In 2008 Waka and I did a visa run from Thailand to Cambodia. We had been living on a shoestring budget in a beach hut for over a year. We only had to leave Thailand and re-enter the Kingdom to activate another 60 day stay. Walking to the border we were accosted by people offering their services to expedite a visa run. I stopped to talk to one and was about to hand over money when Waka reprimanded me and accused me of ‘going soft’.
I put my Thai Baht back in my pocket and we joined the long queue of scruffy and sweaty souls to enter Cambodia. When the moment of contact with officialdom arrived the border guard noticed that the passport number I had written on my visa form was not the same as on my passport. I apologised, offered to change it and stood forlorn, hoping to elicit sympathy. It worked.
This anecdote is not about my travails as a single parent, but it is perhaps the most important story I have. I have clung to it. I can still hear Waka correcting me, reminding me to be tough and to get on with it. She never had any dying requests so I have only this. This is the fragment I have shored against my ruin.
The premise of this series is now not entirely relevant. Yes, my cooking is still severely limited and yes my house could be cleaner and the DIY more precise. There is still room for improvement.
However, my daughter and I are getting there. We are no longer rookies in the single parent game. We have stood on our own four feet and managed (with a lot of help from friends and family) to do the basics and a little more.
The elephant in the room is grief and the ripples it causes in the psyche.
Losing Waka has wounded me . I was there from the beginning to the end, witnessing the tragedy move to its awful denouement. I am vulnerable to triggers that release a flood of emotion. Memories are precious but pernicious sometimes. I cry in my car, in my living room, at work, in the kitchen, when talking to people.
It’s been nearly two years and now I cry less.
Perhaps these practical challenges thrown up by having to do everything for myself and my daughter is like crossing a border. I am entering a new country. I ‘m hoping I can make some happy memories in this new country.
Refused for publication in the October 2017 edition of The Bewdley Bridge. Since slightly amended.