Friends of my son had very kindly invited me down to Southampton to their house. Being with a bunch of young people playing games and seeing in the New Year seemed ideal. New Years Eve was always tough. Gail and I had spent the previous one in Mimosa – scene of her Celebration of Life eight months later – and witnessed a top class brawl but enjoyed little else. I could count the number of decent NYE’s on the fingers of one hand.
So with pressure mounting, a trip to Southampton would seem a sensible thing to do. Friends had invited me to their house on Boxing Day – Gail and I never went out over Christmas proper so it was something of a huge change – and I’d ended up playing games with their grown-up children and I’d really enjoyed it. Time to mix it up.
What hadn’t hit me until ten minutes to midnight was that something was about to occur. I could no longer say I’d lost Gail this year; rather in a short while, it would be I lost her LAST year. Who the fuck had done that to me? After all, I hadn’t created this. I’d stood still, the days had gone past. Someone had even said to me the day before “Well, you got through Christmas” as if i’d negotiated some difficult strategic political game.
I was grief stricken. I wasn’t suicidal. “You know how I got through Christmas?” I said (perhaps a bit more harshly than I’d intended) “I just woke up and it wasn’t fucking dead”. And that was how I felt.
Suddenly on New Years Eve 2018 I was panic-stricken. I had to stop whatever was happening but, of course, I couldn’t; I was powerless. I made my excuses to my son, daughter-in-law and his friends and left the house where I sat in the car and bawled my heart out.
At midnight, it happened. I’d lost Gail last year, not this year. I can’t tell you how awful that felt. The passage of time was taking her away from me even more than that bloody liver disease had.
I stayed the night as I had to having had a drink but I probably should have left. I was stone-cold sober by then and I was faced with a miserable drive back to London on New Years Day. I can not only remember that drive and journey – I can feel it! It’s like iced water in my veins. I felt awful for my Son and his friends whose kindness couldn’t be faulted, but I had completely misjudged the situation.