Going back into the past

It’s been 35 years since I first stepped foot into my brown leather lace up ‘sensible’ nurses shoes that I wore with my aqua blue nurses uniform and red woollen cape. I was 18.

At that time, Harry and I had been dating for a couple of years. 3 years later and 21 years old, in the September of 1987, I graduated as a Registered Nurse. In those days we were still called Sisters, so I was Sister Lucy. I now wore a white dress, stockings and white lace up ‘sensible’ nurses shoes. I had graduated from brown lace up leather shoes.

Gosh, that all feels a lifetime ago. That was the last time I saw most of the group I trained with!

Two years after my graduation in the Autumn of 1989, Harry and I married. In 1990 with a 6 month old I commenced my Midwifery training and went on to have 3 more pregnancies. One which ended in a miscarriage and then two live children were born. In 1999 Harry was diagnosed with a brain tumour and subsequently died the following year in late March. I was now 33, widowed and a sole parent to Rupert 9, Jane 5 and Archie 2. My life as I knew it was shattered by the death of my husband, my soulmate and over the next 10 years I slowly put my life back together. My children grew into teenagers. 2007 I met Ted after having a tumultuous 3 year relationship with a man I donned the name of The Lone Ranger. One day I may write about him but right now he isn’t worthy of my thoughts or time. The less space I give him in my head the better.

Since meeting Ted my mother has died of ovarian cancer, my sister has survived breast cancer and my children have all graduated from secondary school with their Victorian Certificates of Education ( VCE ). My eldest son has graduated from university with a commerce degree and now is a Chartered Accountant and working as a Finance Officer at a firm. He has married and my daughter has moved in with her boyfriend and will graduate with a Masters of Law this October. My youngest son is still living at home and currently an apprentice carpenter.

My father recently underwent a below knee amputation due to poor circulation that caused gangrenous toes. My step mother lives with lung cancer and is doing ok but is about to have my 86 year old father placed in Aged Care as she is finding it physically hard to care for him.

Ruperts mother has undergone 2 hip replacements and lives independently with her 92 year old husband.

That’s 35 years of my life in a couple of paragraphs basically. 35 years has passed since I first laced up those brown leather shoes and headed off to my first 6 weeks of preliminary training school for nurses (PTS)

Nursing had only just begun being offered as a degree in universities at the time. I was one of the last groups to be hospital trained.

Last week I went to a reunion of my August ’84 general nursing group. It was fabulous sitting with half a dozen or so of the girls who are all now in their 50’s. They looked amazing. Pretty much everyone looked the same. You could of put their bright red coloured capes around their shoulders and there wouldn’t been much difference.

We had a few laughs talking about times gone by. We were all 18 when we started except a couple of women who were mature aged students. We’d all moved out of our parents homes and living in the nurses home. It bonded us as we experienced our new found freedoms away from our parents careful watch and commenced life working in a career that opened our eyes to the real world.

This group of people knew Harry and it was lovely going back to an era gone by. Most of them hadn’t traveled the road of grief with me. It was strange in a way because they dropped out of my life at a time when it felt was in its most normality, most carefree and most innocent. It was as if I had stepped back to that time. Like Harry hadn’t died. Only 1 of the people at lunch traveled the path with me over the past 20 years through his diagnosis, illness and death and the grieving that followed. It’s almost as if that 20 years of the 35 hadn’t happened.

The group dynamics hadn’t changed. The extroverts talked and joked with confidence and the introverts sat quietly and listened as the extroverts took centre stage once again, occasionally adding to the conversation. Everyone however still their lovely self. We all enjoyed it so much we decided to make it an annual event.

A couple of the girls bought their husbands who they had started dating when we were in the midst of our training. They had greyed and looking at them took my mind to Harry. Harry and I and how we also were an established couple during my training.

Although whilst sitting around the table having lunch and remembering old times as if it was yesterday and lovely to talk about Harry as if non of the 35 years between seeing them had passed by, reality is, it has. Within that 35 year gap I have had endured a life changing loss for me, and as I drove home it touched home once again. The wave of emotional loss lapped up on myself like the sea lapping gently and quietly on the sandy shore against my toes one more time reminding me how my life had changed since those years.

When your ship of stability is first wrecked, you are drowning in a ocean of grief. For a long time I had clung to pieces of wreckage that were part of that ship and familiar to me. Some parts of the wreckage floated away and people drifted from my life but the bits I hung onto stopped me from drowning in my sea of grief and is what kept me afloat for a long time before my feet could once again feel solid ground beneath me. I did safely make it back to the shore. I found my feet and step by step moved forwards again creating a new happiness.

Being at my reunion that took my thoughts back to the past, as if parts of the wreckage has drifted past as I stood on the shore toes in the water. The loss that lingers within the now shallows is still there 20 years later. No matter how much I get on with my life now, it never leaves you completely. The loss caused from the death of someone you love is always there. Moments happen like this weeks reunion and I find my mind wondering in thought, and I think about what life would be like now if Harry was at that table like the other men who had come with their wives.

As I drove home I pictured the other men and their wives in my mind, everyone, and thought of Harry. I drove home with a sense of melancholy. As I pulled up in the driveway I gathered my thoughts. Put a smile on my face and walked through the door back to my life I know now. Dwelling is not helpful. Looking back for to long is not helpful. Being grateful of what I have now is. So I smiled and walked back into my happiness of today, the present and all the good things about my life including seeing my friends from my nursing training and felt thankful. I’m alive, and I’ve come out the other side albeit with a little scarring but it wasn’t fatal. Unlike Harry who was taken way before he had a chance to live out a full life. I have lived 20 more years than him. I’ve seen our children grow into young adults and had some incredible experiences. I’m doing ok, but he’s never forgotten and is forever in the shallows just beneath the surface.

Love Lucy x

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