I haven't written anything in over two weeks. Does this mean I'm cured? No more angst ridden postings? Somehow I doubt it. From what I can tell, being an ex-expat is a lifelong condition, ameliorated by time but never quite cured.
Is this my first case of writer's block? I would like to think so. It sounds grand and somewhat tortured, as a true artist should be. However, I think this would be taking myself a little too seriously. I have certainly had ideas, they've just never quite made it onto the page.
Things have been busy round here. The most time consuming, though least significant event being the visit of parties from Hassocks's twin towns Montmirail in France and Wald Michelbach Germany, of which more later.
More seriously, just over 3 weeks ago, my dad had a TIA - a stroke-lite. Fortunately, it was very minor, the most visible ongoing symptom being tiredness but it's a wake-up call nonetheless. He's active, cycling to the shops and keeping up with County Council work, but trying to restrict it to few hours per day. Having recently upgraded to a digital TV with a host of channels meaning there is always something watchable, though no guarantee of anything unmissable, he is discovering the joys of channel surfing for the first time. Beyond a month, we can probably relax a little, but we'll be making sure this pillar of the local community doesn't take on more projects than would be sensible for a man 20 years his junior.
Two weeks ago, my late grandfather's close friend (girlfriend?) Iris died. They'd both been widowed quite young and knew each other for many years though they never married, one suspects because at over ten years his junior she had no desire to be widowed again. Iris suffered from Alzheimers disease for several years, the cruelest blow given that my grandad suffered from this himself 25 years ago and when he came to live in a nursing home near us, she unfailingly made the journey from London every week, walking 2 miles from the station and 2 miles back, even in the depths of winter.
As I write, she is making her final journey. At two hours drive away, dad decided that having felt particularly tired yesterday, it would be prudent not to undertake a full day out under stressful conditions. Mum and I decided we'd be happier if one of us stayed at home with him and since I don't drive and the crematorium is not easily accessible, I stayed and she went.
I feel a little relieved and a little guilty about this. Like Iris, I find funerals quite difficult. She didn't come to my granddad's funeral but instead stayed at our house "to make the tea". So she wouldn't have blamed me. However, having been absent for the past 10 years and seen her only twice since her diagnosis, I feel a little like I walked away long ago.
It was upsetting to see her this summer, though I was much heartened by the fact that having worked for The Met, she instantly recognised the TARDIS/police telephone box in my wedding photos - photoshopped pre-wedding photos are all the rage in Taiwan. I think I knew I was saying goodbye then and when the message came recently that she was unconscious and unlikely to recover, I was uncharacteristically composed. She died two days later in the company of my sister playing wartime songs on her clarinet. I was similarly at ease when I heard then though in the emotional atmosphere of a funeral I imagine I would have been very visibly emotional.
It was time to break my silence and write something. Today of all days, what could be more important to write about than how I relate to the death of someone who I'd barely seen over the last ten years despite the fact that she was as close to a grandmother as I had. It's a reminder of the large chunk of life here that I've missed, in particular that transitional period when the baton is passed to your generation and the preceding one takes on the role of elders and dare I say it, grandparents. And like Iris, it's never coming back.