This month has been hard. We are reaching all of the milestones and events that make up our last weeks with Elspeth. Summer, like Christmas and birthdays, presents us with a million snapshots and memories.
The exams and the revision was hard. Prom was very hard. Thinking about arranging a holiday is incredibly hard. All I can think of is the lovely holidays we had when the children were small. 5 little people bobbing around excitedly and us constantly head-counting to make sure we hadn't mislaid one. Parking near the cheapest ice cream van to save ourselves a fiver, and always looking for the nearest toilet. Dreading them deciding to rockpool because someone always fell in, or skinned their knees and had to be carried back to the van, still clutching a bucket with 15ml of water and some poor 5 legged crab who was probably already dead when they picked it up, but we hadn't the heart to tell them.
The hardest bit is the never going back. Never undoing, never having a second chance. But never being sure of what we could have changed if we had.
Knowing that we are about to mark our first full year is hard. It doesn't seem possible. Even with all that my ridiculous hernia has put us through, there's no way it seems like 11 months. It seems like minutes. I still expect her to come running downstairs and slip on that last step, like she always did. I still have to work out how many people we have for tea. Her little brother still mentions her casually in conversation, then suddenly pauses, and I pause, and we look at each other, but now we smile at each other and we can carry on with what we were saying.
This month I went to Britmums, and I read Dear Elspeth (you can see my croaky attempt here), and I utterly exhausted myself. I knew it would be hard, and it really was emotionally much harder than I expected, but I was so well looked after. I couldn't have done it without all of the help from my friends - they made it possible - and I came back to Manchester no worse off physically than if I'd been at home.
Another event which was harder emotionally than we expected was acting as support team for Sim while she ran the Race For Life. We had been so busy working out the best place to park for the least walking for me, and whether we should take scooters. Really we should just have been discussing tissues. Seeing all of those people with names of loved ones who have died, or been through hell and come through the other side, really was more than we were able to deal with unexpectedly. Should have thought that one through and been more ready for it.
It's been a hard and very emotional month and I know we have hard times ahead, but we've tried to fill the next month with things to keep us busy. I am beginning to get back into household tasks and well into recovery from my Hernia operation now - something that pleases my partner greatly! The fact I'm much more well than I have been for months has removed a lot of the stress and pressure on the entire household.
We are still finding the smiles, and this last month marked an important milestone. It is exactly 2 years since my partner became ill with Meningitis. He is still here, and aside from small memory problems, a limp and leg pain, he is now just who he used to be.
Here are the smiles I've collected this month....