Back from getting hitched and honeymooning.
I’m now an honest woman.
And I have a piece of paper to prove it.
The whole wedding caboodle was wonderful.
And despite my sadness that Mum missed it. She still felt very much… with me
But. I’m not here to tell you about that.
You see. All this marriage and commitment malarkey has got me thinking.
And it struck me.
Just how much my life has changed in the past few years
This time 4 years ago. I was living with someone else.
It was 2011. We’d been together for 9 years.
Mum had been diagnosed at the start of the year.
We’d moved to the house in Hatfield. To be near her.
A couple of months later.
Looking back now. I’m grateful he buggered off.
For releasing me. From the added stress of an unhealthy relationship.
And for freeing me up. To one day meet. < Drum roll >. The Husband.
But at the time. I was a mess.
It felt too much to cope with.
Just when I needed him the most.
But. I pulled myself together for Mum.
I threw myself into her. Kept busy. Focussed.
By day I’d commute to Canary Wharf. And by night I’d be at Mum’s
After dinner I’d go back to my empty house.
Climb into bed and sooth myself with Netflix.
Other people have heroine. I had dodgy rom-coms.
As the months went by though. It was becoming increasingly clear that – outside of my God awful job and Jennifer Aniston – being there for Mum was all I had.
And she seemed to be declining a little more with every appointment.
I was finding it hard to find anything positive to keep me going.
So. My friends. In an effort to cheer me up. Came up with an idea.
Just a little tip here.
I wouldn’t recommend online dating. If your mum’s dying.
It’s not the greatest combo.
Not the most conducive time for finding a lasting relationship.
Christ knows why. But I went along with it.
I signed up. Created a profile. And started going out on dates
But all I could think about was how to handle my bombshell.
The ‘mum with terminal cancer’ bombshell.
There was always that inevitable question:
Where did you grow up? Are your parents still there?
And then. Bam. I’d have to come out with it. The dying mum thing.
It was on my mind from the start.
I mean it’s not all that ‘sexy’ is it? And I didn’t want it to get awkward
But there was no way I could lie.
I really didn’t have anything else to talk about.
I’d rack my brains for other things.
Things I knew about. Stuff that I’d done.
But all I could intelligently discuss was:
The most recent NICE guidelines on chemotherapy.
How best to administer an anticoagulant shot.
Or worse. A scene-by-scene synopsis of Marley & Me.
No. There was no way I couldn’t mention it.
And why should I? It was my life after all.
But how did I get the information across without putting them off me?
I mean. Who wants to go out with someone all grievy and sad?
Although. At the same time.
If I played it down too much. That’d just be weird.
Can one do ‘breezy’ when talking about one’s dying mum without one sounding like a sociopath?
No. I needed to try and strike a balance between the two.
To find that sweet spot we’re all aiming for.
Between sad. And sociopath.
Looking back. It seems the most bizarre thing to be doing when your mum’s about to die.
But at the time. It just felt normal to carry on.
And I knew Mum wanted me to. She wanted to know I had a life going on outside of her.
That I’d be okay. That I’d meet someone.
There was one guy.
His name was Sanj.
As in Sanjeev.
We had a mad frenzy of emails over one weekend. And then a few phone calls.
I told him about Mum. He’d handled it well.
Before we’d even met for the first time he was sending me messages joking about how our wedding invites would say Sanj and Ange.
Mm. Alarm bells, you cry…
It turned out he was a detective for the Met.
Working undercover in the drug squad.
At least. That’s what he said.
He also said that he was out of contact most days.
Because he was usually staking out a joint.
Or. In a safe house with witnesses.
Mm. Alarm bells, you cry…
Mum reckoned I should have a look at his warrant card. Which I always thought sounded a bit saucy.
Besides. There didn’t seem to be an option for ‘warrant card verification’ on the Guardian Soulmates website.
After the first time we met. He went on a skiing holiday to Switzerland.
He texted me while he was away. Said how much he missed me. And that he’d bought me a gift.
Hang on a minute…
Finally. I could hear those damn alarm bells. Loud and clear.
We’d been on. One. Date!
He missed me?! He’d bought me a present?!
And then I remembered.
He’d been to Switzerland.
Of course. It’d just be a bar of Toblerone.
A comical throwback to the 80s. How we’d laugh!
But. No. It wasn’t a bar of Toblerone.
It was these:
A pair of salt and pepper shakers.
Shaped like a couple hugging.
And one white.
It wasn’t so much odd…
More incredibly disturbing.
By the time I got home that night. I’d convinced myself they were bugged.
That he was tracking my location. To find out where I lived. Was listening in on my conversations.
What other reason – for the love of God – could he have for giving them to me?
I spent almost an hour dismantling them. Checking them for devices.
Then. Still not satisfied. I wrapped them up tightly in multiple carrier bags. Hid them at the very back of the cupboard under the stairs.
I’m not sure what I thought they were going to do. But I didn’t like them.
I didn’t like them one bit.
Needless to say. No invites were ever sent out for the wedding of Sanj and Ange.
Then. Some time later. There was another notable one.
Mum had deteriorated by then. She’d gone into the hospice for the first time.
Christ knows why I was still going on dates.
It’s not like I enjoyed them or anything.
But Mum still seemed keen.
What’s more. Almost right up until the end. I could make her laugh with my dating debacles.
So this guy.
He was obsessed with triathlons.
On our first date he told me all about them.
And I mean. ALL. About them.
The various competitions.
All his medals. Trophies.
His hardcore training programmes.
He told me how he had a stationary bike. To train on.
There wasn’t enough room in his flat, he said.
So it was parked outside. On the busy road in London where he lived. Between all the cars.
He said he’d spend hours out there.
Furiously peddling away.
In full cycling get-up.
The cars, buses and motorbikes of London. All rushing past him.
He told me this with not one scrap of a sense of humour.
As if it was perfectly normal.
He didn’t get it when I gently took the piss out of him.
I put it down to first date nerves.
Later that evening. He mentioned in passing that someone at work had recently confessed to him they thought he’d been gay.
Now. I’d already clocked he was a little on the camp side.
Fine by me though. I don’t do alpha males.
But it meant that after that. Every now and then. Whenever he made even a remotely effeminate gesture. I’d point it out and take the mickey a bit.
He didn’t like it very much. Which only made me do it more.
But on a first date. Sometimes. You’ve got to keep yourself entertained.
Despite all that. We ended up going out a few times.
We progressed to Sunday evening phone calls. Good morning text messages.
One Saturday. It was just after Mum had gone into the hospice.
I’d spent the day there with her.
It was a particularly tough one.
Probably the first time I’d realised just how bad things were.
It was almost as if she’d started to leave us already.
I was in the car. On the way home.
On my way back to Netflix’s comforting embrace.
A text came through. From Mr Triathlon.
It went something like this:
Hey Angie. 🙂 I think you’re a really great girl but I’m afraid I don’t see you as more than a friend. 🙂 So, probably best not to go out again. Sorry! 🙂
I was so upset.
Like. This upset:
Tears started streaming down my face.
I had to pull into a lay-by. I couldn’t see a thing.
I felt so rejected.
Okay. So he was a complete and utter humorless, camp, sports bore.
But. Everything. Just. Seemed. So. Bleak.
And that’s when I suddenly realised.
I wasn’t crying over him.
No shit Sherlock.
I thought of Mum back at the hospice.
And everything I was losing.
I finished bawling my eyes out.
Then I composed myself. Took my phone. And typed a reply.
It cheered me up no end
I gave up the online dating after that.
It was time for full focus on Mum. And the inevitable ending.
Several months after she died. I gave it another go.
Guardian Soulmates. Ah yes, I thought. As hideous as I remember.
Again. I decided to give up. This time for good.
I cancelled my subscription.
Just a few days before my access ran out.
He messaged me:
We went out a few times.
And I’m happy to report that…
He didn’t buy me any condiment shakers.
He wasn’t obsessed with triathlons. Or smiley faces.
And he didn’t have a warrant card to be inspected.
Wahey, I thought. Marry me you fool!
And the rest.
As they say…
… is another blog post.
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