Tag Archives: death of a father

5 Years Since the Crash

8 Mar

GRANDPA ISLAY READING HIS PAPERMarch 9 marks the 5th anniversary of my father’s death. Over time the pain has dulled but whenever I think about him  it forces suppressed emotions to the surface. Last week I heard that the house opposite my parents was for sale. Ever nosy and eager to see more I googled the name of the road to find the estate agent details. Instead of house particulars I was confronted by a five year old news story about the car crash which killed my father as he was going out to buy the evening paper. Tears spilled down my cheeks.

I can’t believe that so much has happened which he hasn’t been a part of.  I have had another baby. My baby turned out to be deaf. His sister died. His other sister died. I was made redundant. My husband was made redundant.

Put like that it doesn’t seem like he’s missed much. But he’s missed the happy times too.

The deaf 3 year old is a bundle of energy who has distracted us all from the void in our lives. The deaf issue is always at the back of our minds but is by no means what defines him and his joyful nature has almost single handedly put a smile back on the face of my mother. Not one for gushing about grandchildren she can barely contain her enthusiasm for him.

I tried for years to persuade my parents to move back to Scotland but since my father died my mother has reluctantly bought a flat in Edinburgh. She still has the house and countless friends in Derbyshire but now refers to the flat here as ‘home’ and makes more friends every time she comes up.

The 9 & 12 year old have transformed from High School Musical obsessed little girls to sport obsessed pre teens. He would definitely prefer hearing them talk about hockey, swimming and cross country results than watch them prance around clad in synthetic cheerleader outfits.

I’m not sure how he would react to my setting up my own business. He was a job for life kind of man and wouldn’t have encouraged me to take any risks but I think he’d have been pleasantly surprised by how things are going. Though possibly less relaxed now that my husband has been made redundant and Brownlee Donald Associates is going to have to support both of us.

I miss him for the financial advice I know he would give me. I miss reaching my arms around him for a big hug – he wasn’t tactile so wouldn’t have offered it first! I miss him for being a wonderful grandfather to my children. I miss him for looking after my mother. I miss his sparkling blue eyes which live on in my children. Five years on I just miss my lovely dad.


It’s a new dawn. It’s a new day. It’s a new life.

21 Jan

Deaf baby swimmingAlthough outwardly positive, anxiety is often my default setting. I’m that duck who appears to glide over the lake of life while frantically paddling underneath. However I was truly inspired by a friend’s astonishingly positive Facebook post, at a time when she could have been wallowing in self pity, and am determined to stop worrying about things which might happen and enter 2014 feeling good.

Her father had just died, a feeling I know only too well, but instead of starting the new year thinking about what an annus horribilis she had had, she used her Facebook post to reflect on all the great things that had happened in 2013.

Careering towards the end of my career was crushing but out of it has come a whole new world of opportunities and such good wishes and support from some wonderful friends within the publishing industry that I wouldn’t turn the clock back if I could. Brownlee Donald Associates launched on 3 January and I’m loving every minute of it.

The children also continue to delight. For every stroppy teenage moment the 11 year old has (there are a lot. She spent much of Christmas in New York on Facetime to friends in Edinburgh) there is another moment when I burst with maternal pride, when she wins a swimming gala or just puts her iPad down for once and wants to hang out.

The 8 year old astonished me at Christmas by being selected to sing a solo as the Angel Gabriel in the nativity. I went along with trepidation, but her voice (largely in tune) soared up to the balcony where all the parents were sitting and I could have wept. She overcame fear and bullying from some children who teased her for doing it and made me so so proud.

The deaf 2 year old will never be bullied. I find it hard to believe that we perceived him as a victim when he was first diagnosed. He is so happy – and so strong – that no one would dare mess with him. That said my heart broke a little when I took him to his first swimming lesson last week and realised that it revolved around singing songs which he couldn’t hear without his hearing aids in.

I didn’t tell the other parents he was deaf and they no doubt pre judged him as he ignored the teacher and splashed round the pool. When the other 2 year olds sat nervously on the side of the pool during ‘Humpty Dumpty’ ready to ‘all fall down’ into their mother’s arms, mine just looked perplexed. Until he got the gist of what was going on. Then he scrambled out on his own using the bar for leverage like a small monkey and letting out a great roar took a running jump and leapt into the pool. The teacher looked horrified but he emerged, elated, water dripping from his long eyelashes and we both burst out laughing.

When we first got the deaf diagnosis we couldn’t see beyond immense sadness but in fact thanks to him there is always laughter in the house.  It is he who keeps a smile on our faces.

So as I enter a new dawn, a new life, a new day. Life is good.

Disability is not a box to be ticked it’s a day to day reality

20 May

photo(12)When I wrote my CV (for the first time in about 20 years) I added the line that since having a baby who is deaf, disability is no longer a box to be ticked by various organisations but a day to day reality. A colleague pulled me up on it, probably quite rightly, commenting that any future employer will read that to mean that the deaf issue impacts on me every day. It does, but not in a bad way. I actually meant it as a positive.

Pre diagnosis I sat on various boards and committees all of whom had to provide various disabled facilities. I was always supportive but it never seemed real until I had to deal with a disability of my own and began to appreciate the little person signing in the corner of TV programmes, the sign language interpreter at the Festival, the hearing loop at the theatre, the council directive that schools have to accommodate children with disabilities and will therefore address any acoustics issues.

Far from dominating my life in a bad way the deaf diagnosis has enhanced it. When things are bad it puts things in perspective but recently when my mother was ill and the impact of redundancy on bills was preying on my mind I was even happier to realise how far the deaf issue has moved down my list of worries.  My little boy is getting on so well and is so happy in himself that he’s stopped being a priority and is just another member of the family. He’s started singing the ‘more to eat, more to drink song’ complete with signs, not to mention hurling himself on the floor and warbling ‘row, row, row the boat’ at every available opportunity.

In terms of day to development I can’t see any difference between him and his friends other than the two little hearing aids hooked round his ears.  That can cause anxiety at soft play. Whereas most parents are worrying about the loss of a sock we are worrying about the loss of something substantially more expensive but we have the advantage of his two big sisters to chase him round the slides and ball pools like guardian angels in skinny jeans and Hollister hoodies.

It was my younger daughter’s 8th birthday party last week. The 10 year old brought out a cake and when she blew out the candle urged her to make a wish then tried to guess what she’d wished for. The 10 year old’s first guess was that she’d wished for our little boy not to be deaf.  She hadn’t.  The 8 year old had wished that my father hadn’t died in the car crash and could come back to life.  I was astonished by their selflessness. I was expecting her to wish for a puppy or an iPad. Both as unlikely as my father coming back to life or our little boy not being deaf.  I’d still rather he weren’t deaf too but as long as he’s happy I’m happy and I have never seen a happier child. Disability may be a day to day reality but it’s a reality we’re all coping with pretty well.

From Publisher to TV Presenter

15 Mar

mr tumbleIt’s not until you experience something for yourself that you can truly empathise with other people. It was only when I experienced bereavement that I appreciated the shock and sadness that death brings. It was only when my son was diagnosed as deaf that I appreciated how many other things there are to consider when you have a child with a disability. And it is only now, experiencing redundancy for the first time that I appreciate the conflicting emotions of anxiety and excitement which constantly vie for precedence.

After my father died I realised how precious the adjectives are in letters of condolence. After my son was diagnosed as deaf I appreciated that hearing loops are not just token gestures to the PC brigade. Now facing redundancy I realise that it’s far better to confront the issue and offer positive words of encouragement rather than avoid mentioning it and offer only a sympathetic glance.

I feel guilty. I’m sure I have done the same in the past but the most frustrating thing in the last week has been people’s inability to make eye contact. In the same way that I found myself reassuring people after my father’s death or my son’s diagnosis, I have found myself bounding up to people reassuring them that I will be fine post redundancy.  I will. But a hug, a cheerful smile and endless flattery are doing me a lot more good than tragic glances across a crowded room.

Meanwhile the family remind me what is important. The 7 year old continued our run of good luck by coming first in breaststroke at swim club, the 10 year old has been selected to represent the school in the inter schools gala and the 19 month old took my mind off the office closure completely by having a sick bug for 6 days.

Having returned from a hectic week of conferences, film previews and networking in London it was actually quite relaxing to be forced to cancel everything and just sit holding my listless baby in my arms with Something Special on a loop for the whole weekend.

Thanks to watching Mr Tumble 24/7 his vocabulary has expanded from ‘oh oh’, ‘there’ and ‘pooh’ to include ‘helicopter’, ‘scooter’ and ‘lighthouse’.  Possibly a slight exaggeration but I’m word perfect – and can do the signs. An alternative career presenting childrens TV beckons.

After Death and a Deaf Diagnosis, Redundancy will be a doddle – I hope.

2 Mar

santa outfitI was told this week that the company I have worked for for the last 16 years is closing its doors at Christmas. At any other time redundancy would have been a body blow but having coped with the death of my father and my son’s deaf diagnosis the news didn’t hit me as hard as I thought it would.

It has been a good week. On Monday I was interviewed on BBC Radio Scotland and met the charming actress Gerda Stevenson, on Tuesday we heard that my 10 year old had been accepted to the school of our choice and on Thursday my 1 year old had a great audiology test which showed that his hearing is back on the moderate / severe borderline it had been pre glue ear in the Autumn. On Thursday afternoon I was made redundant.

When my bosses asked me to go to see them I naively thought they were going to offer me a pay rise. However the fact that all other senior managers were filing into the office too and the grim expressions of the founders showed it wasn’t going to be a happy chat.

We sat in stunned silence as they told us that after 35 years at the helm they have decided to close the office at the end of the year. It’s not that surprising. They are both over 60 and Random House bought 50% of the company over 7 years ago so subconciously I have probably been preparing for redundancy since then but I really hadn’t expected it now.

Some years ago I swithered over going for voluntary redundancy. I’m very glad I didn’t. Since then I have shared the excitment of developing our e-book programme, entered the fast moving world of digital marketing, travelled to Guadalajara, New York and Frankfurt and returned to my publicist roots. I’ve had a ball.

Only last week my daughter said she didn’t want me to ever leave Mainstream because I worked with such a great team. I do.  I know that I have transferable skills and am confident that when my job comes to an end at the year I’ll find something else to pay the new school fees but I’m not sure I will ever find an office where laughter is so prevalent, or where the Christmas present of choice is a saucy Santa outfit.

I’m sorry that the company is closing but I’m so happy that we had a positive audiology test and that my daughter passed her entrance exam that I cannot be too sad.  My children have proved themselves, now it’s my turn to show that I can prove myself too.

Controlled crying. For or against?

8 Feb

Sleeping babyWhen I started this blog, long before my father’s car crash or our baby’s deaf diagnosis, the biggest drama in my life was sleep deprivation. Even post crash and deaf diagnosis, sleep deprivation still has the ability to transform me into a tearful shadow of my usual self.

Our 10 year old only started sleeping through the night when she began sharing a room with her sister. In an attempt to crack her sleep problems I bought every book on the subject, hired a ‘sleep doctor’ and had a researcher from a sleep clinic use her as a test case for a study so I know what I should be doing. I’m just not very good at doing it.

I dabbled with controlled crying but our first born cried so much she made herself sick and we would eventually relent. The experts advice to whisper words of reassurance was pointless as she couldn’t hear us through her own screaming. Our 18 month old can’t hear regardless so there is no point in whispering at all.

As we couldn’t follow the advice in the books we fell into all sorts of bad habits. Originally he would settle if we gave him milk so we gave him milk – at 11pm, then at 2am… then at 5am…. Latterly he wouldn’t go back into his cot and would literally wrap his limbs around us like a determined little orangutan until we relented and took him to our bed. I could have lived with that had he slept but even there he was taking longer and longer to settle with the result that since Christmas we have had to take it in turns to sleep with him so that we at least get some sleep every other night.

Detox January was manageable as we weren’t going anywhere but February marked the resumption of our social life and I realised that a dinner party wasn’t going to be a huge success if I had to go to bed when the 18 month old awoke at 11pm. Thankfully I had to go to London on business so charged my husband with the responsibility of forcing him back into the cot after his 11pm bottle and after that minor triumph decided to make him go cold turkey and venture into controlled crying territory.

It’s impossible to sleep when your baby is crying his heart out next door. My resolve very nearly weakened on numerous occasions but here we are 5 days on, the crying is less persistent, our bed is our own and the 18 month old is waking up at 7.30am with a big smile on his face.

He’s still hopeless at having a day time nap at his childminder but she claims that is because he wakes up at the slightest noise.  Our deaf baby hearing anything trumps sleep any time.

After the Crash and before the Jubilee

23 May

Never have I been more sleepless in silence in suburbia. Sleepless because my 9 month old baby has taken to waking at half ten and again at half twelve after which he steadfastly refuses to settle. Silence because in addition to his raft of tricks relating to whipping out his hearing aids and separating them into four pieces in a matter of seconds he has now added piercing the moulds with his razor sharp teeth rendering them virtually useless. Suburbia because although we’re always in suburban Edinburgh this week we ventured to suburban London for a much needed catch up with old friends. The girls think they went to London but in reality all of our friends have moved so far west that it’s practically the home counties. However a photo of the Harry Potter trolley at Kings Cross, a quick whizz over Waterloo bridge pointing out landmarks and we’ve convinced them they’ve been in the metropolis.

I was astounded by the prevalence of union jacks in London.  Everywhere I looked there was bunting whereas in Edinburgh, though not a city rampantly in favour of independence, it is only the occasional shop window that has an apologetic display dedicated to all things British. At St Pancras the girls were excited to see the Olympic rings suspended from the ceiling and even Marks and Spencer at Kings Cross had the All English range of sandwiches including Coronation Chicken and Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pud which I hadn’t spotted in their Scottish counterpart. In anticipation of the Jubilee, and presumably the Olympics, we had a note home from Brownies asking us to teach our children the National Anthem. As it was one of the first things I ever learned to blast out on a recorder at school (spit firing out the end) I was surprised that our children had got to the ripe old ages of 10 and 7 without learning it but as the anthem is generally only sung at sporting events which they watch with saltires painted on their faces I suppose it makes sense that they’re word perfect at the Flower of Scotland and clueless about the English equivalent.

We returned from London on Monday, a Bank Holiday here though nowhere else (interestingly the children only get one day off school for the Jubilee) and the children were still off school on the Tuesday. Perfect timing as it was my birthday. Twenty years ago I recall celebrating my birthday with a wild party in the garden of my London flat with free flowing Pimms and very little food. Ten years on I was pregnant with my first baby but still attempted to go out for a meal with a crowd of friends and pretend I hadn’t lost my party spirit. This year, increasingly unimpressed by my advancing years, I was quite happy to celebrate alone in the garden with the children.  I spent the day listening to one of our authors, Martin Spinelli, being interviewed on radio and TV. The subject of his book, After the Crash, resonates deeply with me. Like my father his wife was killed in a car crash but his young son was in the car with her and Martin barely had time to grieve as all his energy was directed at willing his little boy to recover.  Thankfully he did and Martin said in his many interviews that whereas before the accident, when he apparently he had everything, he was still dissatisfied with life, post accident he has realised that being a good father is more important than anything else.

It was ironic that as I listened to the various interviews and nodded sagely in agreement I was ignoring my own children. Though not as ironic as the phone in on one of the daytime programmes he was on which was on the subject of parents use of phones and computers being tantamount to child neglect.  I felt even more guilty then laughed as I heard the presenters urge parents to send in their thoughts by email, text or twitter or call them – no doubt with neglected children sitting in a high chair or crawling around their feet.

In fact I had a lovely birthday with my children.  The older one lay on her tummy in the garden reading magazines, the younger one cleaned out a water play tray for the baby to play with and he commando rolled around the garden, possibly in silence, certainly in suburbia, but clearly very happy.

%d bloggers like this: