Monday, 23 July 2007

water over the bridges

This summer has been very strange. Apart from the obvious lack of summer weather we have had illness throughout the family. My mother in law has been unwell and has had to have a biopsy. She is depressed and lonely and rings and talks to the children telling them 'i am depressed, I am lonely' I wish she wouldn't do that but completely understand how she feels.

Rosie has been ill again, still, forever, it seems. We are weary with her illness and achingly desperate for it to wear itself out. How much longer can she vomit, not sleep, have tummy pains, not eat? It is no comfort for the GPs to say it is not serious - it is having a significant impact on our lives. 'thank god' we say 'our daughter hasn't got something serious like leukemia. However would we cope with something 'serious' if we cope so badly with this?'

We have had no relationship other than of people who discuss illness and coping strategies. We talk about who can go to work, how to collect the other two children from their mother's home and what to do about buying food and calpol. Our stocks are low in all senses of the words. We are sleep deprived, taking it in turns to get up in the night, to wash duvet covers and to take her to the out of hours doctor's surgery. We have no food and eat leftovers from the fridge and freezer. We have one black banana and two rotting apples. I go to the garden and pull the end of the season's rhubarb and stew it and we eat that with yoghurt and honey and congratulate ourselves on eating something healthy for a change.

And then, all change. Rosie wakes one morning full of smiles and refreshed, full of energy. She asks if she can go on a bike ride and 'can I help clean out the chickens?'. We are astonished and grateful and try not to believe that this might be the corner turned. She and her father spend the morning in the garden and they clean out the chickens and they contemplate the ducklings. The ducklings came in a moment of weakness. I was not really concentrating and we bought two when we went to replace the chickens killed by the fox. They were dear little things and are now dear great big things. They seem fully grown and have all their feathers and quack rather than 'peep'. They have outgrown two temporary homes and we have to sort out something permanent but are baulking at the cost of a purpose built duck house. We have had two duck ponds dug by my husband and are now the proud owners of a hippo sandpit from Toy R Us as we have worked out that as they shit so much we need something we can easily clean out. Our garden isn't big enough for a large pond that might be self cleaning and so this is it.

The ducks are a little overawed by the bright orange pond (as are we all) and they sit on the ramp looking in. Pip moves closer to the edge and a chicken comes near to its side of the fence. Daisy is flustered and flaps her wings. Pip falls in. Yes really, she falls in and then swims round and round her little pond dipping and ducking and loving it. Daisy looks on. Rosie looks on. 'may I go in and teach her what to do' she asks. We think that's daft and tell her so. 'Ducks can swim. They will both be fine Pull up a chair and watch but let them get on with it'. Rosie's face falls. The idea of teaching a duck to swim was a good one she thought.

And then the next day she awakens again happy and no longer in pain. We seize the chance and arrange for her to go to a friend's house for a couple of hours to play and maybe even to swim in their pool if it gets warmer. And then we have time alone. Together. We didn't have much time just the two of us like other couples might. We were both married before and he brought two part time children to the marriage. I fell pregnant after just a few months unbelievably - I had thought that I would never have children. We conceived Rosie in Suffolk while looking for a second home to buy for weekends and holidays and eventually to move to when the children finished at school. But Rosie put paid to that - and wonderfully so - no less wanted than any child could ever be. But what it did mean is that we haven't ever really had a 'honeymoon' period when it was just the two of us. We have had the odd weekend away and once had a whole week but since Rosie was born 3 months after we married we haven't ever really been alone. So getting to know one another is still an interesting proposition.

So what do we do? We garden. We tidy up the bedraggled climbers and cut the grass. I deadhead the flowers and he digs holes to finally put in plants we'd bought at Easter. We have a cup of tea whilst companionably looking around the vegetable patch and watch the chickens and ducks. We look at the hundreds of different greens in the garden and marvel at how clever we are in our planting plan (in reality all a happy accident). A sausage sandwich accompanies the news and the stories about the dreadful weather.

In short we did nothing out of the ordinary but it was all the more remarkable because we were alone, together at last. We worried not one jot about our child and we thought about nothing more contentious than where to place a plant or how high to tie the jasmine. Sheer bliss. These are the building blocks of our marriage that will see us through storms and the overflowing of life.