Friday, 2 January 2015

Thoughts on love and loss.

I’ve written quite a lot about the old friends lately. I think it has to do with motoring towards fifty. I shall be forty-eight at the end of this month and there is a feeling of taking stock and counting the years. The love for the old friends hums in me, and there is a sweet comfort in all the history we have together.

I love them all in different ways, and they bring out different parts of me. One of them is a very dear man with whom I have always had a very straightforward relationship. We’ve never had a cross word or a falling out. We smile and laugh when we see each other. The ineffable fondness pours out, like starlight. I’m in Scotland now and he has done dazzlingly well in his chosen profession and is often travelling for his work, so we don’t see each other for long stretches of time. But we pick up just where we left off, beaming at each other in delight. It’s a friendship of absolute ease.

Today, I got an email from him telling me that his mother had died. I wrote back, a long, winding essay, all about that profound and shocking grief when a parent goes. It is like nothing else. I told him of my feelings for my father, when he died, and how I could not make sense of the world and how I had to lie down on the Scottish grass and hold onto the earth because I feared I might just fly off into space. I hoped that knowing he was not alone might help, although I am keenly aware that words are paltry things in the face of such oceanic sorrow. I have to write them, but I feel inadequate in every line.

In the end, after all the scribbling, I just sent love. Call if you need to talk, I wrote.

I thought of the long process of grieving. It is a process and it has to be done. You can’t cheat it or skip it or find a shortcut. You have to plunge into it and damn well do it. I kept thinking I was done, with my dad, and then I would find myself on the floor, weeping Railway Children tears.

I feel now the sharp serpent’s tooth of loss. I am sorrowing for my dear friend and his adored mother and his broken heart. As I do that, I remember all over again that tearing loss, that awful realisation that my father, that vivid, laughing titan, that man who risked his very life over huge fences (the docs told him to stop; he ignored them) no longer existed in the world.

I was talking to another of the old friends, a few weeks ago. She too is one of the most straightforward, love and admiration and affection growing between us like flowers in springtime. I said, rather out of the blue: ‘I’ve found a place to put Dad.’

It’s taken three years. He exists now, safely, in my heart. He lives with me. I think of him every day. I write about him quite a lot, here, on the Facebook page, in my Twitter feed, where there are many racing people who still remember him. He is with me every time I put on an improbable bet (the unlikely accumulator was one of his trademarks) and every time I go down to my mare. I did not realise it at the time, but I bought that mare to be closer to him, because he was a horseman to his bones.

Reading of my lovely compadre’s bereavement makes me think of the vastness of grief. Every ordinary human has to go through it, and, at this age, one starts to face more funerals than weddings. It is part of life; it has to be woven in. It is ultimately expected and natural and yet it feels as if it tears apart the very fabric of being. The missing never goes. You just have to find a way of folding it into yourself, so that it does not overwhelm you. I’m still not quite sure how I did that. I’d love to say I was very clever about it, and that the whole process was seamless. It was not. It was messy and painful and I got it wrong quite a lot of the time.

But in the end, I did find a place for him, my darling old dad. The really lovely thing is that I get the very best of him. That is what is left, it turns out. He was incredibly funny and charismatic and brave. People’s faces lit up when he entered a room. He had the happy gift of making people feel that the world was a slightly brighter place when he was in it. But he was also very naughty and irresponsible. As a father, he could not be relied on. He hurt, without even knowing that what he did was sometimes painful. Yet all that has flown away. I don’t even have to forgive it. It does not factor. I am left with him in all his glory – the idiosyncratic, beloved, mighty man, who threw his heart over a fence and whose horses would follow him to the ends of the earth.

Loss is loss, my sister once said to me. I was having trouble grieving for my dog, finding it hard to make sense of the depth of heartbreak for an animal when humans had been buried not long before. Loss is loss, and must be honoured. I miss my Dear Departeds, and that never goes away. But they exist within me, stitched into my heart; antic, shining and curiously alive.


Today’s pictures:

No camera today. There was snow and sleet and gales when I went out this morning. These are from a Bobby Dazzler a few days ago:

2 Jan 1

2 Jan 2

2 Jan 3


  1. You & your sister are right, of course: Loss IS loss. Nothing to do about it. ("It is what it is" a phrase which, for some reason, always sets my teeth grinding!)

    My father died when I was 23. It was sudden & unexpected (even though he was in his mid-70s being 27 years older than my mother, who, incidentally, is approaching her 94th birthday!).
    My one comfort was that I, at the "worldly" age of 21 (already married & moved to another country!), had called my parents on my birthday to apologize for ever calling them assholes & old fogies (to their faces and behind their backs), to say that I "got" it: they were great & I loved them very much. I was thankful they were my parents.

    To this day I miss never having had a "adult" conversation with my dad. Most of what I know about him was/ has been told to me by my mother (and through her very particular filter as well). I still trust my observations of him even as a teenager (when I wasn't feeling all "put upon"). But I never took the opportunity to sit down and have a heart-to-heart with him.

  2. Beautiful and poignant thoughts Tania - thank you for sharing.

  3. I suggest you ring your friend rather than waiting for him to phone you. Those people who have called in or telephoned have been the most appreciated, since my husband died in August. It hasn't necessarily been the ones I thought would do so, either.

  4. Grief is an absolute bugger. Thank you. Happy new year. Your lovely blog is the highlight of my day. x

  5. I turned 48 at the end of last month, and I can tell you - absolutely nothing changed. I still feel 28. I got a new tattoo for Christmas. People continue to be surprised by my actual age because I continue to act the way I feel, instead of acting the way people my age are "supposed" to act.

    I also lost my dad, back in 2008, and I agree... the things that you really remember are the distilled and concentrated good parts. Foibles, sins, and the rest just get swept away. It seems that the truly special people, the ones with very altitudinous high spots, also have rather spelunkious low spots. The people whose lives were just one even line were... well, boring. So I'm glad that my dad was one of those fun, memorable people whose peaks I can remember with smiles and laughter, and whose valleys I can leave to history. And I'm glad yours was, too.

  6. What a beautiful post. I feel this very strongly and to this day miss my Dad terribly. I was 18 when he died and like Pat above wish we'd got to know each other as adults. So sorry for your friend's loss x

    Hope your lovely Red is better x


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