FirstsBy Emma Pearson
September 22, 2023
14th May 2017
I have been noticing “Firsts”. First times I do something since Mike died, or even since Mike was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer – still only a little over 6 months ago. Things that were routine, weekly, sometimes even daily. I feel like I have noticed them all. Some feel massively important and I need to psych myself up to do them, and even get a couple of champions in place to help me make them happen. Others I just notice and take some deep breaths for. Here are a few from the past couple of weeks.
First time playing the piano since Mike died. I played a bit, not a lot, while he was ill. Just one of those things that got sacrificed as the days became full of extra care duties, whether for Mike, the kids, or for myself. Last week I decided to start with a piece I have never played before, so that I would have no expectations of myself. Alicia Keys’ Harlem’s Nocturne – wild and wacky and not altogether suited for just piano. And no, I cannot do her sexy vocal utterings at the same time as playing (if at all!) Nor can I play it like she does. (Listen to the link below).
Tonight another first – I played one of the songs Mike and I sang together. Diana Krall and Bryan Adams’ version of Feels Like Home by Randy Newman. We had it at his funeral service. It was hard playing it but I love the song and the lyrics and got through to the end most imperfectly. (Song below).
I still need a first for my cello. There’s been little these past two years first with Ed then Mike – cello’s so much harder work for me. And I still need a first for playing music with someone else.
First coaching session with a client. All my current clients know what’s been going on and what’s happened. It does me good to see my clients. I am not doing much professional work and what I am doing I love. I seem to be doing okay work with them. Please let me know if not.
First venture out in the village at a public gathering – the ceremony for 8th May, Victory in Europe day – to hear our Mayor speak and hear the village orchestra play. I am often with Mike for those events. Not this time. No-one came over to speak to me. I was stunned at first. Then wondered what signals I had given off to make people steer clear of me. Plenty, not least concentrating intently on my dog and crouching to cuddle him in the fresh May breeze. And not staying on for the usual drink.
First swim – the open-air pools have opened, tripling the number of available places to swim. I was not only the only person in the water, but the only person in the grounds for a while. The lifeguard didn’t have much to do, watching me plod up and down.
First new client meeting – a new organisation to explore, get to know, and perhaps do some good work with. People who might never know about my recent months. It’s not information I need to lead with. Not everyone has earned the right to know.
First Masters swimming training – I stopped Masters swimming on 14th November 2015, the morning after the Bataclan terrorist attack in Paris. I heard the news on the Saturday morning as I was driving to the pool. I was already undressed when I reached into my swimming bag to find I only had my youngest daughter’s swimming cozzie with me – which I wasn’t going to fit in. I decided not to try to borrow one from reception. I drove home and listened to the news all morning and cried and cried – finally crying for my brother Edward, with his brain tumour, and at that time still in a palliative hospital, as for my recent loss of Don, as well as for the Paris bombing victims. I decided I needed more sleep, more mollycoddling, and didn’t want to face the early swimming starts on a Saturday morning any more, especially going into the dark days of winter. This year the training schedule changed and became difficult to make work. With Mike being diagnosed so early into the academic year I simply never went back.
Till this week, when a friend’s generous offer of schlepping my youngest to Saturday activities meant I was free to go. I knew I needed a couple of buddies forewarned so I could be strong enough to show up. I don’t know my swimming buddies enough for them to have been aware of what was going on in my life (we swim, we don’t talk much). But two were there waiting with hugs and encouragement as I swam my first 90 min session in 18 months. It felt good. The trainer said afterwards “tu t’es régalée”. Nice when a 20-something maître nageur notices that in someone twice his age.
And then there is the category of Firsts that are things I just never did.
First going to the Notaire to sort out Mike’s will with tens of photocopied documents, and walking away with a bigger list of things to do than I had walked in with.
First going to the cinema on my own. On a Saturday night. I am going to keep going to the cinema on my own till I don’t feel self-conscious about it. I believe that I was the only singleton there. But it was a great film. “Aurore”. I laughed a lot. Fifty-year-old woman who is single and menopausal and… Just go and see it.
First changing of a plug. Yes, I needed to get some help, but I did it. It’s been 30 years since I changed a plug. Just one of the gazillion things Mike was better and quicker at than me.
First mowing of the lawn. Yet another of Mike’s jobs. The lawn looks better than it did. The beds need a damn good weeding and the compost bin is overflowing and I don’t know how to use the stuff properly but I’ll find out in time.
That’s been a lot of firsts. I think too many. There have been others. First conversations with people I haven’t spoken to since Mike died are particularly hard and I put them off. Don’t take it personally. I am an extrovert, and despite that I find it hard to be with people, particularly more than just one at a time. I wonder what it’s like for introverts. There’s so much to figure out in this new way of living and being. Slowly slowly.
And here, the music – Alicia Keys, then Diana Krall & Bryan Adams