Monday, 30 December 2019

Dear Aaron 2019

Dear Aaron
How can it be the end of the year already!?  Does time go as fast in Heaven or even faster!?

This year has been the fastest one since you died, and maybe the easiest one so far. Saying it's the easiest one doesn't sound right though.  Because it's still hard and I'm actually angrier that you're gone, more than any other year.

I'm angry and sad when I see other families doing things that we always knew that we would do 'in the future'.  We didn't want to imagine our lives without Noah, but we knew that would be the time when we had time for 'us'.  When he was here we worked together to give him the best life that we could, while trying to make sure that the other boys had quality time with us. It was hard and I'm sure there's lots more that we could've done, but we were a great team.

We had 110 days together after Noah died, and that entire time we were grieving.  It was nice to be able to give the boys more time, but they were also grieving and we were all just coping together.  It felt strange to be able to just go to the beach without considering Noah and his health or wheelchair.  We could just go to the swimming pool without worrying whether Noah was up to it.  We were doing things as a family that was really hard to do for the past ten years, but it just didn't feel right without Noah.

But I knew there would be a time 'in the future' when our grief would subside a little and we would be able to do all those things we had looked forward to doing, and would just enjoy it.  I wish we got to do all the things we had talked about - go on a cruise together, travel to the USA when you had your long service leave, go to more concerts and have weekends away as just the two of us.  I looked forward to just the simple every day things like going to the beach or Gorge together without having to worry about leaving Noah at home with Di or Alison, because he wasn't well or happy enough to go out.

I now go to the beach and Gorge anytime that I want.   I love swimming and spending time in the sun with friends,  but I often feel lonely despite how many friends or family are around.  There's always an emptiness now that you're not here.

I'm angry that I don't get to travel with you.  I still want to travel, but it won't be the same as it would've been if you were with me.  It's also hard to save enough to really do what I want to do.  We always knew that there would be a time when we would have two incomes and could enjoy all the things we sacrificed by me being a stay at home mum.  I loved being able to stay home with the boys,  and I know how lucky I was to have that time with them, but we never really had enough money.

I'm angry that for the past 8 years I've had to make huge decisions on my own.  I've sold and bought a house, sold and bought two cars, encouraged Jay and Harri to get part time work and driven them to and from work for years on my own.  I've taught Jalen how to drive on my own and helped him make huge decisions about gap years and Uni and moving away.  I've driven the boys to and from sport after school and on weekends and have tried to give them enough of me, while trying to not lose the plot myself.

I've helped them grieve, when all I've wanted to do is yell 'when is it my time!? Don't you realise how crap I feel too!?'   But I can't, because I'm their Mum and they didn't ask for this crap to happen in their lives, but neither did I.

It is easier now, but it's still crap.  I'm used to being single and I still don't want to have another relationship ever, but it's very lonely.  It's hard making decisions on my own, and bringing up the boys on my own, but I'm doing it and when I look back at the past 8 years, I'm  proud of how far we have come, but I'm also angry.

The only way I know how to cope is to keep as busy as possible, but I've also learnt to take more time for myself this year.  We spent a week in  Sydney during the summer, and I knew it was kind of our 'last hurrah' before Jay headed off to Uni.

I love that the boys love music, and it was heaps of fun to go to see Bastille in concert with Jay and Harri in January.

Australia Day is always hard because you died on that day, but this Australia Day was amazing as we spent it on Sydney Harbour.  The fireworks and music were incredible and I don't think you would ever experience a better Australia Day ever, than on the harbour.

The best (and also scariest!) day this year was when Jay finally got his Ps.  I say finally, not because he didn't pass his test the first time, but he just took so long on his L1s which meant it took extra long to get his hours up before he could go for his Ps. I happened just at the right time, as he really needed to have his Ps and car in Hobart at Uni.  I actually still can't believe that he's driving around Hobart and back and forth every few weekends to spend the weekend at home. 

Having someone else who can drive in the family, has made things so much easier and I'm always grateful when he's home and offers to go and pick up Harri from work.  It reminds me of how much easier life would be, if you were here.

I always dread Christmas, but love summer holidays because it's when I get to catch up with friends more.  We spent the whole summer at the beginning of the year swimming, floating down the river and at the beach.

We also went to the cricket lots and we always say how different things are, compared to when you were here.  Back then there were no Big Bash cricket matches on TV every night, no Spotify (oh how you would love Spotify!), no Netflix, Stan, Disney+ or streaming of sport on your phone live.  It's crazy how things can change so much in just 8 years.

I don't think I was prepared for how hard it would be to drop Jay off at his Uni accommodation at the beginning of the year and drive away.  We were all crying in the car on the way home, and although I knew that he would be fine once he settled in, it just felt so wrong to be leaving him there as we have all been so close over the past eight years.   It only took him a few weeks to settle in and he also came home every second or third weekend, which was a nice way to ease into him being away at Uni.

He surprised me and actually studied hard for the first time in his life.  It's amazing seeing the effort he's putting in, because it's something he's interested in and he got great results.

We haven't travelled to the mainland as much this year (mostly because sending Jay to Uni is expensive.  You're 'lucky' that you don't have to stress about stuff like that anymore) but we've kept busy in other ways.  

I still absolutely love my job teaching English as an Additional Language and especially love teaching students who are from a refugee background.  It's such a rewarding and fulfilling job and I know that without my work, life would be so much harder than it is.  I look forward to going to work every day and feel so lucky to work at an amazing school, with beautiful staff.  

I think you and I have a similar teaching style.  I love the relationships that I am able to develop easily with my students, and I often imagine you watching me teach, and think you would be so pleased that I'm doing something that I love so much.  

I feel so lucky to be granted permanency in EAL starting next year.  It's what I hope to teach until I retire, but I don't know if I'll be that lucky.  Although my story is so different to that of my students, I feel like I can relate to their trauma in some ways, and hope that I'm helping to lessen the impact of their trauma somehow.   They often write me beautiful notes or cards and it reminds me that what I'm doing, really matters.  
Harri had an injury at the beginning of the year and it was so hard for him.  He didn't cope very well with not being active all the time, and his mental health really suffered until he could be busy again (and so did mine!).  It's 'funny' how grief is always there bubbling under the surface, and any extra stress just tips it over to being more than you can handle.  
It was an expensive injury with appointments to get orthotics made and fitted, a moon boot, physio appointments and an appointment with an orthopaedic surgeon.  After lots of discussion about whether it was a stress fracture or not, the finally decided they think it was 'just' ligament damage.  It was a very long month and we have to go back to the orthopaedic surgeon next year, to talk about possible surgery on his dodgy toes (which they think contributed to the injury). 
He didn't get to do Run for a Wish with us this year, which is a pity because unfortunately this year's was the last one ever.  
After lots of encouragement from me, Harri finally bit the bullet (or gave in to my nagging) and decided to apply for a casual job.  I'm sure that you are loving that he's working at your favourite 'restaurant' and he actually really enjoys the work and is loving having his own money to spend on whatever he wants (as long as Mum approves first!).   
Some years I really get into the footy and other years I don't pay much attention.  This has been one of those years, but we still went along to every Hawks game in Launceston and I even drove down to Hobart so that Harri could watch the Giants play (I bet you still can't believe he switched teams, because either can I!).  
Kobe is still very passionate about the Hawks and knows all the players and what's going on.  We are so blessed by kind people who invite us to special events with the players and when we are there with them, all I can think about is how excited you would be if you were hanging out with them.  
I always wonder what you would be saying, seeing Harri in his Giants gear! 
Working full time is exhausting and the house is a mess most of the time, but to be honest I don't even care anymore.  There's bigger things to worry about than a house that needs cleaning, and I've learnt to just let things go more for my own mental and physical health. 

I often catch up on the house and garden during the holidays, which isn't the best way to spend the holidays but then again, it keeps me busy and gives me something to do for a couple of days.  I still make sure I get time for me and I'm always grateful for the sleep ins and not having to rush out the door in the morning. 

The holidays can still be hard if I don't keep busy.  The days can be long and lonely if I don't plan on meeting up with someone or getting out.  We are lucky that we have Mum's beautiful house to go and stay at whenever we want to, and the boys love fishing off the jetty near her house, although we are crap at fishing! It doesn't seem to phase them though.   They just love getting out there and having a go. 
The boys are becoming a lot more independent and want to do their own things more, and I'm actually happy about it! But they're also great when I want to do something together, as they know that it's important to me and make sure that they're around so we can do it. 
The online world is an amazing place, and I've been in contact with so many people from around the world since you died.  I've been lucky to meet some people in person, and this year it was lovely to meet up with Jonathon who follows us on Instagram when he visited Tasmania from the USA.  

He is friends with another family I follow on Instagram, whose son passed away from Duchenne Muscular Distrophy and it was so nice of him to bring us a gift from them.  We showed him around our favourite place in Launceston and to our favourite places to eat.  I'm not sure if his impression of us is the same as what he thought about us online, but hopefully he didn't think we were too weird! :) 

The boys seemed to have grown up so much this year - not just physically. 
I don't feel old enough to have a son at Uni with a long term girlfriend (Jay and Erin have now been going out for 2 1/2 years!).  
At first I was a bit sad when Jay became more independent when he got his Ps, but now I love it. He and Erin have just gone to their second Falls Festival with mates and I love that they get to do such fun things together. 
Harri absolutely loves that he's so tall now and rubs in in every day! 
People always say that the teenage years are hard, but I've been very lucky so far with the boys.  I'm not saying it's easy, because sometime I want to kill them, but then I'd really be on my own! (see how I use humour to try to deal with all the trauma!) but really the boys are great most of the time.  They tell me they love me, hug me, aren't too embarrassed by me yet, joke with me and treat me so well (most of the time!).  
Kobe is 11 going on 16 and it really hit me on his birthday that he's now older than his big brother, as he's older than Noah was when he passed away.   
I'm always so glad that Noah's birthday and anniversary of his death falls during the school holidays (and come to think of it, so does your birthday and anniversary of when you died! Did you plan that!?) because it means we can plan something together as a family to make the day easier to get through, as we try to have some fun together. 
It was so lovely to catch up with Brodie during the year.  Remember how kind she was during Noah's week in the ICU? We couldn't have had a better nurse with us on the day we had to say goodbye and it was so nice to catch up again.  
December is still really hard, so I'm especially grateful for Simone and Tim and Helene who are there every year to help make your birthday easier.  I actually look forward to your birthday now, as I know it'll be fun playing at Punchbowl and having a Pepsi at the cemetery for you.   Can you believe that Simone actually likes Pepsi now!?  You must love that! When she first had Pepsi for you, she thought it tasted like medicine.   It's weird to think that you'll forever be 39, even though we celebrate your birthday for you every year. 
Do you look at me and notice how many wrinkles and grey hair I now have, and how old I'm getting!?
45 sounds really old, but I don't feel old.  I feel tired a lot of the time but not old. I'm glad these guys celebrate with me, because I actually find that I would rather hide away on my birthday because it can be a really hard day.  
In the middle of the year Mum went to the USA to see Nicki and Alex and the kids (can you believe that they are now living in the USA permanently?!) which meant that we had Josie for six weeks.  Milly loved having her here, but I didn't like the muddy footprints all through the house, as it was during winter.  She became quite attached to us and it felt strange when she went home. 
Milly went very quiet when Josie left, and I was actually thinking that she was depressed as she started acting really weird.  After a couple of trips to the vet, the unbelievable happened and we had to put her to sleep.  As you know I'm not a dog person (or an animal person at all) but I loved Milly. She brought some joy back into our lives when we needed it most.  She was a part of the family and having to say goodbye to her, broke all of our hearts.

I don't think I've cried that much for eight years.  I couldn't control it and was a sobbing mess in the reception of the vets.  A lady even came up to me to tell me she was sorry about whatever was happening. It was so hard to break the news to the boys that we had to go and say goodbye to her.

We all sobbed for about a week and Harri struggled the most.  He still has Milly's bed in his room and doesn't want to move it out.  It's only just now, that I think he's feeling on top of his grief a bit more.

It took a long time to not expect Milly to be at the window or door when I got home from school.  It was strange not having her sit under the table when we are eating tea.  It was strange not having her jump up in excitement when she saw me getting my sneakers on, because she knew it was time for a walk.  Going for a walk just isn't the same without her. 

It's hard to believe that it happened after everything else that we've been through.  People ask me if we are going to get another dog and I know the boys would love one, but I really can't do it again.  Milly was supposed to be with us for at least another 8 years or more.  She brought 6 years of joy when we needed it the most, but I can't go through having to say goodbye to another dog again, and to be honest she was bloody expensive! 

As much as we loved Milly it was hard work having a puppy and when we got her I was working part time.  Now that I'm working full time, I just don't think it's fair to have a dog at home all day on their own.  I actually feel much better when we all go out now, as I used to hate leaving her at home on her own all the time.  

There's so many reasons why getting another dog isn't a great idea, but I just don't talk about it with Harri and Kobe too much, or they get very upset again.  Why do they have to go through so much!?
It was so good to catch up with Gary and Lisa and the girls during the year when they came down from Shepparton for a few days.  We don't talk a lot anymore, but it's always the same when we see each other.

I miss having lots of close friends.  I feel like my group of friends is a lot smaller now and there's many reasons for that, but the friends that I do have are amazing and are always there for me, no matter what.

I've made some beautiful friends at work and it's a strange feeling to know that none of them ever knew you.  They probably get sick of me talking about you! ;)

I still blog, but only really for myself so I have all our family memories in one spot. I've never wanted to do sponsored posts or make money from it, because then it wouldn't really be me wanting to post. I would feel pressured to post. 

I always think that one day I'll stop blogging all together, but can't do it just yet.  I love using Instagram more now, because it's a much quicker way to document your memories.  I get that people read it and follow me, but I don't really think about that.  If I did I'd probably pull out my good camera more and take decent photos, instead of using crappy iPhone photos all the time.

Even though I know our story is public, I'm always surprised when I get messages from people who have followed us for so long.  It means a lot to know that they're still interested in how we are going and I was surprised to get an email again this year, asking if we would be interviewed for a story for The Examiner after Noah's birthday.  I couldn't believe it was on the front page! I'm always nervous about how a story will turn out after I've been interviewed (I don't want to sound like an idiot!) but it was a really lovely story.

It means a lot to know that people still want to know how we are going, especially as we are just a regular family, who have just had some crap happen to them all at once.

The boys are still doing what they love - playing basketball.  I'm so happy that they love it because it's the best sport ever! It's so much better than soccer or footy which are outside during winter.

I miss the days when we used to play basketball and wish I was playing again now.  I'd probably die after five minutes because I'm so unfit, but I miss it. Harri still doesn't believe that I could actually play pretty well, even when others tell him! He's so stubborn - I wonder where he gets that from!?

Harri has been asking to play club footy for a couple of years, and I've been a mean mum and have said no for lots of different reasons - some are selfish as I just can't do everything and don't want to be running around to another training and then spending my weekend driving him places and waiting for games to finish.   I also don't think Harri would cope physically with playing basketball and footy (he already gets enough aches and pains just by playing one sport).

But I had a chat to him a few months ago, and said that if he really wanted to play next year, that he could.  I should've told him that years ago, because after I told him he could play, he decided he didn't want to! I think that deep down he knew it wasn't really a good idea, and he said he just wants to stick with playing school footy.

He gets very emotional when he knows he's going to be playing on your oval, and his teachers are amazing and have let him be the captain of his team, every time they've played at Kings Meadows.

Harri has had some amazing teachers at High School and they all remind me of what you were like with your students.  I know that without those awesome teachers, Harri would be having a much harder time than he already is.  He wants to work hard for them, and they all encourage him so much to be the best that he can be in many ways.  I love that students you used to teach, now teach Harri!
I'm so proud of the hard work that Harri does at school.  I'm so happy for him that he gets to be a part of the Student Leadership Board next year.  Being House Captain and Treasurer is such a great mix for him, as he loves sport so much and is also awesome at Maths.  I'm sure that you've been reincarnated in Harri! ;)

Every year the staff at Kings Meadows let me know that it's okay if it's too hard to donate money for yours and Noah's memorial awards, and that they'll still have the awards and that they will donate the money instead, but I feel like it's a privilege to be able to donate and present these awards every year.  I feel sad that these students don't know you or Noah, but I hope that just hearing your names and knowing what the awards are for, makes them curious to know more about you both.

It meant a lot to me when Noah's old teacher told me that she spoke to her class about Noah the day of the Punchbowl Celebration Night and told them how special he was, and that the garden with the yellow seat at school, is his garden.  It's nice to know that he's still spoken about there by the teachers that have been there for a while.

It feels really different when I go to Kings Meadows High now as there's so many different teachers and many of them wouldn't know you.  It makes me feel sad, but I'm always happy to go there and smile when I see the sign with your name on it on the oval.

I hope that you see that we still visit your Dad and Carrol and that your Dad comes to the footy with us when it's not too cold.   Their health hasn't been great and I often think about how it's a privilege to live a long life like they have, because as you know, not everyone gets to, but then life gets harder as you get older and your health declines.  They always love seeing the boys.

We had fun being a part of your Dad's surprise birthday lunch and I think it made his week to have his 'whole family' there.  I'm sure you were there in spirit along with Tamatha.

This Christmas was the easiest one we've had for a while because most of the family were here to share it with us.

Christmas can often feel really lonely, so it was nice to have a loud, happy one this year.

I still get asked if I'm ever going to have another relationship and the answer is always the same - no way.  When I haven't seen someone for a long time, they often ask me if I'm seeing anyone.  It makes me laugh actually - who would want to date this old, messed up widow who is a mother of three older boys!?  I also don't want to deal with the stress of someone else's crap - because lets face it. If I was dating anyone they'd most likely have an ex wife an their own kids, and I've got enough of my own crap to deal with!

Every year is hard without you, and despite feeling angry about the things we have missed out on doing together, it's been a pretty good year overall.   Over the past 8 years I've gone through so many different emotions.  There's been times when I've only just been holding it all together, some amazing highs and many lows, but I think this year I've finally started to feel more like the old me.

Actually I don't think I'll ever feel like the old me, because that girl left 8 years ago, but I'm finally starting to feel like I'm happy being the 'new' me.  I've been feeling stronger emotionally and I finally decided it was time to feel better physically too.  I'm still tired (I don't know if that will ever change) but I'm feeling so much better after losing 13 kg....okay maybe it's only 11 kg since all the Christmas eating, but I'm not even worried.

I don't want to put the weight back on, but I'm not really worried about it as I feel different now.  I feel like I'm on top of my emotions a lot more, which doesn't mean I feel happier. It just means that I know that eating crap all the time, is only going to make me feel better for a short time.

I still have treats, but now I don't have half a block of chocolate every night when I'm sad or tired.  Let's hope that this time next year, I'm not back to being chubby and depressed again.

I wish you were here so we could get healthy together.  I wish you were here to share our lives together.  I wouldn't even care if we didn't travel. I just want to come home from work and tell you about my day. I want to tell you all the funny things the kids at school said and did.  I want to talk to you in bed about the boys and hear you complain about the grade 8 girls who are causing trouble at school.  

Everyone says 'he's watching over you' and I do believe that, but then sometimes I wonder if you really are.  I used to feel you around a lot and there are times when I know you're close by, but it feels like you're getting further and further away.  Please don't go too far away, as I still need you close by.  It's hard doing it all on my own. 
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