I went back to work yesterday. You may feel like you’ve read these words from me before, but last time it was just too soon. I wasn’t in a good place. Truth is I’m still not but I’m trying.
After just a few hours at my desk I realised that work is not the big challenge for me. It’s life that’s tough. It’s the wrapping around my role. It’s all of the things that accessorise the working day. The time away from my son. The lack of privacy to deal with emotions as they gently erupt out of nowhere on the bus through Elephant & Castle, a place that could make a grown man cry at the best of times.
It’s stepping outside of the secure zone that I’ve built in recent months that makes me anxious and emotionally unbalanced.
They say old habits die hard. I say old habits are hard to face when someone dies. My son effectively said the same thing to me this morning when I left for the office.
“Take coat off, Daddy.”
“I can’t, mate. I’ve got to go to work.”
Sitting in his high chair his head disappeared into his folded arms, his right leg contorted comfortably onto the table top in a position only toddlers and yoga instructors can easily achieve.
“Wa, mmm, umm, eee”, or some such slow sound came from a hidden place within his big curly hair and stripy pyjamas.
“What did you say, Jackson?”, I asked several times without really needing to.
After a few minutes he unfolded himself, stared into space and asked, “Where’s Mummy gone?”
He’s not asked that question for a while. It may be a subtlety to some but usually he simply says he wants her. I don’t see this as a nuance though. To me it’s the difference between coming to terms with the reality of the situation and not.
But this morning, we took a trip back to our old life. Just another morning when Daddy left before getting chance to play. One of those days when Mummy would no doubt make an entrance to soften the blow of Daddy’s departure with a daft face, a funny joke or a kiss that tickled.
But not today. Not any day.
It’s hard to imagine that such a young boy could already have old habits. It’s even harder to have to watch the habits that brought such pleasure die. And it’s even harder still when you had to watch his mummy do the same just four months ago.
This is syndicated content from Life as a widower
Content reproduced with the kind permission of Benjamin Brooks-Dutton