Kay turned 19 last week. For the first time in 19 years, I did not have to arrange a party and pay for it agonising for weeks on what food to get, where to hold the party etc etc.. She just went up to the town centre with her friends to a club, just turned up at the venue and they all paid for themselves, got themselves home again on the night bus etc. Easy peasy! I stayed at home and put my feet up, watching my favourite soaps on TV.
She and I had gone out for a celebratory meal together the night before on her actual birthday. There is an old Italian restaurant, she ,Greg and I always used to go to, when we were celebrating something special. This time, Kay and I felt we would change the venue and go to a new Italian restaurant that has just opened, but as luck would have it (or not) the new place was so crowded and they were queuing out the door waiting for tables. Kay declared it was in any case tradition to go to the old place and we decided to head for that after all, but we ended up queuing to get in there too. For a Wednesday night, all our local restaurants seemed very busy!
I found it hard. Being in our special restaurant without Greg. Looking at the menu and just knowing what he would have chosen, as he always chose the same thing when we went there. It was hard too that I was the one doing the ordering, when he always ordered. It was hard that I paid the bill, when he always paid. The table was set for two, when it was always set for three. When Kay was very little, Greg would order chocolate fudge cake for dessert and ask them to cut it into one third for Kay and two-thirds for him, as she could not eat a whole piece by herself. Kay ordered a whole piece for herself this time. A year ago, Greg had celebrated with us, although admittedly he was so drunk before we even got there, that it was embarrassing. He kept standing up to go out for a cigarette and his trousers kept falling down. He was also uncharacteristically very rude to the waiters. So many memories sparked by every stage of the meal. At times, I felt as if Greg was watching over us from above.
Up to now I have been consumed by such anger about what Greg did over the last five years: the money he wasted on alcohol and cigarettes (about £600 a month, making quite a hole in our already reduced income); the mental stress he caused Kay and me; the damage he did to his own health and ultimately his life; the ruined plans for retirement together. In many ways, my anger and the events of the last five years had blocked out any feelings I had for him. But for the first time since Greg died, since the funeral and since scattering the ashes last week, I actually felt sorry for him for missing out on Kay's birthday. Just like he'll miss out on every other milestone from now on - her graduation, her marriage, the grandchildren, every birthday and Christmas, not to mention other milestones in my life and those of his sister and her family. And in his. He's missed out already on things like the general election and the Lib/Con Coalition, the World Cup and there'll be more things to come.
I went to one of my local Al-Anon meetings last week. We were talking about Forgiveness. Someone said "Forgiving does not mean you have to forget; it just means you get rid of the hurt, because storing up resentment doesn't help you to move forward." Another spoke of alcoholism being like a mental illness and not something the alcoholic can help. Suddenly it all made sense. Greg's drinking was like a form of mental illness. He could not help it. It was too big for him to deal with - like anorexia or depression can be. Being angry with him was pointless, inasmuch as telling someone who is depressed to pull themselves together is pointless. Being angry does not help me move on either. I can't forget what happened; I can't pretend it never happened; but Kay and I have to forgive him to find peace of mind and move on.