United in grief
What tore us apart, brought us together again...
The doorbell rang and I raced to answer it, desperate to meet my daughter Nickey’s new fella. She’d been seeing him for a couple of weeks and he’d already whisked her away to Spain for her 21st.
This one sounded quite a catch!
‘We’re here,’ she smiled. ‘Micky brought me over on his motorbike.’
‘Did he now!’ I giggled, turning my attention to the man jogging up the garden path. He looked decent enough in his leathers, quite tall, stocky…
But when he yanked off his helmet, he was, well, there was no other way of putting it… old!
‘Come in,’ I smiled, trying to ignore the grey goatee and balding head.
At 48, he was of my generation, not my daughter’s! But I hid my surprise from Nickey, not wanting to upset her. He was charming, after all, chatting about his love of bikes and his dog Monty.
It wasn’t a surprise, though, to hear Nickey was soon bored.
Thing was, Micky couldn’t get the message, kept turning up. Feeling sorry for him, I invited him for a pint at my local The Bulldog.
‘What sort of music are you into?’ I asked, sipping my drink.
‘Mainly heavy rock,’ he answered. ‘Although I have a secret soft spot for the Bee Gees.’
Ha! Me, too.
We spent most days doing something together after that. I took him to a friend’s birthday party.
It was at this bash, three months after he and Nickey split, that he told me he was in love – with me!
Did I feel the same? It dawned on me that I did, that he made me happy. Thing is, Nickey couldn’t deal with it. She was furious.
I told myself she’d come round eventually. But nothing I said to her made any difference. And, when Nickey moved to Spain a couple of years later, we grew apart.
Me and Micky were happy. We went on bike rallies together, travelled the world…
But Nickey still couldn’t accept my relationship, although we did sometimes talk on the phone. I tried to avoid mentioning me and Micky, to be honest, unless there was something big to report – like when he was diagnosed with diabetes in January last year.
He went on a diet, lost a few pounds. But I couldn’t help noticing that his belly was still expanding.
‘Someone been sneaking cream cakes?’ I joked, nudging him.
‘Ouch!’ he winced, doubling over in pain.
Surprised by his reaction, I asked what was wrong.
‘I think it’s cancer,’ he said. ‘All my family have died from it.’
I was speechless… But if he was that worried, he should get checked out. Scared, he refused point-blank.
For the next two weeks his tummy got bigger and bigger…and I nagged him more and more. Finally, he gave in, and I dragged him to hospital.
They took one look at him and immediately started doing tests, draining 28 pints of fluid from his swollen body.
The doctor sat us down. ‘You have pancreatic cancer,’ he said simply. ‘It’s very advanced. You have about six weeks left to live.’
This perfect man, who I’d fallen in love with by chance, was dying. And after all I had sacrificed with my daughter…
There was no point feeling sorry for myself. Back at home I grabbed a pen and paper. ‘We’ll write a bucket list of things you want to do,’ I said.
‘I want us to get married,’ he said proudly.
My heart skipped a beat. ‘R-really?’ I stuttered. ‘But surely there’s not enough…?’
‘I’ll hold out,’ he said, defiantly.
Everyone pulled together. My mate Jackie found me a dress, our pub pals organised the catering… It was whizzing along nicely, until…
Walking into the kitchen one day, I found Micky bent over the table.
He was writing two lists. One headed ‘wedding’ – with flowers, invites, food, scribbled underneath. The other was titled ‘funeral’ – with flowers, invites, bikes…
I left the room, trying to stifle a cry. Nickey would know what to say, she’d tell me to pull it together.
She was back in the UK now. I picked up the phone…
‘Oh, Mum, I’m so sorry,’ she said. ‘I’ll be here to help however I can.’
And she did, by picking up his medication, doing the shopping and cleaning. She was incredible.
Eight weeks later, I walked into the register office.
It was bittersweet seeing Micky standing there, a shadow of his former self. I was marrying the man of my dreams – only to lose him all too soon.
We’d written our own vows and, as I read them, my voice cracked.
‘I’ll be there to support you through thick and thin,’ I said proudly. And I knew he understood how much I meant it.
The day was perfect. Nickey had shown she’d forgiven me. That was the best wedding present.
It was only after the reception I was reminded of how little time me and my hubby had left…
‘I need a rest,’ Micky whispered in my ear, before trundling up the stairs. ‘I love you.’
When my lovely man passed away after a seven-month fight, it felt like I’d lost my world. But I knew I’d done everything he’d wanted – his only wish had been to marry me, bless him.
Well, that and one more thing…
On the day of his funeral, I followed the list he’d made. As hundreds of bikes drove in convoy behind his coffin, I felt proud I’d followed his last request.
Then, when Nickey offered to be there when I scattered his ashes at St John’s Church, my heart melted. As we stood hand in hand, after 10 years of distance, I realised how short life can be.
My relationship with Micky drove us apart but, ironically, it looks as though it could be his death which will bring me and my daughter back together.
Carole Collins, 49, North Baddesley, Hampshire
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