13 October 2011

A (Tena) pants shopping trip

Memories are like a Ninja: They hide in the dark and you don't know they are there until they attack. And when they attack, it is fast and furious and there is no defence.

Last night after my biology class at college, I went to the supermarket. I was not feeling particularly sad as I walked around a little bit aimlessly, not sure what I needed. Shopping is always a bit depressing these days. I find supermarkets very overwhelming and confusing.

Many times in the past I would call Jane whilst shopping and ask her for help in calming me down and help me make sense of the enormous number of choices to be made when buying things. My ADHD means that making choices can be really stressful. She was always calm and understanding. Never seemed to think: Geez, you are 30+, surely you can do some shopping without trouble.

As I walked around, I came past the shelves with Tena Lady incontinence products. And then it happened. I froze on the spot. I stared at the various products on offer. The various types of pants in all kinds of sizes and pretty patterns. And I remembered all those times I had to buy them for Jane. How every shopping trip included large numbers of Pants.

Images of the times we had to struggle in small public toilets when her pants needed changing. Memories of how I could not leave the house without the Tena Bag: a bag with spare pants, babywipes and trousers. Reminders of our ski trip in Scotland when, after I had dressed Jane in all her ski gear with ski boots on and skis strapped to her feet, she spoke the words: I need a wee. Back to the toilets we went, all clothes off, sort it out and back out again. A delay of 20 minutes.

Reminders of when she trusted me. Reminders of when she let me help her. Reminders of how deeply we were connected.

Reminders of when she was still alive.

And I cried. I cried and cried. Right there, next to the Tena Lady pants. I did not want to give up and leave the shop because I did need food. So with silent tears streaming down my face, I wandered around the isles. As usual, people noticed but said nothing. Even when I asked a lovely lady where I could find the UHT milk, she smiled as if oblivious and pointed me in the right direction. Even the lady at the check out wished me a lovely rest of the evening, as I wiped the tears off my face...

All I wanted was for someone to ask: Are you ok? Grief in public is so incredibly lonely. I understand people are reluctant so I am not angry about it or anything. But the loneliness is insufferable. All you want is some kindness. Someone, ANYONE who notices you are crumbling. And when that doesn't happen, things just get worse. I wanted to scream: somebody please please please speak to me. Somebody please ask me why I am crying so I can say the words out loud: the love of my life died and I am not coping very well tonight.

Instead, I bought some roses for Jane and got in the car. And I cried and cried. Alone.

Next time I see Tena Pants, the effect will not be so dramatic. Now I know I can either avoid them or be in control of the situation because I know what might happen. The problem is the I simply have no idea at all what will bring back a painful memory. Absolutely anything can and I don't know until it happens. Because we used to have a normal life together, ANYTHING that happens in a normal life can bring back memories. So it is not a matter of simply avoiding things that might be upsetting. You don't KNOW which things are upsetting. Something that did not upset me yesterday might suddenly be very upsetting today.

Something tells me that I will have to go through every single part of normal life and experience all the surprising moments of pain. And only after having been through all of them will normal life not be a constant reminder of Jane's absence.

Finally, for the first time since Jane's cremation, I bought flowers for her. In my new room, it seems Jane has found her own spot. In the flat, her ashes were just moved around all the time.


  1. Those Tena Pants ninjas are little bu***rs aren't they? Timebombs I call 'em, your word is better.

    Maybe you bought the flowers for the two of you, not Jane. Or why not - just for you yourself? That's OK.

    I'm surprised you kept the ashes. Like you haven't thought about it, but wouldn't scattering them be some sort of release? My head says that while the ashes may be all that's left of the person physically, they are not really "her". The photo to the left is her; much, much more so.

    I hope that doesn't offend. Glad the StudyBed fitted in.

    On a bit of a down day. Tomorrow will be better.

  2. Thanks for your comment. The ashes are not all of Jane. I scattered some at Warwick University, the place that meant most to her. Her mother alsomhas a small urn with ashes that she has buried in her garden, next to the ashes of Jane's father. I too want to bury the rest of the ashes and have a little plaque. But since I have no idea where I will be living in the next few years, I will wait until I find the right place. A place where I will be for a while. Probably when I finally buy my first house.

    I am not actually that emotionally attached to the ashes as such. I just think they deserve a bit more respect than being kept in a dark cupboard out of sight.

  3. Ps: sorry to hear you are on a down day. Must be hard, having dropped Lucy off at Uni.

  4. Of course you scattered some of the ashes. I (now) remember reading the relevant post. Sorry.

  5. Don't worry. I would not expect you to remember every single blogpost I ever made ;)