I cannot believe I am 50 years old now. I don’t feel 50 dammit – I still feel 25 in my head!! I knew this day was coming and I had been vague about celebrat every time someone asked me what I was planning to do. When I was in a stable state of mind, I was upbeat about having several small celebrations with different sets of friends. When I was down in the dumps, I couldn’t face the thought of hitting this milestone without Paul by my side.
It was only 4 years ago we celebrated Paul’s 50th birthday – July 2017. It was a year or so after Paul’s lymphoma diagnosis first time around. I was going to make it a day to remember. I wanted to include his parents in the celebrations and make it special for them too. I did a few things as a surprise for Paul on the day. I asked friends and family to leave voicemails for him via an app (or was it a website? Can’t remember); I collated these voicemails along with a lot of photographs and put them on a website for him to listen to on his birthday.
I made buntings with 50 ‘flags’; each flag containing a word unique to Paul. The boys and I sat down and had a brainstorm one day about these 50 words. What words would describe daddy? What words would remind us immediately of daddy? We had the usual words such as kind, loving, fun, etc etc; but we also had some funny words like ‘turnip’ which is an in-joke between Paul and Andrew; we also had some family jokes like ‘Jason Statham’ and ‘spirit level’.
Paul was absolutely adamant that he looked like Jason Statham lol!! He would point that out whenever he could. He couldn’t understand that I could never fancy Jason Statham!!!
Talking about being deluded, Paul also thought he was good at DIY. When we bought our house, I never thought we would end up doing most of the work ourselves (that’s for another blog post). Paul considered himself good at DIY *ahem*. Everywhere I look now, there’s something he has ‘fixed’ or installed which is wonky. The letter plate he installed on our door is clearly lopsided and Lynsey our postwoman had a few laughs at Paul’s expense (behind his back, of course). There are a few plug sockets he has installed that could have done with a spirit level too.
I then looked at booking somewhere for the weekend. Pre-kids, we used to visit Lavenham a lot. It is stunning and we used to stay in an absolutely glorious B&B called Milden Hall. This is one of very few places we revisited as everything about the B&B, the walks around and Lavenham itself were all worthy of repeat weekend trips. Unfortunately Milden Hall wasn’t suitable for the in-laws as they needed ground floor accommodation with little or no steps.
I found just the right place in The Old Rectory at Kettlebaston where they had a ground floor granny annexe suitable for the in-laws.
A few days before the weekend, I had to tell Paul about the weekend plan as I knew he could be on-call that weekend - giving him time to juggle his work schedule and block the weekend.
Paul’s 50th fell on a Sunday. We left for Kettlebaston Friday evening. The in-laws were to meet us at the B&B as they were driving down from York. Before Paul came home from work that Friday, I had put up the buntings all around the house for him to walk into. We then wandered around the house laughing at what was written in each flag.
We had a brilliant time on Saturday with walks and exploring the local area. Sunday morning after breakfast we sat outside in the garden and gave Paul his presents. At the end of that, Paul said he had something for me. Paul doesn’t really do surprises but when he does, they tend to be quite memorable and significant.
He brought out a small box and almost went down on one knee. To my utter surprise, he had bought me a solitaire ring to replace my engagement ring. The reason: a few weeks before, we 4 were goofing around, tickling each other and having a pillow fight and in that mayhem, the diamond on my engagement ring got lost. He had discussed buying a new ring with the boys and the boys managed to keep it all a secret!
I was looking forward to having a similar weekend for my own 50th with my boys. A weekend where we were going to make more happy memories and planning our retirement, which was becoming a regular topic of discussion in the last 2 years of Paul’s life. How things change in an instant. How life takes a turn you never saw coming. How utterly desperate one can get when all one had was love, happiness and hope.
A week or so before my 50th, I decided that I was going to throw a party. I knew that if Paul was around, I would have suggested hosting a party. So, having that in mind, I decided to have Paul close to me in spirit while I set about planning. Most of our friends in Gaddesden Row were there plus a few close friends. A few special people weren’t there but we are making plans in the coming weeks to rectify that. There were about 40 people there and it was also my way of saying thank you to these amazing, wonderful friends and neighbours who have in some shape or form been my support over the last 2 years at least.
While nothing, I mean NOTHING can everreplace Paul and compensate for the massive hole he has left in my life, I take some comfort knowing I have an amazing circle of friends around me on whom I can lean on if ever I need to.