Two bags of frozen smoothie mix hurtled across the kitchen, their intended target standing in the doorway with an expression of bewilderment.
“Fuck off!” I screamed. “Fuuuuck offfff!”
P just stood there and looked at me, shaking his head as icy nuggets of various berries and mixed fruits exploded on the tiles and scattered to all four corners of the room.
“It’s a good job you’re such a shit fucking aim!” he said calmly, as he walked away.
What prompted this outburst I hear you ask? Well, it was tea time and P had settled on the sofa after a full day, unable to move either of his arms. They had weakened to the point of being useless and it was just heart-breaking to see the exhaustion and frustration on his face.
“I’ll make you a nice pizza”, I said and set about putting all his favourite things on it. Pepperoni, salami, fresh chillies, extra cheese and lots of Jalapeños (the pickled ones in the jars). “He’ll love this”, I thought to myself as I pulled it from the oven and placed it carefully on the plate.
Now, you must understand that P is very particular about many, many things and pizza is one of them. He will not eat a pizza that has been cut into slices. I know, I know it’s weird, but the pizza must be whole, and he must eat it with a knife and fork. I was therefore faced with a dilemma. His arms were too weak to cut up a pizza. He could manage to pick up a slice of pizza maybe, but he doesn’t like slices. Hmmmm… what to do, what do? OK, I will cut the pizza into bite-sized pieces and then all he needs is a fork to eat the wonderful morsels of deliciousness, lovingly prepared by moi. I presented it to him, delighted with my efforts…
“What the fuck is this?!” he exclaimed with disgust.
My face dropped.
“What the fuck have you done that for?! I’m not eating that! Why didn’t you just cut it into slices?!”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I was trying to help him, and he was furious. I took the pizza, stormed downstairs and threw it straight in the bin. What then ensued is what we will now refer to as ‘berry-gate’.
Looking back now (amusing as it is), I can see that I was actually insulting him. What I thought was a kind gesture was in fact me showing him that I didn’t think he was capable of the simple task of eating his own meal. That must have been frustrating for him. I didn’t ask him what he needed, I made the decision for him and then responded to his anger with my own fury.
People ask me all the time how I cope with our situation and I’m never quite sure how to answer, because I don’t really know. Sometimes people will say, “you seem to be fine/coping well/very strong” (delete as applicable). I look at these people and silently scream (whilst searching for a polite response), because they don’t see the tears and frustration behind closed doors. They don’t hear the arguments. They don’t see the stress when we’re trying to budget with only one income and a hefty mortgage. They don’t have to answer a 7-year-old’s questions about death at 9 ‘o’ clock on a Wednesday night. They don’t have to witness an 11-year-old boy paralysed with anxiety for fear his Dad might not wake up in the morning. All this bubbles like a pressure cooker, and when you see a smiling face, we’re normally about 3 minutes away from an outburst, a meltdown or a screaming fit of pure rage!
On the darkest days it’s easy to allow yourself to get bitter. I can’t speak for P, but I get bitter about other people’s happiness. I don’t like these days. They feel deeply unpleasant and it’s a part of me I don’t recognise. On these days I don’t want anyone to have fun and I don’t want anyone to be happy. I begrudge good things happening to anyone and I don’t care. Why should she have that holiday? How dare she be dressing up and going out! Who does she think she is driving that car? Oh, look at her – skinny bitch! Aren’t you all just perfect with your husbands not dying blah, blah, blah. I really have to work hard on these days to remind myself that everyone is facing their own difficulties and I don’t necessarily know a damn thing about it.
Then there’s the sad days. This comes if I allow myself to think about the life we will never have. You see, me and P were going to move to the seaside when the boys had grown up. It’s always been his plan to grow old by the sea, with the grandkids running across the sand without a care in the world. But he will never be a Grandad. It’s not meant to be. It’s no longer the plan. And the new plan is just too sad to dwell upon for any length of time. Living in the moment is the best remedy for sad days. Being present in whatever is happening right now normally snaps me back to reality. Maybe a stiff drink too!
But I’ve come to realise that all of this is OK. It’s important to express these emotions and for the boys to do the same, because that’s the only way you can let it go and stay (reasonably) sane.
So, P is continuing to struggle with his own pizzas (I ain’t touching them). The frozen fruits are being used for their intended purpose and all is currently calm. Well, until the next outburst, but that’s OK.
Oh, and if you visit and find a random blueberry nestled in the corner of the carpet, best not to mention it.