I made it! Seven weeks of getting up, getting dressed and getting through the Bath traffic to work. I’m not going to lie, there were days I thought, “No.” But with with my eyes on the future and my foot on the accelerator, I made it.
Every first week should be a three day one – a perfect length for my reintroduction to the workplace. Time enough to get the measure of the children, of the new staff and to source resources for displays. The workplace has altered significantly and for the better. With a larger staffroom in the middle of the school, both KS1 and KS2 can mix together, giving a brilliant feeling of continuity throughout the school. It also allowed me to be fairly anonymous for that first week, to observe old colleagues and familiarise myself with their personalities, quirks and patterns. The children in my class are all pretty fabulous. There are a particular group of girls who sit together and they are so bright! I mean, not just academically but socially too. You can have a proper conversation with them and there’s no whining, whinging or sulkiness – bliss and totally without precedent for me. Sure, there’s a few tricky ones but so low level that in any other year of my career they wouldn’t even warrant a mention! Anyway, the children are my favourite bit of my job – all kinds, all personalities, all welcome. The new staff though, well I do take a while to warm up to adults. By the end of this week I really hadn’t formed much of an opinion. What? It was only a three day week, remember?
Nige had his first week at the gym too. In fact, his first visit was on my first day back – Wednesday. He did really well; walked on the treadmill, did five or six minutes on a bike and then Chris (his Physio) worked on his balance. I stayed with him, not really for him but more for me. I know that if I asked him later about the session he wouldn’t remember much of what he did. At least now I know what he is capable of, which is pretty heartening.
Oh how quickly we get back into our stride! I park the Citroen a way down Warminster Road when I get home from work to make me walk a bit. It’s working actually and that short stroll in the morning is just enough to ease me gently into the world of others. As I settle into my new routine, so the children do too. One afternoon a week, when neither Mr B or I are in class, they relax a little too much and just the odd one or two let themselves down. Consistency is the key, and so, at just the second week, I started to seriously think about returning full time. There! I absolutely said this would happen and I cannot allow it. When I’m stood in the playground or working with a group in the classroom, it seems perfectly logical, but once I get into the car, engage gear and pull away, I see the reality of it all. As I get ever closer to home, life shifts into full focus and full time work is just way too blurry.
Nigel’s second gym session and I left him there, giving him some privacy to natter to someone other than me and giving Chris the opportunity to get to know Nige on a 1:1 basis. I drove over to Hartley Farm and had a coffee. It’s such a pretty place but a tad pricey so maybe it won’t be a weekly thing… we’ll see. It was my birthday on Friday and the very wonderful Marianne brought food round for a vegan, birthday meal! Nige loved chatting to Mike and I just felt incredibly lucky to have her in my life. Then, on Saturday Nige and the boys took me to Dough for pizza. Well, I guess I took us. In the van! So there we were; individually broken and collectively barely holding things together but sat in that restaurant, on a busy Saturday lunchtime, sharing idle small talk with the staff and each other… it was quite possibly the most normal we’ve been in yonks.
The plateau. You know, where things just cruise along, no bumps in the road, no nasty surprises, just moving gently forward. That’s the goal, of course, and I was relieved to have got there so quickly. Nige too was coming on in leaps and bounds at the gym, affording me an extra hour of solitude, midweek, to enjoy a coffee and a mooch. A fortnight of this and then we headed back into the world of Glioblastoma.
It was Sunday, a day or two after my dad’s birthday so we were heading over to Calne to deliver his present. We stopped at Sainsbury’s in Chippenham, to save us having to call in on our way home. As soon as Nige got out of the van he looked a bit confused, then, after just a few steps, his whole right side gave in. Thankfully I was stood on that side and took Nigel’s weight as he slowly crumpled into me. A wonderful lady asked if I needed help.
She helped me get Nige to the shop foyer, where another lady got us a wheelchair.
“Shall I phone for an ambulance?”
“No thanks. He’ll be fine – he has a brain tumour and this is – yeah. Thank you but we’re fine…”
After Nigel’s last stint in hospital, I promised him that he wouldn’t go in again…
He was okay afterwards, we spent a few hours at mum and dad’s and then came home. Later on that evening the same thing happened again, smaller but clearly a seizure of sorts.
It was very novel to be going into work the day after Nige was taken ill. I told a few of my colleagues what had happened and was overwhelmed by their words of kindness. I hadn’t really thought I’d been isolated until then. The kids in class are still awesome. Yes, they’re finding their mischief but with that comes their personality and their story. Super little people.
Nige has increased his gym sessions to twice a week and his steroids and anti seizure medication has increased too. As I sit here, having survived term one alongside my beloved’s progressive illness I feel quite proud. Fucking exhausted. But proud.
NB The cat, Eccles, has made a FULL recovery and meows continually for food, food, FOOD!