Photos my own – taken at Christmas 2022, on runs with my dad
Sometimes I stop short in my tracks and realise with desperate sadness that I can no longer imagine what my life would be like with Mike were he still alive. In the last years since he died, I have lived through what would anyway have been a crucial transition in our lives – with the kids becoming old enough to leave home, and shifting into empty nesting.
All of what we would inevitably have had to reinvent together, I have done alone. It’s not like he died and the rest of home life remained the same (as if!) It’s so radically, fundamentally different – my life, my home life – as compared with before. No kids at home. No husband. No au pair. Just Black the dog and Silver the cat.
If Mike had not died (and Julia had not either), it would still be radically different at home. No kids. No au pair. Just Black the dog and Silver the cat. But I’d have Mike. He’d be at home. We’d have three kids, away at university. We’d be together for home life, work life, holidays and trips. We’d have time for going out on runs, swimming, playing music, watching films, cooking, and more. That is the bit I cannot imagine. Empty nesting home life with a husband. The household radically different, but easy. Non-busy. Non-stressed. Comfortable. Comforting. Warm. Cosy.
I get flashes though of that old life – even if not when in my own home.
Like earlier today, when I went on a gentle run with my 85 year old dad, in the Hauts de Céret, south of Perpignan, in the foothills of the Pyrenees. A run that dad, Mike and I did so many times over the years when we came to stay, invariably with the kids. Mike running on ahead, dad next, me at the back. Sometimes Black joined us. Mike looping back from time to time, so as to not get too far ahead, and so as to extend his run.
Today, on that run that I have done so many times, I could imagine Mike, I could feel him, out in front. Now, despite having slowed down a lot myself, my dad is even slower than I am. He has slowed down much more, relatively speaking, and his deceleration has been faster. Mike would still be much faster than me – for sure. He’d still be out in front, looping back to check on us, smile his winning smile, then lope off again while we all kept enjoying our together-alone runs.
But no Mike out on that run. Even though I felt him.
He didn’t loop back. He was not there. He’s dead.
I did the looping back instead – to check on dad, to ensure we both felt accompanied, out on our run, together-alone.
It’s times like this that I can imagine how things might be if Mike had lived. Runs, trips, holidays, visiting places that so often we visited together. But not my day to day life at home. Just too hard to imagine. No experience of it, and the imagination gap too great to be possible. So I am grateful to have some little sense of it today – even if only on a one-off run, a long way from home. There, the imagination gap was possible to straddle.