Conwy, Wales, Summer 2002. I was a destructive, angsty student and mum had taken me away for a couple of nights to try and chill me out (check out those piercings!)
Yesterday I got back from a week away, and it hit me all over again and I couldn’t stop crying. I just wanted to talk to her. And nothing made me feel any better. My wise friend Natalie suggested writing to her, so when it got to 2am and I still couldn’t get to sleep, I put pen to paper. I thought I’d share it below.
It’s 2am and I can’t sleep and I’m thinking about how I used to tell you about my sleepless night the next morning in great detail, and you would have had an equally sleepless night and we would often have been awake at the same hour. (Insomnia, like picking from food in the fridge and being obsessively tidy is one of the more annoying traits I’ve inherited from you!) You used to encourage me to get up and do something like make a hot drink or read a few chapters of a book and it was always a comfort imagining you were doing exactly the same. Now it just feels empty, and strange… and lonely, because you’re not doing any of those things, and I won’t be able to ring you to talk about them in the morning.
We got back from our holiday (Maine/New York) first thing and instead of getting back into work, feeling supposedly rejuvenated after a break, I got into bed ‘for a lie down’ and woke up bleary eyed three hours later. I wasn’t even that tired; just unspeakably sad, and uncomfortably numb. I’ve been feeling like this all week… When we went hiking for miles and ate warm, buttery lobster rolls in the car when it started pouring with rain. When we played cards at the bar and washed down oysters with enormous glasses of fizz. When we ordered ice cream sodas, went paddling in the sea and drove from Bar Harbour to Portland singing along to cheesy rock anthems. Because we had a wonderful time, but for most of it, I felt like I was only half there.
Every time I belly laughed it was tinged with sadness. Every time I saw something beautiful, it made me uneasy. Every time I took a photograph, it felt insignificant. A big part of the pleasure of going on holiday for me is returning home with stacks of souvenirs and silly stories; but without you, what’s the point any more? If I can’t call you when I land… When I can’t show you where I’ve been… When you can’t feel like you were there with me… When there’s no ‘home’ to come back to…
I know it’s going to take time for anything – holidays, birthdays, Christmas (which I’m already dreading) – to feel ‘normal’ again and that everything is different now, I just can’t get my head around how something joyful can now feel so unbelievably joyless. Chris planned this trip so thoughtfully while I barely lifted a finger, but I suppose I had my own (emotional) challenges to overcome. At one point I had to say to him, “you can’t fix me,” which felt like an important realisation for us both. He did (and does) everything he could to make sure we had an amazing time but the reality is, right now, nothing will feel ‘amazing’. It can’t, when the grief is so raw, when the pain is so deep. But that doesn’t mean it won’t ever again.
Oh mum, what I would give to go on one more ‘Hayes family holiday’. And that really is saying something, isn’t it? It was always so horribly stressful – the expense (when we went to Belgium and you forgot your debit card and we had £300 to last four of us for a week) the lost luggage (when our suitcase was nicked on the train back from Torquay) the rows (when your glasses broke in Lake Garda)… Every year you would shout, “that’s the last holiday we’re going on,” but it never was. If I could relive all those holidays (yes even the really awful ones) all in one go, right now, I would. That’s how much I miss you.