We aren’t a gushy couple – never celebrated Valentine’s Day, once Roy bought me some mountain biking shoes for a wedding anniversary and once I bought him a picture. We value each others’ presence over presents. But we love each other so much.
Our love of adventure, the outdoors and our Derbyshire roots drew us together – at the tender age of 20 when our biggest problem was running out of mixer and drinking spirits straight. It’s really easy to fall in love when you’re at university and you’re carefree – 14 years later I can say this was the only time in our relationship we have had carefree times.
Roy proposed 3 years later, just before we both started postgraduate courses, we were 23 on holiday in Greece. I was shocked – I thought it was cute and old fashioned that marriage seemed so important to Roy at such a young age and just as we moved in together. For me, I wasn’t too fussed about marriage – but if I was ever going to marry anyone I was marrying Roy – it was a no brainer, I didn’t have to think about the answer. He was and still is the kindest, most talented, creative, intelligent, spontaneous and adventurous person I have ever met. More than that – every important person in my life liked him immediately upon meeting them – I now use this as a barometer – if someone doesn’t like Roy they are probably a dick.
It is our ten year wedding anniversary today – we married in August 2012 in Sheffield – it was a beautiful day and one I will always remember. We don’t usually celebrate our anniversaries but over the years we have had our fair share of storms so we thought we would have a big one for the ten year mark. We envisaged having a big party today with Lenny (and Bhai in my tummy) – but without them here we just can’t do that.
‘In sickness and in health,’ wasn’t part of our marriage vows. When I became ill within months of getting married, then more ill, then a wheelchair user at the age of 25 – Roy could have done a runner – there was no small print keeping him there. He stuck with me, steadfast, the eternal optimist determined we would find a way for me to recover. His sunshine outlook and understanding of medicine, along with my tenacity and research skills were a winning combo – we worked with an excellent doctor and I made an unexpected recovery.
We had a few years of relative ease aside from the normal job/house/money etc normal stresses– we packed it in. We had missed half our twenties so we crammed it in – two van trips around Europe, an unforgettable holiday to Canada. Also the day to day adventures- night walks in the peak district, spontaneous camping trips and lots of dog time. Some type 1 fun (this is when you are simply enjoying yourself), loads of type two fun (this is when you’re having fun but also you’re a little bit scared but in hindsight the memory is always fun) and some type 3 fun (this is when you aren’t having fun – you are terrified because someone (Roy) has taken it too far) for example – you are at the top of a 4 foot drop off having never ridden a mountain bike before in your adult life but then it is a story you will remember forever so you can’t be cross about it for long.
One of the many things I love about Roy is his ‘can do’ attitude. He thinks outside the box and he is so very capable. He decided to do a self-build extension just as we also started trying for a family. I must admit, I underestimated him, I didn’t realise he would do so much of it himself (pretty much the whole thing), within the timeframe and to such a high standard. My point isn’t that he is a great builder – although he is, or that he has an ability to learn new things quickly – although he does. It is that he even thought that building your own extension alongside working could ever be a thing. His determination to finish the build on time, the way he spoke to and interacted with Lenny and his insistence on attending all my antenatal appointments gave me insight into the kind of dad he was becoming.
Watching Roy’s face as our perfect boy Lenny died is something I will never forget – my heart shattered. I knew things were bad but if Roy thought they were bad I knew it was bad. Watching how he tenderly held our little boy, how he took gentle care of me in hospital and how he held my hand looked into my eyes and promised me, “we will survive this – together” – with that same calm confidence as when he told me he was doing the build. He drove us home from the hospital, I don’t know how. He has pealed me off the bathroom floor, he has held me tightly as I have wailed onto his shoulders and we have shared with each other so many memories and thoughts about Lenny as well as our fears and occasional hopes for the future.
One of the many painful moments of the last 8 months was when Roy and I walked from our home and Roy carried Lenny in his tiny casket the whole way – the deep, searing pain I felt palled into insignificance compared to the love I felt for them both. Roy is an amazing husband, friend, son, brother, teacher, etc etc but he really really is an incredible father. I can’t put into words how beautifully he honours Lenny.
He was supportive, optimistic and a constant source of calm during my pregnancy with Bhai. This time, when we drove to the hospital at night we knew we were either going to receive reassuring news as we had the night before or it was bad (deep down I knew it was bad). Watching his heart break again sat on a chair next to me, in a room with the same layout as when Lenny died, surrounded by the sound of crying babies was crushing. Utterly soul destroying. The love, respect and gentle kindness he showed our second son after he was born was beautiful. And heartbreaking.
We have had to make decisions no parents should ever have to make twice in the space of 8 months – post-mortems, funerals and how to spend time with and honour our dead children. For Lenny, there have been additional layers of numerous reports, spanning months and sapping energy. I can see why child bereavement puts pressure on relationships – it is soul destroying. But for us, our relationship has grown. We have spent almost every waking hour together for the past 8 months, we have barely had a cross word and have learned how to communicate with each other about the most challenging topics and the difficult emotions.
Our whole universe feels shaky and uncertain. The small amount of trust in the world that we had built up after Lenny died has disappeared after once again being dealt a devastating blow. It feels the only constant is our relationship, the only thing I am absolutely sure of in this world is that I love him and he loves me and we both love our boys. The future feels bleak and scary once again but if I have to live this hell I would live it with him every time. I love you Roy, I am sorry everything feels so hollow.
So now 10 years later – We have had an absolute shitstorm of a decade overall but marital bliss. Our partnership is one built on respect, kindness and finding the fun. Above all it is based on a great friendship. I hope none of you reading this have to live this hell (I am so deeply sorry if you are) but if you do I hope more than anything you have a partner and friend to face it with.