Wednesday, 16 September 2009

My 20th Wedding Anniversary

Dave and I met in 1985 when we were both volunteers at Centrepoint Night Shelter in central London, which offered overnight accommodation, food and advice to homeless teenagers. We hit it off from the start and soon became friends, often going out with other groups of volunteers.

After a couple of years Dave asked me out on a date. I was surprised, but then I thought, why not? We had a great time and soon became an item. He told me, on that first date, that he wanted to marry me. I told him 'no chance.'

So we got married on 16th September 1989. I'd never seen myself as the marrying type, but he went on and on about it until in the end I thought well, we're living together, I love him, if it'll shut him up we might as well. I wanted to get married in jeans and t-shirts with a couple of people off the street for witnesses. Dave wanted the whole enchilada, but luckily we were too skint for that. We settled on a low-key, registry office wedding, with a bring-a-bottle reception at his brother's house.

Then Dave began to lose interest. I realised, much too late, that he'd been trying to replace his mother who had died in a tragic accident when he was a young teenager. We had lots of good times, but he became increasingly difficult to live with. He was terrible with money and had no scruples about taking and spending mine as well as his. He could be enormously compassionate and loving, and at other times incredibly selfish. If I accused him of selfishness he would think for a moment, then say with disarming honesty 'yes, you're right,' which would have been endearing if it had been accompanied by any change in behaviour. He was emotionally literate, and taught me a lot about managing my own emotions, but like so many people, he wasn't as good at managing his own. At times he would stay up all night for nights on end, either out clubbing with friends or at home listening to music and writing poems. At other times he'd stay in bed all day, or droop around the house, for weeks. I think now that he may have had bipolar disorder but I didn't know enough, then, to seek information or help.

Our marriage lasted for six years. I tried to hold it together, but I couldn't make a marriage on my own. We were both sad when it ended, but we went back to being friends; we were always best at that. We had a great divorce. On the day our decree nisi came through, Dave took me out for dinner at a Mexican restaurant in Clapham. We were ordering aperitifs and starters and more drinks and main courses, and the waiter asked what we were celebrating. We told him. He rolled his eyes, said 'I get all the nutters on my tables,' and walked off. Dave and I laughed till our tears fell.

After a while I got together with my Paramour and Dave got together with Mandy. Dave and my Paramour got on well, and after I left London, Dave came to stay with us a few times. I also went to stay with Dave and Mandy. I liked Mandy, a kind young woman, although she had a lot of emotional problems and phobias and was quite fragile. I think Dave saw himself as her rescuer/protector, and perhaps she saw him like that too.

Then he hit another manic phase. He was preparing workshops that he thought would change people's lives. I asked questions about how he intended to manage the practicalities, which annoyed him, and we fell out. We'd had many arguments before and got past them, and several mutual friends were also finding him particularly hard work, so I didn't worry about it too much; I figured he'd get back in touch when he was ready, we'd both say 'sorry' and carry on as usual.

In November 2003 my Paramour and I came home to find a message from Dave's brother John on the answerphone, saying 'ring me.' I hadn't heard from John in years, so I rang immediately, full of foreboding. He told me that Dave had been attacked on the street in Brixton, near the flat he shared with Mandy; he was on life support; he wasn't going to make it.

The police didn't release Dave's body until mid-January. They never found out who killed him. The funeral was at the end of January and his family created and ran the service themselves. It was a lovely funeral, yet I found it bizarre for three reasons. First, they didn't mention me or our marriage. Second, Mandy read one of Dave's poems; a love poem; one that she said he'd often read to her. We were all given a copy of the original, in his handwriting. It was clearly dated 1993, and I remembered it well; he'd written it for me. Third, at the reception, I realised that Dave and Mandy had been so reclusive that most of Dave's old friends had never met Mandy. I realised this because they were all treating me as the grieving widow. I was grieving, for sure, but it was Mandy who needed to be in that role. I tried to direct people to her but they held back, reluctant, because they didn't know her.

I was, and am, grieving for my friend. My infuriating, funny, loving, clever, selfish, charming friend. I miss him most when a new gadget comes on the market, especially if it has anything to do with music. He loved technology and would have adored iPods, Spotify, Wii, all that kind of thing. I miss him right now, too, because he would have understood how I feel about today, probably better than I understand it myself.

I wish I didn't have a retentive memory for dates. Today is my 20th wedding anniversary, and I want to celebrate, and cry, and get through the day, and I'm really not sure how. I don't think anyone else I know remembers the significance of this date; if anyone does, they've never said. Nobody mentions Dave these days. I guess they don't want to upset me. I wish I could spend the day with people who knew him, and who remember, and we could talk about him, and cry a little, and laugh a lot, and eat and drink and take comfort in each other's company. But that's not going to happen. So I'll find another way, starting with this blog post.

17 comments:

Jumbly Girl said...

Oh Lily that is so sad, I really hope sharing it with us helps and I hope you find other ways too of marking today, it must be so hard. Thinking of you and sending you hugs xxx

Caroline said...

A fitting and very beautiful post. I am glad that you didn't let this anniversary pass by. x

JJ Beattie said...

That's such a lovely post. What strikes me about it is the warts and all realness of your memories. Big hugs to you, JJx

hilaryusfun said...

oh queenie - that is really sad and I wish there was a better way to celebrate the life of someone so important. The blog post is an amazing tribute. xx

Carol said...

That is such a sad story but a beautiful tribute to someone who obviously meant a hell of a lot to you.

{{{{hugs}}}}

C x

mike said...

Have a big hug from me as well. That was very moving to read.

Debs said...

Hugs from me too. Such a moving post and a great tribute to Dave.

HelenMHunt said...

Oh Honey - that is so moving. Sending you a huge hug x

Bernadette said...

What a sad and touching story. I hope that writing that helped you to get through the day a little better.

The 21st anniversary of my first marriage is next week. I don't forget the day either, though the circumstances were very different from yours. It's quite right that you should remember an important day in your life and I'm sorry that no-one else in your life does, so that you could have some support.

B x

Queenie said...

Thanks, everyone, so much, for your comments, texts and emails, and for the virtual hugs and kisses; they helped a lot. So did writing the blog post. And the book shopping, and the chocolate cake! Overall, yesterday felt long and difficult, albeit with some very nice bits: my Paramour cooked me a lovely meal and looked after me through the evening. Today feels much easier and, oddly, like a new start.

Queenie said...

Thanks, everyone, so much, for your comments, texts and emails, and for the virtual hugs and kisses; they helped a lot. So did writing the blog post. And the book shopping, and the chocolate cake! Overall, yesterday felt long and difficult, albeit with some very nice bits: my Paramour cooked me a lovely meal and looked after me through the evening. Today feels much easier and, oddly, like a new start.

Debi said...

Ah, babe.

Beautifully expressed. I feel like I've just seen another corner of the tapestry. Thank you for sharing it with us - hope it helped to mark the date in this way. This is what words are for ...

Hugs and love. xxx

PI said...

Some time ago Granny P and I agreed that the death of an ex is like no other especially if - like me - you are persona non grata in some areas, and I didn't feel I could go to the funeral. Thank God for my sons.
You have memories which no-one else has and I'm sorry you haven't any mutual friends to share them with. But you have the Paramour and I'm sure - like MTL - he will allow you to bend his ear a while.

Kate said...

Hi,

I am so sorry for your loss - found this post utterly compelling. I don't really know what to say other than to wish you a lot of happiness and send hugs

Kate x

Queenie said...

Debi, thank you; it did help.
PI, how awful, I think it would have been much worse if I couldn't go to the funeral, even though the funeral was bizarre.
Kate, thank you, that means a lot.

Karen said...

I'm sorry I missed this post - so moving and not an easy one to share I would imagine. A wonderful tribute though xx

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing your moving recollections. My exwife died last year & I went to the funeral, mostly to be there for our sons. Met some lovely people including her Canadian friends and husband. The most moving blog about her was written by one of her best friends in bluele.blogspot.com. Look for Sherrill Cheda.