When you are rebuilding your life after losing your partner, the days are filled with Firsts: First time shopping for one, first time home alone, first time in town alone, first time on holiday alone, first time you are in a place where you used to go together etc.
These first times include the first time you see pictures from things in your gloriously happy past. Holiday photos in particular were hard. Attentive readers may remember the drama of my first return to St Yves in Cornwall, when I rounded a corner and came face to face with the memory of flying kites with Jane.
In another post, I mulled over the thought that maybe every place I have been with Jane needs to be ‘put to rest’ in some way. Maybe by revisiting it or by looking at pictures of my time there with Jane.
I have often looked at pictures of our trip to France in 2009. Jane had finished her grueling radiotherapy in February and was seriously damaged by the experience. We did not know it yet but the results would show the tumour had changed from benign to malignant and the radiation had left substantial damage to the healthy parts of her brain. But we knew we needed a holiday.
So I packed up the tent and the bikes and we went to France for 2 weeks. My parents, who live in the Netherlands, had not seen Jane since the start of the radiotherapy and decided they REALLY wanted to see us. So they decided the best thing would be for them to drive down to France from Holland on a Saturday morning, meet us for lunch, stay for the night and return the next morning.
|Dad, Jane, Me and Mum in Etretat, August 2009.|
And so they did. They drove 300 miles and met us at the campsite at 1pm. Looking back, it was such a gesture of love. For both of us. They stayed in a B&B in Etretat in Normandy and the next morning, we drive to Honfleur for lunch before they made their way back to Holland, a 4-hour trip. Yes, my parents are AWESOME.
Jane wrote of that day in our Holiday Diary:
“Lunch was a salad with Camembert sans noix. We wandered around town, checking the menu of almost every restaurant it felt like, until we decided that lunch at a harbour-side restaurant wouldn’t be too pricey after all. And so the salad came to be. And the ice cream afterwards. Sorbet really. I was feeling very strong in the willpower department today. Must limit calories!”
What does this have to do with the point of having to revisit places to be able to ‘put them to rest’? Well, during our day in Honfleur, I did not take any pictures. So although it was part of our holiday, I had not seen images of the place since we were there in 2009. I had not yet cried over the memory of lunch at the harbour-side. Until today.
A mutual friend of Jane & me posted on Facebook that she was in Honfleur. And she posted a few pictures of the harbour.
And it slapped me in the face.
And so, as Girlfriend was in the kitchen baking me a birthday cake, and minutes after she had given me some pre-birthday presents, I was crying my eyes out. Awkward. Painful. I felt a bit ashamed.
How does one deal with that dichotomy? Well, I simply emailed my dad and asked him if maybe they had taken any pictures of our time in Honfleur so that I could add them to my memory bank of Places I Have Put To Rest. Practical, right?
Although I am thinking that it won’t be so easy. Foreign places tend to have holiday memories of happiness. Not the day-to-day memories that you have of shopping in Tesco. You don’t get used to the image of having lunch outside on the quay in Honfleur. That will always be special.