. I helped him get up, even though I felt like telling him as he had got himself lying down it was his own fault and he would have to get up by himself. Lifting him up was always a tricky operation as he was yelling in pain but still appreciated the efforts I was trying to do. He was behaving somewhat contrite when I said I didn’t know how to get him up with hurting him and I didn’t want that. Perhaps somewhere he had realised he had said some things that went too far, if he remembered what he said at all.

No matter. I helped him up and he made it to the bathroom. After a while I hear him calling me. The sight that greeted me confirmed my fears he was not at all well. Toilet paper was torn and strewn all over the bathroom. I decided more or less at this point I was going to have to get him downstairs and get an ambulance. There was no way I could continue like this. I got him to sit on the loo lid (John Lewis’ best!) and cleared up the torn up paper. He seemed oblivious to what he had done. I brought his clothes in and told him he was going to get dressed and we needed to get him to the hospital as he was not well. This time there was no mumbo-jumbo/trying to get rid of me talk, instead it was, there is nothing wrong with me, it’s all in your mind. I was firm and said whatever he said, he had to do it to satisfy me. His response was it’s a waste of time but if that’s what you want …

I got him dressed. He made his way back to the bedroom and wanted to lie down. I kept forcing him up off the bed and told him he had to go downstairs. I would help him. I would go first and descend backwards. After what seemed an eternity I managed to manoeuvre him to the top of the stairs and despite his protestations I got him to agree to get downstairs. I also was busily packing a hospital bag as I thought there was no way Laing would be released once he got there. 

I then phoned 999 for the first time since I was at primary school and we were taught how to use the phone, including pressing button B. That dates me!

The ambulance arrived, Laing was sitting in the dining room. The dining chair was, I reckoned, the best place Laing made me see red when he said in his wonderfully calm manner “I’m sorry you’ve been called here on a fool’s errand.” One of the paramedics said that as I had been concerned, they would check him to see what was wrong. One of them spoke to me while the other was checking Laing. He was asked his date of birth and when he got that wrong I corrected him. “Did I really say that?” he asked. Eventually they were giving him oxygen. He started to get agitated and tried to pull the mask off. They then tried a different approach and he seemed more at ease with it, but still not happy.

I picked up his coat as they got him ready to go to the ambulance. “You’re expecting me to come back?” he asked. “If the hospital thinks you’re well enough, of course. I would rather have you home.” I replied. For the first time since this began he was calmer. He actually seemed to believe me that I wasn’t trying to “get rid of him”.

A few neighbours were already out and about. I have no idea what time it was, but somewhere between 7 and 8. I remember the early morning glow quite vividly. I saw something approaching it on a recent clear morning. I had never been inside an ambulance before. Laing had after we had been mugged in Madrid. That required several stitches in his head from when he fell. That’s another story for another time. The roads were pretty clear. After all it was early on a Saturday, so the number of commuters was few. Thankfully the crew decided to take him to King George which, as I commented to Laing, was good as they would have easy access to his records.

He was wheeled into A&E and passed from the care of the paramedics to the hospital. I thanked the guys. They said they were only doing their job, and I said no matter, I appreciated what they had done. I was more relaxed now, knowing Laing was where medical attention would be readily available.

The doctor wanted to have Laing scanned as he was concerned about Laing’s chest above and beyond his cancer. As it was the weekend, the very clever scanner, whatever type it was, was turned off and they had to get the permission of the senior radiologist to turn it on and that would take a little while to warm up before it could do its magic scan. It seemed scarcely possible Laing and I had been in this part of the hospital the Friday before we got married when he was X-rayed all over, it seemed. The scanner was eventually turned on. I was getting frustrated by the delay. After all I had had precious little sleep and wanted to find out what was wrong as soon as possible. They got him onto the scanner table, he was in pain as they tried to get him on and off. I wanted to be with him and sod the consequences of the dosage of radiation or whatever it was that was being used to look inside his body.

We returned to A&E and the doctor said something, I think about a burst blood vessel that was on Laing’s other lung which was causing him all the problems. I think it was round about this time he said to me “I bet you feel vindicated now.” The use of the word vindicated and the way he said it stung and still does to this day.The notion I was feeling smug about being right cut me to the quick. I responded immediately “I don’t feel vindicated at all. I only wanted what was right and best for you.” I detected a childlike look on his face that he knew I was right and he had been very naughty.

Everything is very jumbled up in my mind and I am not sure what the true sequence was now I read it back. It is more or less correct, even if the order isn’t right. It’s not as if I am writing with the aim of gaining a Nobel prize for literature!

Laing was saying to the nurse how we had got married the week before, and telling her how wonderful a holiday we had especially in Burma, where he said we had always wanted to go, but the pervious political situation was not something we could countenance. He had become his chirpy old self again. I was feeling glad. If he was talking normally again, there was hope they might help relieve the starvation of oxygen this blood vessel had caused by giving him a clotting agent or something.

When asked if he been to the toilet he said yes. When asked if he had a bowel movement he said no. I corrected him. He looked at me and said “Really? I don’t remember.” I replied, “Trust me, you did.” On and off they were giving him oxygen. he moved the mask away and i held it at a jaunty angle so he could get the flow. I was finding out what being married meant. We may not have uttered the words “in sickness and in health” but I knew that it applied even being married ‘without the benefit of clergy’. I had been aware of that since before19th March 2012, but from that day forward it took on a bigger dimension for me and motivated my entire existence.

He slowly became more agitated. He was sweating and losing control of his bladder. I was assisting by holding one of those peculiar cardboard contraptions I had seen before at the hospital when he had been on the ward. I was getting cloths and soaking them to ease him, and to wipe away the sweat. He was thrashing about trying to remove the oxygen tubes.

The doctor said he wanted a word with me. I told Laing to do as the nurse said as the doctor wanted to speak to me and I would be back very soon.

I was shown a door and told to wait in there. As soon as I entered, I knew what I was going to be told. The room had calming colours and calm lovely twee images, which have completely the reverse effect on me. I knew. It still doesn’t help when the doctor said “He is dying.” Nothing in life prepares us for those words. Even though I knew full well what I was going to be told, I was not ready to let go. Even though I had lived a life for 10 months of mourning without a corpse, everything had been bottled up inside me and I just sobbed. I was told the cancer had been aggressive and had spread. I was trying to calm myself as I had to be with him. The time in the room felt like hours. A nurse appeared at the window in the door. She was saying it was OK for me to return as the end was in sight. 
The nurse who had been with us told me to talk to him and hold his hand. His eyes were part closed, the eyeballs were already rolling back. He was barely breathing. I must have told him how much I loved him dozens of times. I must have told him I was there and everything would be fine. I knew he had died before the nurse leant over to feel his chest. O looked up at her. My eyes said all I needed to say. She nodded. There are times when words are superfluous. It was round about 12.15. We had been married 7 days and about and hour and three quarters. I was now a widower.

All the built up mourning had now got the corpse. I had texted my brother at 9.33: “Pete, been up nearly all night. Laing has had complications and scared me shitless. We are in A&E and they think he may have a clot on his good lung. I honestly thought I was going to lose him last night. Such a drama queen.”

He replied “Shit that must have been scary I can understand your reaction, how’s it looking now or still awaiting an update?”

At 9.59 I replied “He’s having a scan right now. we can only wait. How’s things with with you?” This was because of the snow in his neck of the woods. 

So some two hours or so before I was thinking it would be OK. My brother was among the first people I phoned. I tried to get in contact with my cousin, but she was out and about and not picking up a signal as I went immediately to voice mail. I also phoned one of our best friends in Switzerland. I also phoned one of Laing’s oldest friends from his days at BT.

Telling people was bloody hard work. I had to tell those who were close enough in my estimation to have to be told at once. I couldn’t keep up the conversations. I was so distraught the nurse took over for me at least once.

She told me I could have as much time as I wanted with him. I spoke out loud as though he were still there. I told him more than once to haunt me and look after me. I told him how much I loved him. I’ve no idea what else I said. I asked the nurse to remove Laing’s ring for me as I didn’t “want to hurt or damage him.” She expertly removed the ring and I put it on my little finger next to my ring. We had bought these rings quite a few years back as our non-wedding rings. It was our sign to the world we were a unit. I wear both our rings still. The nurse was wonderful. She gave me hugs which helped me enormously.

Eventually I told the nurse I should go as I was only saying the same thing over and over, also she would have to clean up and they would need to take him away. She arranged for a cab to pick me up and told me I needed some sleep. I must have looked pretty horrible. I came home with everything I packed for him and the clothes he had been wearing.

I returned to a cold empty house. At what time I don’t know. Possibly round about 2.30, since I sent an e-mail to my managers informing them of Laing’s death. I went to sleep, but woke up and started to do the necessary things. Phoning several organisations taught me one thing. Trying to get an option on those fucking menus when you are phoning anybody to report a death is nigh on impossible until you have been through about 12 options. Furthermore, the Inland Revenue, or whatever they call themselves nowadays, has the most annoying and patronising way of dealing with you with their automated menus. Grief is not taken seriously enough by many institutions.

By now numbness was setting in. I was no longer feeling the same degree of pain I had felt. On the iPad, I started to write Laing’s eulogy. I wanted to write it so he would still be a part of me.

The greatest sadness (and irony) of his death, not only because it was a week after we married and a week before his 57th birthday, was that we had agreed we should talk about writing our wills the weekend he died. It was another of those many tasks we kept putting off, and now it was too late.

Post Scriptum

Although I thought initially writing all this would reduce me to tears, it didn’t. I am pleased that although I did feel the waterworks were about to come on stream in full flood a few times, they didn’t. I’m not over it. I haven’t forgotten him. I’ve moved on a little bit more than I had the day before. The move from living to dead is traumatic. The move from grief is slow and erratic. Some days are excellent, others are the deepest pit of despair, but as in life, the good days (eventually) outnumber the bad. Building on those good days is not easy, but it’s worth trying.

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Friday 18 January 2013

Friday leads into Saturday, so forgive me if some of what I write appears a bit all over the place. It matches my emotions at the time. Also what follows you may find uncomfortable, disturbing or harrowing. As this is an honest account, I apologise in advance for those of you who can stomach the tale.

I can’t remember if I made an appointment on Thursday or Friday for Laing and I to see the doctor. I also asked for a double appointment as I had issues I wanted to raise above and beyond what we both had. I got Laing to recite to me all his symptoms and problems and I duly noted them on his iPad. I also added bits of my own for me.

When it came for us to consider getting to the doctor’s surgery, I asked Laing if he would rather we got a taxi. I’m sure if he made any mention of cost I overrode his qualms or insisted he was not in a fir state to walk to and from bus stops. We went through his symptoms and I think the doctor wrote out a prescription as Laing found the Oromorph was making him throw up too much. The doctor explained it would be like that in the initial stages, but it would take away the pain. Laing was not really interested in taking the treatment. Laing then said, out of the blue and unexpectedly, “I’m worried about Timbo. He’s taken on so many responsibilities in addition to working, like doing the bin, the shopping. I’m worried about him coping.”

I’m sure I am not the only carer spouse who has been surprised by the other, despite their terminal illness, and the pain of the cancer having spread to his bones, that he selflessly thought about me and raised the matter with the doctor. Well, he prescribed me the anti-depressants I had taken some years back, but was giving me only a half dose, one pill every other day. After Laing had had his time, I looked at him and said, “I’m sorry, can I speak to the doctor alone? It’s rather personal.” He acquiesced, whether he said anything I don’t recall.

Once the door was closed the doctor looked me and asked, “Does he know had bad it is?”. I said probably not as he didn’t want to know anything beyond his diagnosis and his treatment and to follow instructions. I think I unburdened myself a little, mindful that if I spent too long with the doctor Laing might get worried. Come to think of it, this was the point where the doctor prescribed the anti-depressants. As events proved, not even the medical profession realised how ill Laing was at this point.

After I had been seen, we ordered a taxi to take us back home. Laing again retired to bed.

I am writing this narrative a few days ahead of posting. At this point I need to pause, not only because I am tired, but also the events that follow need a clearer and more alert head to recount them.

…..     …..     …..     …..     …..

I don’t remember what happened after that, maybe I went to the chemist to have his prescription made up or perhaps I went shopping for food. I must have left him for a while as I sent him a text at 12.29 “All done. I’m on my way home. I will let myself in.” The last sentence was important, Laing had always been at the door ready to let me in, but I knew he was not well and needed to rest.

The next text (I was in the office at the front of the house and he was in the bedroom at the back) I got was at 14.53, “Tea?”

I was finding him to be something of a handful I remember. He kept sliding down the bed from the upright position and I had to get him back upright. He said he couldn’t stay in that position. I said he had before so why not now? I made sure he was wrapped up and the heating was on full blast. 

At 18.03 I received three texts in rapid succession that told me something wasn’t right. The first read “Can helpwith iij” and the next two were blank. I went to him and he was distraught. He was being somewhat accusatory that I wasn’t there every few minutes. He was frustrated that he was unable to text to me. He said he had called me but I didn’t hear him. I reckon (again with hindsight) his voice had become weaker. Mind you, my hearing wasn’t at its best either that day. As far as the texts were concerned, after he died I was checking his phone and found he had erased all previous messages to me.No matter. I got him sitting up again and rearranged the pillows. He seemed calmer. From this point everything has become confused in my memory. What exactly took place and when, I can’t recall exactly, but the whole experience was becoming disjointed. All I can say with certainty is he texted me at 19.29 “What is for Dinner tonight”. It was probably something prick and ping. He was really picking over his food. He was simply not interested in it. I got him back to bed.

Sometime or other I told him I was worried about him. That he wasn’t being his usual self. He then started a tirade against me.

“I am not having any of your mumbo jumbo.”

“I know you’re trying to get rid of me.”

These two comments were repeated often and with slight variations. I think he sensed the end was near at the back of his mind. I was convinced the cancer had got to his brain. Maybe it hadn’t, but I found out later that he might well have been starved of oxygen. He kept sliding down the bed and lying horizontally. Anyway, these two comments were a mixture of my getting him in a hospice (we had never discussed it but I didn’t want that, but knew sometimes there is no choice) plus his anti-religious stance. These had melded and became one and the same thing, probably as most hospice organisations are Saint Somebody-or-other Hospice. I was getting to my wits’ end.

I was tired and exhausted. His accusations hurt me and stung. I cried. I told him I didn’t want to get rid of him, far from it. As for the “mumbo-jumbo”, I had no intention of anything to do with it, whatever it was he was accusing me of. I left him. He was suddenly a monster. I wanted to strike him in frustration. I went to the web to see if I could find anything that made sense of his behaviour. I returned to the bedroom and told him I was going to phone NHS direct as I didn’t know what was wrong with him and I was worried. He said do what you want, or something like that. 

I went back to the office and phones. I got through and discussed what was going on and the person wanted to speak to him. I returned to the bedroom. The bastard was lying down even though I had told him not to. It was like I was dealing with a child who knows he is being deliberately naughty and annoying. Suddenly he was lucid. He spoke to the woman. He was all charm. She advised I should phone the doctor. I hung up and then I got another tirade. How dare I talk to a complete stranger about him. How did I know who she was? Anybody could say they were a nurse on the other end of the phone. It was useless to try to reason with him. 

I phoned the doctor, or more precisely, the out of hours service GP surgeries employ. How things have changed since I was a lad. The male to whom I spoke had an accent that was not a regional British accent. He told me I should get him to hospital. He seemed to assume Laing was mobile and (it was gone midnight) we had a car and I could drive him there. I told Laing and he started off again on his tirade.

By this time I remember I had got dressed. He was resisting me. How can you force the one you love and care for when they are so stubborn? This is the bad stubborn streak he had and this time it was a hundredfold worse than ever. I was trying to tell him he wasn’t well and I was concerned and he was saying he wasn’t going anywhere. There was precious little I could do.

I have no idea what the time was, somewhere about 2 o’clock in the morning perhaps, but I was exhausted and slept on top of the bed in my clothes. He had upset me so much I didn’t even want to cuddle up to him. To think our last night together should have been so acrimonious. It wasn’t his fault. The cancer was screwing him up totally. I slept for something like two hours or so, and this is where Saturday 19th January 2013 begins, and that is the topic for the next and final blog.

Friday, 17 January 2014

Thursday 17 January 2013

Laing’s appointment with the radiologist wasn’t until the early afternoon. We took our time getting ready. Now remember he hadn’t been out and mobile since Tuesday, so I wasn’t prepared for the old man who could barely walk more than 50 metres without stopping to catch breath and rest. Somehow or other we got to the hospital in plenty good time. As he walked from the bus he and I had the same idea, but he suggested it first. I’m sure if I had he would have been furious and bloody minded and walked the whole way to radiology. He asked if I would get one of the many abandoned wheel chairs that decorated the exterior of Queens hospital. They were thrown about in such a random haphazard manner, one could have been excused the thought Tracey Emin had created an installation.

The wheel chair was crap. I was pushing him, but it had a determined will of its own to veer off left or right as the mood took it. How the hell can inanimate objects be imbued a with a life of their own seeming with sole intention to frustrate and infuriate mankind? We were both very frustrated at the way the object went where it wanted. I more so than he as I couldn’t believe manoeuvring a wheel chair could be that difficult, could it?

I got him to the reception and let him do the talking from his chair. I was very mindful that people in wheel chairs are usually treated as though they were not capable of thought. I allowed myself a wry smile as I remembered John Mortimer recalling, in his wonderfully witty manner, how people would lean over and shout at him once he had become chair bound.

Laing got out the chair and I took his coat and scarf. We waited a while and he was seen more or less at the appointed hour. This was a result! The first occasion, other than his chemo sessions, that his treatment or appointment took place on time. He wanted me to me nearby but this was more firmly refused this time. He had his 10 minutes blast of radiotherapy. Poor bastard. He came out eventually smiling weakly at me. I asked how he got on and he was OK, he said. I got him back in the chair and was then told by a member of the nursing staff the best way to use the wheel chair was to pull it and not push it. Thanks for that. Why have something that “works” counter intuitively? Maybe this explains a lot of the waste in the NHS. Management buy something that isn’t quite right.

We got home, thankfully the buses met up pretty well and we got home. Laing again retired to bed, tired and exhausted. I looked on the web for wheel chairs, making choices that would give him independence and style (as much as style applies to wheel chairs). It may not have been Gucci style, but a couple of hundred quid for something decent was a small price to pay.

Laing was so apologetic about having to be wheeled about. I responded with my usual mantra that if it were the other way around he too would be doing the same thing for me. As ever, he chose not to acknowledge that truth. I also added this time I was only too happy to have done what I did. Then I added, with a wicked grin on my face, “It’s the first time I’ve got to push you about and you couldn’t complain!”

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Wednesday 16 January 2013

I felt uneasy about Tuesday. You know that feeling when you know something isn’t quite right? I phoned work and said I wasn’t coming in as I needed to be with Laing. My exact reason I can’t recall, I just knew where my place was instinctively. I don’t remember much apart from staying at home, insisting he stayed in bed, making him coffee and/or tea. He wasn’t that hungry, that much I remember, but he ate, albeit slowly and picking over his food. He never had done that before, ever. I should have been more suspicious then, but hindsight is a valuable tool. Just a shame we can’t go back and pick up on the signs.

I felt bad letting down work, but I also knew I was where I was truly needed. Despite my worries and concerns, I did not let on. I was happy to help and look after him. Despite the fact I saw the oncologist write “palliative” against Laing’s radiotherapy, I wanted to believe he would last longer and be well.

It is part of the human condition that we always want to believe in the best outcome no matter how much we know the odds are against that. I wasn’t ready to lose him, but would I ever have been?

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Tuesday 15 January 2013

Tuesday we went to the hospital, not King George, but Queens in Romford. Laing had already made the journey there alone when he had the bone scan. He didn’t want me to be with him for that, and I was pretty much not in agreement with that, but it was his decision, his choice, and I was not going to contradict him over that. I wanted to, but all the years together, I knew sometimes he preferred to go it alone.

We were booked for 10.50, but I remember it didn’t happen on time because of some problem or other. Laing took it well enough. When he was seen, he asked if I could be with him and was told that was not possible. He said he would want me to help him up after as he had great problems moving from the horizontal. Again this was firmly, but politely refused.

After what felt like an eternity I suddenly heard him yell out in pain. I wanted to rush out but I stayed put, mindful of the restrictions, imposed. Elf Anne Safetee. I heard him a few times more. Then one of the nurses came into the waiting room and asked me to come as he was calling for me. Reading between the lines, he was refusing to get up and off the table without me there. If there was one thing that I both admired and detested about Laing was his cussidness and stubbornness, both of which could be endearing or infuriating depending on the situation.

I saw a very frightened man, semi naked on the table surrounded by various nursing staff. I immediately took over the situation in some way or other. I asked Laing where he wanted me and manoeuvred myself into position. I knew moving him was not going to be easy, and he would be a pain in the arse while trying to do it. I wasn’t ready for his loss of control, verbally, and the flow of “fuck” uttered. I knew he was not in a good way, but I was putting all my faith on the radiotherapy and was ready to share in his enduring a week of pain to get the desired result.

He yelled out to one nurse to move away. She stood there looking bemused. Again he told her to move. I looked at her and calmly asked her to move to where Laing could see her. I had experienced Laing having panics a few times before, but this was serious. How the hell we eventually got him off the table I don’t know. I had to help dress him. I was getting to be adept at that.

Somewhere along the line, Laing had complained about the pain killers and medication he had been prescribed by the oncologist when we saw him on the previous Friday. We saw another doctor at Queens who prescribed Oromorph and explained that yes, it was morphine, but no, that didn’t mean anything more than it would help him through this period of pain and he wouldn’t need it after the radiotherapy, which we both thought was happening that day, but apparently wasn’t going to happen until Thursday, kicked in and relieved the agony. Neither of us was in much of a condition to argue or kick up a fuss about it, but Laing was, to put it mildly, totally fucked off about the whole thing.

Anyway, we put in the prescription to the pharmacy at the hospital, then lunched at the hospital canteen. Laing, bless him, bought lunch and walked about bringing everything over on the tray. How I miss that fierce independence. He was so damned good at not giving in. We got the drugs free with his cancer card. It’s like a loyalty card, except cancer patients have the loyalty shown to them. Just a pity we didn’t manage to screw more money back out of the system flowing our way after everything we had paid in.

He went to bed. I stayed in the office and let him sleep. He was so tired. Later I got a text from him “Shall we think about eating?”. We ate, I’ve no idea what, but I do recall he was impressed of the (simple) technique I had picked up from the web of chiffonade with the lettuce in salads. He took the Oromorph I remember sometime before we ate. 

I had suggested he sit up in bed rather than lie down as it was easier for him to get in and out of bed, and it would help relax his chest. When I did that, I have no idea, but I’m very sure it was after we returned from our Christmas in Venice. We rarely threw anything out (he always said I hoarded, but so did he), so there were somewhere between 4 to 8 pillows in various states of degradation we used to prop him up. I will never forget the gratitude he showed me as this made bedtime easier for him.

He was violently sick in the night. The details are fuzzy to say the least. But we managed to get some more sleep in. I didn’t realise the man I loved was dying. You don’t learn that at school. No, it’s more important to recite the Kings and Queens by rote than to learn practicalities.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Monday 14 January 2013

Monday I went to work. We had a brief text exchange:

Me: Trains all confused. Just left Fairlop. No heating.
Laing: That’s bad.
Me: That’s typical.

Later in the day he sent me a link to The Gramophone website that all Britten’s operas would be broadcast, as well as two other guys who were having anniversaries that year. One called Wagner and the other called Verdi. Anybody heard of them?

Because of my hearing had become totally ghastly and noise of the train was unbearable, I phoned him as I was walking home, and he, as usual, was there at the door to welcome me home. We must have hugged, we always did. I usually waited for him to lock the door and draw the curtain. Once I was home, that was it. He probably spent a good part of the day in bed. I would have been sympathetic as I had been throughout his cancer.

My dinner would have been prepared. I have no memory of the meal. Was this the last evening he prepared a meal for me?

How I miss the ritual of going upstairs to unwind for an hour or so, coming down about 7 to eat, Retire to the front room to watch something on the telly and then to bed. Often he would nudge me and tell me to take off my spectacles as I was falling asleep while reading. I try not to read too long in bed nowadays since I will wake up an hour or two later, the bedside light still on, my book or the iPad flopped somewhere, or perhaps fallen on the floor, and sometimes, my spectacles slightly awry.

It’s the minutiae of daily life I miss more now he is no longer with me in body, but I’m sure I sense a smile, like the Cheshire Cat’s grin, disappearing into invisibility as I wake from my slumber and turn the light off. I turn over, turn his pillows through 90˚ and hug them/him and cuddle up to them/him.

The bed’s too big without you.

Monday, 13 January 2014

Sunday 13 January 2013

My previous blog was about our marriage. This is about Laing’s last week. Some of it is as clear as day, some is blurry, some I have no memory, so you will find the narrative lumpy, like my first attempt at microwave porage (or as us uncivilised Sassenachs insist, porridge). I hope that anybody who finds themselves in the same situation as did I will find this useful, as events leading up to his death seemed to happen so fast, and I was blithely ignorant of them being in the eye of the storm.

After our lunch, we made our way home. Laing was tired I remember. He had been fantastic, so fantastic I thought the radiotherapy would at least give us a bit more time and he would soldier on. Neither of us was particularly hungry that evening. I had been greedy as ever and finished off with an Irish coffee. Well, I pissed already so why have caffeine unadulterated by this stage?

Sunday  we needed some food items. I was feeling worse about leaving Laing on his own (not that I enjoyed doing precisely that ever since his diagnosis). I rather forced him into coming out. He was not capable of taking the stairs at Hainault station, so we took the lift. Somewhere along the way a family, obviously on their way to church judging from the way the children were in the bizarre fancy dress their parents obliged them to wear thinking it made them look smart. The father rather caught my attention as being particularly obnoxious, it was one of those gut reaction moments. It was proved he was not a good giver of example as he had some paper or card, which he was tearing up. We surfaced at Leytonstone station, and when the doors opened he jettisoned the shreds in the gap between the train and the platform. Laing was incensed, I could feel that.

When we got off the train at Stratford he was not in a particularly good temper. Nonetheless, we went and did the shopping we had to. When we eventually got back home, during which time his temper was not any better, he said, “I am never going to Stratford again on a Sunday.” Of course I knew what he was meaning, but did he realise or know what he was saying in view of what was to unfold? It’s unlikely, but the truth of his remark echoes with me still.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

I'm Getting Married in the Morning

This time last year I woke up for the last time a single man in the eyes of the law. We had been friends for nearly 37 years and most of that time we had lived together. Our relationship hurtled from friendship to rushed and fumbled sex to deciding we would move out of our digs together and start a new life in the space of a mere 4 months.

Once our relationship became a threesome with lung cancer as the unwanted interloper, we decided we couldn’t put off getting married (or, if you have to be pernickety, be joined in a Civil Partnership). We arranged to see the Registrar the afternoon after the first of what were to be several visits to the oncologist, none of which happened at the appointed hour, on the 30th March 2012, less than two weeks after the diagnosis. We hummed and hahed over when we would have it, and also decided it would be a form signing exercise as we didn’t want a ridiculous fuss and pointless expense over it. We had lived together so long, this was merely the formal legal moment on nearly 37 years.

The chemotherapy took a lot out of him and getting married was seen as less important, as we also planned one hell of a holiday, three weeks in our favourite part of the world, south-east Asia. Eventually we decided on this day in 2013. It would be a Saturday, so nobody had to take time off to turn up for a rubber stamp job. “Sign here” off we would go. That was my attitude to it. It was a legal formality that was necessary. The writing of a will would then be something we could spend time thinking about.

A bone scan the week before had revealed, not to my surprise, the cancer had spread to his bones. The day before our marriage we saw the oncologist who booked Laing in to be measured up to pinpoint the pelvic area for a 10 minute blast of radiotherapy the Tuesday after.

We woke up on the 12th January 2013, as usual in our bed, but at an earlier hour than normal, had coffee, then got up for breakfast. I had spotted a shirt in March or April of 2012 that I wanted to wear for our marriage. I had also bought new chinos and shoes (they were a very uncomfortable compromise purchase and haven’t been worn since) for the event. As time approached, I went to Barkingside station to meet my cousin and her husband who were to be our two witnesses. Ours was a quiet, unostentatious marriage. Just the final legal seal on what had been a glorious life together, despite the inevitable ups and downs.

The Reigstrar who performed the ceremony was the same person who had taken our details when we registered our intention in the same room we met her nearly 10 months earlier. She was bright and cheerful and chatty. Your truly was wishing all this would be over and done with. “Let me sign and get out of here” was the romantic association I had with the whole farago.

We finally came to the bit of the formal declaration. We could read it to ourselves or out loud if we wanted. I looked at Laing. We smiled at each other. This was it. I said something like, “OK, I’ll read it out.” I was reading it in a matter of fact way and then, oh Hubris, how you make us stumble even in small moments of insignificant lives, “I declare that I know of no legal reason why we may not register as each other’s civil partner” or something like that read the first sentence.

I didn’t make it to the end. My voice cracked, a tear rapidly rose in my right eye. Laing and I reached out for each other’s hand. I felt a small squeeze from him, that beautiful loving touch couples the world over share that says so much than mere words. I looked round to our witnesses. They were smiling. My cousin’s smile took me back to the days of our innocence when we played in the large garden of her parent’s home some 50 years ago. I felt so foolish. I was the one who had down played the whole event and here I was, the emotional wreck. I think I apologised and re-read the sentence and continued. Laing read the same words faultlessly, as though he were reciting the week’s shopping list, and yet with a beautiful tenderness I don’t think I realised until now how tender his voice was. Well we all signed, went outside, took a few photos of us in various combinations since David and Tony (Bailey and Snowden if you really have to have it spelt out for you) were not available for our snaps, and who wants second rate photos? Better go for the family album photos.

Off we went in the glorious wedding carriage of the bus to Gants Hill station to connect with the Central Line to Stratford for a coffee at Cafe Nero at Westfield, then onto the Overground and a walk to Fredericks, possibly one of our favourite eateries. We had a great time. The wine flowed the conversation was good (though my hearing problems made the experience hell for me).

Later, when reviewing the photos, Laing said “I’ve never seen you look so happy.”

I’ve never been as happy since.

Friday, 3 January 2014

I am 59 going on 60 ...

It has been a long time since I posted, and this is not a New Year's Resolution to start posting regularly.

The last two years saw my life torn apart by cancer. To say I hate cancer is mild. There is an expletive that adds the full force of my hate. Cancer struck my husband, my mother and her sister. I've had enough of cancer.

I have tried to get my life back together. I've had sex with three (much younger) guys I wanted to be with, and I assume they wanted to be with me in bed! That  has helped. The most recent guy has also been a life saver for me. I wish I knew what the chemistry is that I have with him, but he has given me a confidence that I never thought I would ever have again, thanks to cancer. If what I have is love and if it is returned, I don't know. There are plenty of unhatched eggs and too few chicks so I am not going to start counting.

I've also made friends with cancer widows and widowers, other guys who are not interested in me sexually but who have extended the helping hand of kindness and friendship.

It's not been easy to keep myself well balanced all year. Tears still pop up unexpectedly. Sometimes just a little moisture in the eye, sometimes with the force of a river in flood. It has got easier, but there are still some cracks as I discovered yesterday.

So if any readers of my blog are gay, Oriental (preferably Chinese, but other races are not excluded), in the age group of 30 to 50, I'm happy to know you and maybe meet you. Maybe only as friends, but friendship is underrated.

Laing and I were friends before we realised our friendship was something more. When, on 19th March 2012, he was diagnosed with cancer, only then did we know what love demanded of us. Only then did we discover the full strength of our love. I hope none of you will face cancer, whether operable or curable or not. It is a roller coaster experience.

The other thing is, even at my age, I find I am able to be attractive to others. That is one hell of an ego massage. Age and widowhood doesn't mean the end of one's own life. It is the close of one chapter, and the story has still far to go.