Monday 27th June 2016.
A lot can happen in a day. A lot can happen in a week. A lot can happen in a year. So seven years after your death, it’s fair to say that many things have changed, in England, in the world, in our lives and in our beliefs. But when I come back to Dollis Hill, it’s a rare moment in my life where reality almost matches with my past memories. The willow tree at the bottom of the road that’s always long and overgrown, yet still a great green giant that provides a sense of familiarity and comfort. The tightness of the road as the car bumbles up towards the house. The difference between now and then being that I’m the driver more often than not when I visit London, rather than the passenger. The bedding in the top room (attic room) is the same now when I bring various friends from all over the world to England’s remarkable capital city for a visit as it was when we cousins would have our infamous sleepovers at Nana and Granddad’s house. Those days before social media and adult responsibilities crept up on us and took away the simplicity of simple tomorrows. I loved the top room because in the days before the trees grew taller, you’d get a straight view into the capital, into the heart of London. And whether you’re in London, New York or any major city, it is hard not to be absorbed into a world of vibrant potential and excitement. The home of football (Wembley Stadium) still earns a surge of love from me every time I see that arch from the streets of London. I’ve dragged many friends down there to walk around the stadium and take photos of the national team’s home stadium, but I’ve yet to enter the building since we did that tour all those years ago when the new Wembley was first opened to the public.
I feel compelled to visit your bench every time I’m in Dollis Hill, regardless of the time or the weather or the company I’m currently maintaining. When I took Katie and Jana there, it rained and it literally put a ‘dampener’ on my annual visit to see you. You’re not buried here, this is merely a wooden bench and a plaque to serve as a dedication, but this is the one place I feel connected to you and no graveyard in the city could provide me with the same level of comfort. It’s playing tennis for hours on end with my sisters and cousins. It’s swinging as high as possible on the swings in the playground, soaring high into the air like the momentum provides a world of hope and potential. It’s the memory of you accidentally throwing the Frisbee to me and it hitting me full on in the mouth and me throwing it back to you and accidentally doing the same thing back to you. It’s the fallen tree near the front of the park that as children we would all try and walk across and jump to the log at the end. And most of all its the monkey bars- the one thing that I wanted to be good at like Louise and Millie, but would be terrified of falling and hurting myself. You would hold my legs so that I could join in and be like Louise and Millie, even though I weighed significantly more. And those monkey bars have become the metaphor of my life. I’ve been scared of falling in every part of my life because that is failing, but somehow I’ve managed to get by because ‘Berries don’t quit.’
I quite literally came apart on the day of your funeral, and it surprised me because it wasn’t my first experience of grief and we weren’t that close when you were alive, but your passing came as such a shock that my whole body didn’t know how to respond. The fact the whole family was devastated too only intensified the pain. The going about my life because I had to, but crying before sleeping at the alteration in the family. I gave a speech at your funeral, my throat at first sounding like I’d been slaughtered before I eventually got it together and finished saying my piece. It wasn’t my finest piece of writing, but people I didn’t know came up to me and said that you’d be proud of me for having done it and that too helped with my grieving.
I guess I’m thinking about you today because Madison has slept so long and I feel that she probably needs to, so I took the opportunity for a quiet annual visit to the park. It’s sunny today and it’s so peaceful. It’s a turbulent time for British politics but you don’t feel that here at the park. As I ascend the hill to the courts, I wonder what you’d think about England leaving the EU. I wonder what you’d think about Leicester winning the Premier League. I wonder how our lives might be different if you were still here. I find the bench and read a little, before planting a kiss on your plaque, saying those 3 words that will never come easily vocally to me, and descend the hill and head back to the house. I’m at a crossroads in my life right now where I’m not sure what happens next, but there’s something about the park and being in London and the memory of you that tells me that I’ll figure everything out in time.
‘I love you more than yesterday but not as much as tomorrow.’