Facing our demons

7 Aug


My husband went away at the weekend. He wasn’t going on holiday, or on a work trip. As he packed his bag, he handed me his iPad. “I won’t be needing this so you can let the kids use it if they want.” Where he’s going, iPads aren’t allowed.

The reasons why my husband has gone to stay somewhere else for a while are not really for me to discuss: his experience will form part of his story, and he’ll have plenty to tell me when he returns, so for now all I know is what I’m feeling. He will be gone for the entirety of the children’s summer holidays if things go to plan. Things took a turn for the worst last week, and in the aftermath I didn’t need to tell him that it was time he went to get some proper help. For once, he didn’t need advising because he knew that he needed to get better. I am incredibly proud of him, because making that decision can’t have been easy.

Long holidays with children are a challenge when we’re all together, but I have a strange feeling that without my husband around things will be a weird mix of easier and harder. If he’s scared about what he’ll be facing in the coming weeks, I’ll confess that I’m a little afraid too.

“Visiting hours are restricted to weekends only” said the man with the clipboard as we passed the reception on arrival at the place with the long drive. I felt odd kissing my husband goodbye in front of someone so official. “I hope you’re not leaving on my behalf,” the man said.

I walked out of the building and back to my car alone, a lump as big as a boiled sweet swelling in my throat. I cried for a good ten minutes, until I pulled over at a supermarket. I walked up and down the aisles, then bought an assortment of brightly coloured Tupperware. God only knows why, but when I’m sad I do some strange things. I’m glad I chose containers over gin though, because when I woke on Sunday morning I didn’t have a hangover. For the first time ever I didn’t have to pull every size and shape of plastic tub out of the cupboard in order to find a matching top and bottom.

In bed last night on day two without him (and barely any contact) I tried to make a list in my head of the things I’m scared of. Some of the questions I’m being asked are tough, because they demand an immediate answer. “Why can’t we see daddy until the weekends if he’s in London?” asked my 6-year-old today. “And if he’s not coming home for a month, am I going to be 7 when I next see him?” It struck me that time in my son’s head is such an abstract thing. Summer stretches out like an endless sea of unstructured days and a month is a mighty long time when you’re six.

“I’m writing dad a card and thinking of baking him a chocolate cake decorated with super sour Haribos when we visit at the weekend.” said my daughter. “Am I old enough to buy tobacco yet? He’s probably run out.” She wants to make everything better for her step-father, and it’s great to see her talk about him with genuine affection. I find this deeply comforting.

Aside from worrying that I’ll stay strong enough for the children at the moment, I’m embarrassed to say that I’m anxious about some of the small things that I’ll have to tackle without my husband around. I won’t be able to ask him how to make the icons on my computer desktop bigger when the baby bashes the keyboard and reduces them to pinpricks. I also know that I’ll give up on adult mealtimes and either eat with the children day after day or skip dinner all together and settle for stale custard creams and half a packet of assorted nuts when my stomach grumbles before bed. And the cat. I remember to feed him, but it’s my husband who strokes him and scratches his tummy. I’m going to have to teach myself to be affectionate with animals.

Just for today (I can see that I’ll get used to phrases such as this) I’m trying to keep it all together. And for now it’s working. The children are dressed and fed, and two have already been whisked away by a friend to the cinema. The baby is still snotty and demanding, but he laughs with the same regularity. And I feel pretty good, knowing that my husband is there, being looked after, and back at home we are holding the fort and looking after each other. I’ve even convinced the two older children that tidying away dinner is fun if you do it naked (another story, another time, but naked Hoovering has become something I do as a source of family entertainment and practicality because it’s sweaty work if you do it well.)

But what I think is keeping me up at night is the fact that this month is just the beginning. The hardest work of all will come when the month is up, and my husband returns and we have to work together as a family again. We’ll have to make changes, and whilst I’m sure things will improve with time, it will be a challenge.


2 Responses to “Facing our demons”

  1. Audrey August 7, 2012 at 9:41 pm #

    So sweet and truthful Grace. x

  2. Rebecca August 7, 2012 at 10:30 pm #

    Such beautiful and eloquent writing Grace, my dear friend, I wish I was nearer to give you more support. You are amazing….never stop writing, you have such a skill! xx

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