David and I were talking last week about various fundraising ideas. We were discussing whether we might be able to get a couple of places on Prudential Ride London, a 100 mile bike ride… brilliantly suited to DC, who took up cycling after Oscar died and loves it as it gives him time to think about Oscar. Less so for me as I’ve not riden a bike in about a decade. But it would be amazing to do it together and a great awareness raising opportunity for the charity. Some friends are doing the Three Peaks in aid of Thinking of Oscar later in the year and we were working out whether one of us might be able to join them in that quest. David is going to be doing his first Olympic Triathlon this summer and of course we have the Thinking of Oscar squad, all participating in the same wave of the Blenheim Palace Triathlon on Sunday 5th June 2016. Last year 49 friends and family joined David at the same event and collectively we raised more than £60,000. It was an amazing day, a fantastic atmosphere and very special despite the chilly damp weather.
For this years Triathlon we are down to our last 15 places……… So what do you think? ….. Have you thought about joining us and then heard yourself say: “I could never do a triathlon” “I can’t swim”; “I could never get in that lake”; “I don’t have a bike”; “I don’t run”…. At the risk of sounding obvious that’s just not the case for most of us. Not that we are advocating risking your health or doing something you simply don’t want to do. David and I are not alone in living a challenging life. You often hear people say “I don’t know how you do it”… and for our situation I have no idea how either. We just do. Whilst for me just completing my first triathlon will be a significant physical challenge, my main challenge that I have set myself for 2016 is a much more personal one and it’s all to do with smiling.
Since Oscar died I could count the number of photographs that I appear in on one hand. That’s not a fluke. Looking at pictures of Oscar can be heartbreaking (and sometimes nice too) but looking at photographs of David and I has the same effect on me. I look at our eyes and our smiles and they look so free and easy and I know that parts of those two people have died too. The people in the photographs don’t exist any more. And a picture of a grey person with no twinkle in their eye isn’t much of a happy memory to look back on is it. But as always it’s not that straight forward. It dawned on me that it is unfair for Holly and Barney to grow up with a massive gap or a complete absence of a photo album or record of their family childhood.
Being able to pour over old photographs together to me is such an important part of growing up and understanding our identities and why we are who we are. So this year I’m going to learn to smile again. I do it anyway and have been for a while… we worked out early on that if you broke life down into days and days into hours and hours into moments… individual experiences of conversations with friends, a nice meal, an exchange with one of the children…. then those moments can be enjoyable. From the outset we have worked hard to compartmentalise life and concentrate on being in the present so that we don’t just wallow in our grief and be impossible to be with. But if anyone picks up a camera I always make sure to sidle out of shot. The pictures of me are consistently awful and get deleted. I suppose there is also a part of me which would not want other people to see me smile because someone who did not know us might think that that might mean we were doing ok. Of course everyone wants us to be doing OK, and on a new scale of 1-10 we are. But on the old scale we never will be, so I guess part of me does not want to be misunderstood. But I’ve decided to ignore that because it’s about Holly and Barney rather than me and I think I have come up with a cunning plan. I’m going to fake smile for the camera to start with. I can do real smiles in real life and they are entirely genuine. But for the camera it just doesn’t work. So the strategy is I will fake smile to start with… I’m practicing when I go out running which must look ridiculous – and then eventually, over time, my theory is a real smile will pop out and it will actually be a sincere one and this way Holly and Barney will get to have family snaps from this early part of their lives and maybe looking back on them they won’t notice the sad eyes anyway.
So back to the challenge of the tri, do you know someone who would find fundraising for Thinking of Oscar rewarding? Someone who would enjoy the challenge?
“I can’t” “I won’t” “I don’t”…. you could just give it a go. You could just wing it to start with, like me, and end up having really good fun.