Filling in the blanks

This morning I lay in bed with the sun streaming in through the window reading Saturday’s newspaper. On the table beside me was a fresh made latte, and on the other side of me Rigby lay happily resting close by his dad. This is pretty standard, a scene repeated in one way or another hundreds of times over the last 15 years.

The pattern extends to how I read the paper. I’m up by about 8 to collect the plastic wrapped newspaper from outside. This is Rigby’s job, and one he delights in. He quickly observes that I’m about to go out, and bounds ahead of me as I open the front door. The newspaper will be there lying in the driveway and he’ll grab it hungrily, looking back at me with his tail wagging in anticipation. Sometimes – often – he’ll drop it momentarily to go sniff at something, or wander part way down the road, before returning to grasp the newspaper again and precede me through the front door.

With coffee made and paper freshly unfurled I’ll scan the front page of the newspaper to check the headlines, and read anything of immediate interest. Then, like many a man across the globe, I’ll turn to the sports section and read it from front to back. After that I’ll read the news exhaustively, and then begin on the feature articles – the magazines I’ll get to later in the day.

Much as I enjoy this ritual there comes a time when naturally I become restless. The clock has ticked a little past 9, and my coffee is drunk. Part of my mind begins to look ahead: what am I doing today? It begins scheduling things, an easy task as I tend to follow a pattern in that regard too. Unless there is some extraordinary event ahead I’ll generally get up, pad around a bit checking email, having a light breakfast, before showering and heading off up the road on foot to the local shops.

That is ahead of me still though, as that part – a small part – of my mind ponders that I continue to read, unwilling as yet to commit to anything. I need, I know, a transition – a staging point –  into the day proper.

I felt that again this morning, and for one of the first times ‘since’ actually considered what that meant to me. You do so many things in life in a state of semi automation that it comes as a jolt sometimes to step back and observe the mechanics of it. In this case the jolt has come about because of a fundamental change in routine. What was there before is no longer, and I’m at a loss without it.

In the past, through much of the last 15 years, I would put my paper down and pick up the phone. More often than not I would call my mum. I was hardly aware of it then, but looking back now it seems very much a part of the ritual. I wonder if mum came to expect my Saturday morning calls – I suspect she did. I would call, generally, without anything particular to discuss. I might tell her of what happened during the week (though we would have spoken one or two times during it), and report what my weekend held. Like the best conversations our conversation would take off in different directions, unbound by any particular convention. She would listen to anything and everything I said, gratefully I think, and with the love I feel more now that it’s gone than I did when it was all around. We would speak like that for anything up to 30 minutes, at which point I was good to get up and enter the world again.

Naturally none of that has happened since she died in March. I’ve missed many things since then, but this less so because I had no real routine to speak of. The last 9 months have been a time of great flux and unpredictability. I’ve been without a home, my life has been boxed up and in storage, and the routines of before where on hiatus.

Now I am back in my own space again, and settling slowly into a familiar groove that I am made to feel the absence of things that were just there. No doubt I took it for granted. The thing is though, you miss most when they’re gone the very things you expected without anticipation. So it is now.

This morning then I felt a little lost. There were others I could have called, but the conversation would have been different. And wrong. I wanted that easy, familiar conversation that I still can’t quite believe is gone forever. Life is like that now. There’s the shock of mum becoming ill, of her dying, but it’s the little things that bite. Even after this time it seems strange that she is gone from us forever now, and awful when I am forced to think of it in those terms.

Perhaps I need to make a new routine. Inevitably that will occur. For now it’s like a familiar picture hanging on the wall that has had huges swathes erased from it. I’m still managing the blank spots. In time I’ll paint them in again with something new, but for now they remain empty.

Time for my shower.

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