As we now enter the second half of January I have had time over Christmas and New Year to reflect on the year past. No, as probably for most people 2020 was not the best year. But as events unfolded in the first days and weeks of January it looks like this new year will be even worse.
In 2020, during the first lockdown, I lost my ex-partner and father of my oldest child to complications and possibly returning cancer. He was only 57. We were together for about 3 years and when my son was 2.5 I had to escape with my life after he became more and more aggressive and threatening. That was 15 years ago. My son didn’t have much of a relationship with him either, he hardly called and only saw him maybe once a year for a few weeks. Off course we live in another country but even before that he struggled to keep a connection going. He was a big, tall man with very few words. He struggled with empathy and had suffered terrible physical and emotional abuse from his mother. He has 3 brothers of which one committed suicide at 18. So yes, I understand why he was the way he was. We had made amends a few years ago, there were no hard feelings anymore between us. But still, his death was a massive shock for me, and for my son.
It is strange, lots of memories and pain surfaced in the wake of his death. When my son was 1 I became pregnant again, but after 3 months I had a miscarriage at Christmas. My mother had a dream about this baby, it was a boy and his name was Toep. But my partner was not supporting me at all. He got annoyed that I was mourning him, having waves of intense sorrow, I was crying for days and weeks. When he was born, he was so tiny, but perfectly formed fingers and toes. He was no bigger than the palm of my hand. I held him for a moment, and then I burried him in the front garden and planted a tree on top, called ‘golden rain’ in Dutch.
When I moved out and came back a while later my ex-partner had removed the tree. I don’t know why. But that was very painful. The whole separation was horrendous. I was terrified of him. I was really afraid he would kill me. He nearly did a few times. If I had stayed, I am sure it would have come to that. My son was also afraid. His first memory was of me and him huddled together under the dining room table, afraid his dad would beat us.
But, there were also many good memories, and we did have good times. So when he died all those also came back, and why things went wrong. I felt pain and intense sadness that we had failed our relationship and that now my son doesn’t have a father anymore. I feel very sad for my son, I so much wanted him to have a father, to have his guidance and friendship and love. I know his father has done his best with the few parenting skills he had, with the even less emotional skills he had to be a good dad to him. And really, you can’t do more than that. Now that he died, it made me reflect on my own parenting and behaviour towards my children. I am not much better off than him, really. And all I can do is my best with the tools and skills I can learn and have.
Yes, 2020 has made me reflect and then more determined to try and be a better person, a better parent and to work harder on loving myself, being myself and accepting who I am. My ex-partner’s death has made me realise there is no time to lose, I have to do what I want to do with my life now, today.
Last year I also broke with my parents. And renewed my relationship with my sister. I decided to try and live exactly the life I want, on my terms. That is not easy. To try and improve myself I had weekly phone calls with a very good therapist, who has helped me a lot. I started this blog, making drawings, poetry and photography to help with this too. And I started to study. It is ironic that in the year I decided to want to break my social isolation and face my social fears a pandemic breaks out and I am back locked up in my home with my children and my dog. And the devil I know.
So there we are, in January 2021. We struggle on.