Today was the last breakfast I would make for the Dear Stepfather. I was looking forward to it and dreading it at the same time. His family come later to help him pack up and this was our final morning when it would be just the two of us. I used to make breakfast for him and my mother every day, and since she died I kept up the tradition. At first, we were very quiet, whacked about with grief, putting on our good brave faces, conversation sometimes a little stilted, running into the sands. I would quite often have to turn my face away, or stop half-way through a sentence, or leave the room on some pretext.
Then it got better. I rallied and made it my job to bring a smile to his face. If I could coax one true laugh out of him, my work would be done. We talked of politics, because we had always loved talking of politics. We had waded through the weeds of the Scottish independence vote and bashed through the tangled thickets of Brexit. I remember first hitting the bullseye of that proper laugh with a Donald Trump joke. I can’t recall what I said, but I remember the laugh. I have that one thing to thank the Donald for. (That was when he still seemed a joke, instead of a runaway train threatening Western civilisation.)
I loved those breakfasts. I’m going to miss them like the blazes. Nothing will ever be the same.
But today went wrong. The great-nieces pitched up to ride a little later than I had expected and we got lost in our lessons. Then HorseBack ate up a huge chunk of the morning. So in the end, I could only run in, make a fast omelette with herbs from the garden, the lovely sage and chives and parsley that my mother planted in elegant tubs, talk about logistics, and run out again. ‘Perhaps it is just as well,’ I said. ‘So we don’t get sentimental.’
And that was that.
I went home to edit the HorseBack pictures and write their blog for them. I thought it would take an hour, but it took four. It was good to do something which had nothing to do with me. I present HorseBack to the world, so people can know about the work that happens there, and the intense challenges our veterans face. I try to demystify Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and take the sting and stigma out of life-changing injury. I could not dwell on loss, because I had to step up for people who know losses and traumas that I can hardly imagine.
The thing will happen soon, and then it will be done. On Tuesday, the cars and moving vans will roll away, to the south, and there will be a final rupture and then a new beginning. I feel very raw and very vulnerable, but I believe in new starts and I must hold on to this one.
Yesterday, I made a last supper of Aberdeen Angus steak and new potatoes with mint and baby carrots and leeks in white sauce. The Dear Stepfather got out the very last bottle of the Cheval Blanc which my mother had cannily bought, with her elegant taste for proper wine. Life, says the Dear Stepfather, is too short to drink bad wine. This was very fine, an august, velvety claret, a knowing old wine, a wine for remembrance. The Stepfather told me stories of his great-grandfather and his grandfather in Canada. I love hearing about the ancestors. Last week he showed me his paternal great-grandfather’s medals from the Crimean War. There they were, two solid silver discs with Crimea and Sebastapol written on them, and the date, 1856. I stared at them in wonder, those little slivers of history, sitting quietly in a Scottish room.
So we drank the claret and ate the beef and talked of the past and touched on my mother and swerved away again, because the wound, which was healing, has become raw with this new parting.
Soon it will be done. And I have books to write, and the HorseBack work to do, and animals to look after and thoughts to think. But no more breakfast to make.