Chapter 10: Eddie
Once, Eddie had asked a friend Paul about grief. Paul had lost his mother, seven years earlier. Paul had said that sometimes it felt like his mother was away on holiday, and then sometimes it felt like he had not seen her for thirty years, a lifetime. Eddie felt exactly like that about Issy. He still hoped she was just on holiday and would bounce through the front door like a puppy with a new ball, high on the simple pleasures of life. His head hurt. His heart hurt. It hurt for himself, for Issy and for Willow. It really hurt.
In the early days, he used to go to the Crematorium and talk to her gravestone. Every Saturday morning, whilst Willow was at his parents. He would sit with Issy for 30 minutes or so then he would go and attempt to do the weekly shop. Shopping as a widower felt like trying to get out of quicksand. Every aisle absorbed his energy. He remembered times where floor staff or strangers would ask if he was ok, as he would be standing starting at toothpaste, or sweet potatoes, sometimes on the brink of what felt like hysteria or a complete meltdown. That saying ‘you can be lonely in a room full of people.’ My God, was it true. Shopping for one adult and one toddler, his heart felt like it would stop beating any moment, the pain like a sander, grinding against his lifeline.
There were times he bought things that neither he or Willow liked. Things that Issy used to eat, products she used to use. That Mexicana cheese that she loved eating straight from the fridge, Assam teabags, deodorant that smelt of honey and cream. He just couldn’t let go.
The three of them used to go food shopping. Another thing he took for granted. Another thing he would surrender anything to have again. To see her face as she rooted through the bananas, ensuring every shade from grass green to yellow, before speckles of course, so that their fruit would last them all week. The natural ability to nurture that was as programmed into her as breathing.
She would check dates on food, knew what she needed to put delicious meals together to keep her family healthy. A true mother earth, a carer, a selfless, nourishing partner, a magnificent mother. All gone, wiped out in an instance by someone who never knew what she meant to everyone. Gone. Dead.
Eddie felt the tears start, he wanted to sob so hard, rock the pain away, scream and yell at how unjust it was. He wanted to kill the man who took her, the murderer. He wanted her back. He needed her back. Willow needed her. How could this have happened?
Why did he have to wake up on Willow’s third birthday as a single, widowed Father. Why could Willow not have her Mummy on her birthday. She asked for her, over and over.
‘Mummy is in heaven darling. But she is always watching over us and lives in our heart.’
A three-year-old can’t understand. She should have been celebrating, happy with her new books and dolls, and instead she was asking for Mummy. That was almost a year ago and Willow was soon going to be four.
He still talked to her, every single day. Most of the time, he actually expected her to answer.
Forgetting for a split second that she had been snatched away from him for eternity. His
Issy, gone. Dead. Saying or thinking the word made him want to run to the toilet, to throw up. In the early days, he did. The grief was overwhelming. It still was. He wondered if he would ever cope again. How did people do it? Then there was the anger. The fire of absolute rage that had burnt in the gut of his belly with ferocious energy for so long after she died. The need for revenge. The wishing bad things on the murderer and his family. Which turned to realising, that two families had been ruined. But it never felt any easier.
He was clinging on, holding on to a fraying rope. The only fibres left were the fibres of Willow. The single thing keeping him going. Willow, a part of Issy. A creation of love of Issy and Eddie.
Every day he saw Issy in Willow. Some days it was magical. Some days, as disgusted as he felt in himself, he felt resentment to Willow. She emphasised his grief on days that he felt weaker. He knew if Willow wasn’t around, he would have taken his life. It was the only thing that kept him going, the only fibres in his rope, but much of the time, he wanted the rope to snap and for that reason, he had to swallow resentment.
He loved his Willow so much, but it wounded him daily to be both parents and to have to suffocate his grief. Only last week, she came home from nursery and gave him a picture. Issy was on the picture smiling and Eddie on the other side with a sad face. Granted, they looked like potatoes, but there was a distinct sad face.
‘Why is Daddy sad Darling?’
‘Because Mummy is gone.’
He sobbed as he held her, telling her over and over that he loved her. Saying it for Issy as much as himself.
They say time heals. It doesn’t. It gives us better ways of managing grief but it never takes the pain away. We simply become used to the void in our life and try and fill it with different things. We smile in time with fond memories, rather than breaking down or oppressing them. We cry less and are able to recall memories without feeling like we are getting kicked in the stomach or someone has impaled us with a red hot poker. Eddie knew this. Friends had told him. The Counsellor that he had one session with, told him the same. He just couldn’t go back, he wasn’t ready. But he remembered that and it give him the tiniest flicker of hope.
In his darkest hours, days and weeks he knew he had to keep going, for Willow. For Issy’s memory. He knew she would be devastated seeing him deteriorate and give up. He acknowledged what he had to do. But things are always so much easier said than done.
In those early days, he would sit at her grave for ages, come rain or shine. His parents, Connie and Robert would end up having Willow for the full day on a Saturday as he lost himself in the grief he muted all week. Willow would bound back home at tea time with a new toy or some tat from his mother and she would bring his little girl into a home that hadn’t been cleaned and to a fridge that hadn’t been stocked. Returned to a father with red, puffy eyes.
Of course, his mother and father were supportive and in those early days, another fibre in the rope, but a mother knows when her child is falling, even her 30-odd year old child.
‘Eddie, Son, this can’t go on.’
It didn’t help. Highlighting the obvious just didn’t help. Eddie knew what he had to do, of course he did. He was an intelligent man. He just couldn’t fucking do it. Grief had him paralysed. The disintegration of his future had him frozen. It felt like an unachievable battle.
Connie witnessed her son deteriorate for a few more weeks, questioning when to step in with insistence. Within the month she had moved in ‘temporarily’ to help. Eddie felt like a failure but part of him was so grateful that his Mother was helping to save him from drowning.
He stopped going to the Crem every week and instead, Willow, Connie and himself planted a tree in the back garden. An Acer tree, Issy loved them. They got a bench, put it next to the tree and Willow chose an ornament of two meerkats to go next to the tree. Eddie figured that
Issy wouldn’t be at the Crem, it was always cold there and she hated the cold. Plus, she had no memories there. So he rationalised it that she was always with him and Willow and always in their home, where all their happiness had been. He still went to the Crem, there was some kind of duty he felt, but it became fortnightly then monthly.
Instead, he used to the time to try and conquer the house work and food shopping each Saturday morning as Willow spent time with Momar and Grandpa, then the afternoon he would take her swimming, to the park or to soft play. Was it hard? Most certainly.
Did he feel every second tinged with sadness, most definitely. But he would continue to live for Willow, for Issy, and he would do his absolute best.