Goss Coaching has made a wonderful entry here, which reminds us all as to what the spirit of Christmas is all about. She made this blog entry right after Tribble and I learned of a gentleman in our county – an Indian immigrant who has worked hard to gain his place in our society – who is opening his chip shop for two hours tomorrow in order to give a filling, tasty, free meal to the poor, the elderly and the homeless. Why is he doing it? Because it “makes him feel good inside” in ways that sitting around opening gifts and eating too much won’t.
That man understands the true meaning of the festive season.
This year I have much to be grateful for. Not in spite of my declining health and my worsening disability, but more likely because of it. I am able to look outside of the box and see the bigger picture; I can find so many things to be grateful for that I may just have overlooked when I was fit and healthy.
Today I would like to start my “list of things to be grateful for” with a love story. Because, without the Tribble in my life, I would not be the self-assured, secure and happy woman that I am today.
I first saw him at a garden party. We had a mutual friend in Manchester, and I had been invited to sing at her first ever attempt at a “birthdayfest”, complete with live music and plastic laminated badges for the guests. There were plenty of people there who I’d never met before, including a fairly well-known writer (Lisa Williams; author of “Family Bites” which I wholeheartedly recommend). Most of us “knew” each other via a journalling site but many of us had never met in real life, as it were.
I wasn’t looking for a man. I was working on my second divorce, was single, and was perfectly happy if a man never asked me out again. I was enjoying my independance, loving that I no longer had to worry about someone else’s alcoholism and spending habits. I delighted in the knowledge that my flat would still be as immaculate as I had left it the night before when I woke up in the morning. I had my books, my cross-stitch and many friends – I didn’t need a man to rot up my routine.
Then he appeared in the garden and I Knew. He was taller than me (which isn’t easy), dressed all in black with bleached white hair combed back from his forehead in the manner of Spike from Buffy. That, of course, was where the Spike similarity ended; he didn’t look at all like James Marsters and was extremely unconventional in his features.
I thought he was the most alluring man that I had ever laid eyes on – and I didn’t even know his name.
We were introduced, but we didn’t really have much of a chance to become aquainted – I was being rushed up on to the stage to sing. Instead he added me to his reading list on the journal site that we all had in common; so at least I knew that we would remain in touch.
My stint behind the microphone ended and I made my way towards Lisa in order to become better aquainted, although I continued to watch out for The Man In Black.
By the time I decided to search him out to give him my number, he and Lisa had left. Not that I really had time to feel too sad about it; I was moving back to my hometown of Cheltenham the following weekend to room with an old workmate and fellow singer/musician for a month, so I had plans to make and packing to do.
That month in Cheltenham (September) flew by quickly. I had a lot of catching up to do with my old friends in a short space of time. My flatmate was kind enough to allow me the use of her computer and internet connection, since we weren’t able to hook mine up to the network, and every now and again Dom would show up responding to my journal entries. He even made mention of a spare room, should I ever need it – but he also knew that a producer had persuaded me to return to Birmingham in October, with the promise of some recording opportunities, and I had already agreed to a flatshare with a pleasant-seeming older gentleman who appeared to simply want some company and a bit of life breathed into his home.
Off I went to Birmingham in October, and recieved one shock after another. The producer had lied about any possible work for me, so I’d returned to a city that I actively dislike for no good reason.
As for the “flatshare”? The flat turned out to be one bedroomed, and the gentleman was as crazy as a bat in a henhouse. He expected me to become his girlfriend and for us to share a room (though not a bed); he complained strenuously about his upstairs neighbour getting ready for work in the mornings and would curse her at the top of his lungs – so that’s what I would wake up to every morning. Incidentally, his neighbour was quieter than many neighbours I have had to put up with!
Even though he knew that I was holed up writing lyrics and melodies on my computer, he wouldn’t give me any peace and would stand at the closed bedroom door and talk to me through it – the same if I was in the bath, when he allowed me to actually have one. Every time I wanted to bathe or wash my clothes I had to argue with him.
If I went to the library across the road to get away from him, he’d be waiting outside for me when I came out. He could see the library from the window of his flat, and I wasn’t difficult to spot with my long blonde hair and bejeaned legs.
He was constantly on the phone to his mother – who he made me speak to a couple of times. It was always a complaint that I wouldn’t go out with him or let him share the bedroom, and she was never able to get it through to him that relationships simply happen and are not contrived.
I knew I had to leave, but there was nowhere for me to go and I had no money. Then I remembered Dom’s spare room and got in touch with him. His response was simple. “Order a taxi and come here. I’ll pay. I just want you out of there.”
So that evening, in late October, a taxi drove me through the night to yet another stranger. I was homeless, penniless and frightened for both my safety and my future, but there was nothing else for me to do.
Eventually I stood shivering on Dom’s doorstep, whilst the taxi driver (a kindly man of Indian descent who stopped to buy me a burger on the journey – a man who cared about my plight in spite of his own recent tragic history) exhorted him to be kind to me, because I’d had a rough time and was scared and tired and hungry. Dom assured him that I was in safe hands, thanked him for agreeing to such a long journey and tipped him generously.
I often think of that wonderful taxi driver and wonder how he’s doing now. I tried to find him a few years ago, but to no avail. I wanted to say thank you, but I didn’t know his name and could never find the taxi firm on Yell.com again. I hope that he found someone who truly deserved him, and that he has a new home and a wonderful new wife. He was an angel when I needed one, and so he deserves all things good for the rest of his life.
That night I had the best sleep that I’d had for a long time. I could relax and know that nobody was going to try to take advantage of, use or otherwise harm me. I emerged in the morning, refreshed and feeling much more comfortable.
I’d arrived with very little other than the clothes on my back, so that day Dom took me to buy some inexpensive tops and jeans, followed by a wonderful lunch at a local pub and dinner at Aroma – a wonderful Chinese buffet restaurant (all you can eat for a fixed price, and delicious too).
It was that evening, when we were on the sofa watching the delightful Studio Ghibli “Spirited Away” that we began to sit closer, then snuggle up to each other… and realised that we were in love.
That is the story of how Tribble Towers came in to being.
Naturally it’s not all been wine and roses. Tribble has had to witness my deteriorating health, increasing seizures, even a psychotic episode culminating in a suicide attempt, which was caused by the anti-seizure medication I was taking at the time. He’s seen me through three different operations to have my front teeth removed (one of which saved my life), the passing of my best friend and my beloved grandmother, and further loss to my mobility.
Then there was the anti-seizure medication which made me gain 70lbs in fat and even more from tendonitis and water retention. I couldn’t walk, much less get out of bed, and even now I’m no longer on that medication my mobility and balance are destroyed forever.
But it’s through all of this that we have become stronger as a couple. Dom has taught me what true love really is.
Through thick and thin he has been by my side, loving me and supporting me. He has assured me that he is in love with me, as opposed to any pretty packaging that my self might be wrapped up in.
False teeth, a walking stick, anorexia, extra weight, weeks bedridden… he doesn’t care about all of that as long as we can cope – and we do.
Because of him I have more confidence and feel more loved and desired than I ever have done in my entire life. And I feel more love for Dom than I have for any other man, simply because of the kind of man he is.
This is what I have spent my life searching for, and what I am most grateful for – that a man can come along, accept me and my failing body and love my autistic son. Maybe not as though my son were his own, but as someone who can see what a lovely child my son is – and he accepts that R will be a part of our little family unit, even though he can never live with us.