The phone rang. It was 6.30 in the morning and the doctor at the hospital was apologising for ringing so early but had delayed calling at 2.30 when my husband had actually died.
I put the phone down after thanking him and, promising to deal with the arrangements, then stood in the middle of the room and screamed.
When I had calmed down, I rang my daughter who in turn rang her two brothers and, dropping all else, my children were with me by midnight that day – a day I had spent playing loud classical music, namely the Adagio from Khachaturian’s Spartacus, talking to my church minister and the undertaker.
The funeral was a blur I don’t remember much about. I know a lot of people came and I am really sorry if I don’t remember who you were, but thank you for coming. I also know that a lot of Canadian friends didn’t hear until after it was all over, for which I am also sorry.
Once that day was over, I remember how my children and I spent a few days together during which I have never felt closer as a family, going over old times we had shared whilst they grew up in the Algarve, and eating out in places we hadn’t been to in years. Then it was over. They returned to the UK and their lives and I discovered loneliness.
In the beginning, there was lots to do. Paperwork galore in Portugal, more in England and also Canada where Gordon was born. People often commiserated and said how awful that all this has to be done when a person is least up to it – don’t you believe it!
I thrived on having so much to do. Anything was better than having empty hours with nothing to fill them. People were very kind and offered to do things, take me places, phone for a chat, and I had the church from which I gained a lot of strength. But eventually it all dies down and you’re alone with your new way of living. That’s when you face the cleaning up job.
Where do you start? Ah, the clothes make some space in the wardrobe. Then, in amongst the clothes, you find the bowling ball and the tears start remembering that he was a champion player but before he met me, in his other life. What can I do with his bowling ball?
No problem getting rid of the clothes, except for the awful grey sweater full of holes that I begged him to throw in the rubbish. Now was my chance, but I couldn’t do it – and it sits in the drawer, still along with the bowling ball.
Poppy our rescue dog, a 10-year-old poodle when we acquired her, had been my faithful companion, missing him also. But a month ago, at the age of 16, even she had to leave.
Now I have no one. But that isn’t me, I told myself, you’ve faced worse, stop feeling sorry for yourself. How does the song go? ‘Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, start all over again’ – so get on with it.
So I’ve bought an old house in Ferragudo. I’m doing it up and thoroughly enjoying the process.
My daughter-in-law of only 44 had a stroke recently and I flew to England to help out my son with my four grandchildren whilst she was in hospital. Although I’m not in the best of health and I needed a good rest, when I got back at least I felt I had been of some use.
My daughter-in-law is home now, thank goodness, and working with physiotherapists every day who will hopefully soon have her back to her happy self.
Another outlet I have is, of course, my writing. I can always express my frustration by writing. It might bore you, but it’s certainly helping me.
Next month it will be a year since Gordon died and I will be having a get-together for everyone who would like to come and say something about their friend. Please get in touch if you would like more details.
Gordon left a whole page of instructions about how he wanted the party to be. So there will definitely be his fabulous onion dip, hot dogs and burgers along with coke and beer, and anything you think he would have liked. Just bring it along.
I expect we’ll be playing some Elvis, so I hope to see you on Saturday, June 25. I know he’ll be watching and wondering how I could have got rid of all that useful stuff in the shed! He was such a dreamer.
By Jenny Grainer
Jenny Grainer arrived in the Algarve to live, work and raise a family in 1964. She is a freelance writer and her book ‘Portugal and the Algarve Now and Then’ is now in its 3rd printing.