Monday, 15 August 2016

Acts of kindness

Yesterday was a bad day. I came back from holiday and had no-one but Facebook for company. No-one phoned to check we were home safely. No-one was eagerly waiting to see us on our return. In fact, only the children's dad knew we were coming home at all. And when he came to pick them up for the afternoon, there was overwhelming silence, where once there would have been your knock at the door. I missed you and I missed my mum. Everyone needs a someone to say those words to: I'm home.

Eventually my sadness pushed me out into the sunshine and I walked, tears streaming, through the park, not caring who saw. He saw. I know he did. But I didn't meet his eye. It wasn't the time to stop to talk to the man who runs the fairground on a sunny day. I couldn't interrupt his patter and the chatter of sunshine children with my tears. I walked on.

I knew him vaguely before I knew he knew you. I've been wandering that park for years. He has a soft spot for a mum in a flowery dress, can clock the tired eyes of a single parent who has been on duty for too long. He brings me chairs and sunglasses, once even bought me a cup of tea. He lets the kids go on for free when I've forgotten my cash, doesn't mind if I don't pay him back. Though I do, usually, pay him back.

I only saw him with you once, saw the look of surprise on his face when he saw us hand in hand. You waved your greetings across the grass. You'd known each other years ago when you'd famously used your metalworking skills to make him a Clingon weapon. At your funeral someone wrote about it on the memory tree. There can't be many people who leave memories of fantasy weaponry behind them but then there aren't many people like you.

He'd heard the bad news before I told him, strode out across the grass with open arms. Strange the way grief breaks down barriers, how I found myself hugging a fairground Clingon as if he were my own best friend. 'All the good ones are gone,' he said. He told me of his own lost love. We are bonded now in the club of broken hearts. Grief, the other side of love. Love, the other side of grief.

Yesterday's hug came from another club member who reached out to me when you died. She was in the park celebrating her late husband's birthday. Strange that my footsteps led me to her, that she ended up consoling me on her husband's day. I left her in the company of her own loved ones, sat on a stump in the woods and called your mum instead of mine. She is someone else I never knew before. So important to me now. We too are bonded forever in grief and love.

Today we were in the park again. I had the children in tow. I smiled at him as I carried my tea and cups of water back to the playground, no time to sit today. Later, she went to fetch more water, came running, beaming like sunshine back to my side, with a wand of bubbles. 'Paul's friend gave it to me,' she said. 'He filled it from his bubble machine. He said, madam, it's all yours.' And my spirits lifted. Your gift to him, his gift to her, a gift to me. Small kindnesses passed on. He's like a kind of fairy godmother, we said. And we laughed, the way we did when we picked up the pure white feather outside art club on our anniversary and imagined you as an angel. Beauty comes in unusual packages. Love is as big and wide as sadness. Small things make a big difference. Surprising people welcomed me home.