I’m sure you are probably thinking this post will be a loved up soppy one full of Valentine’s photos of my hubby and I eating our favourite food raising a glass for the camera? Well you’d be wrong. February the 14th has always been a little different for our family as it was my dad’s birthday. William L Stead born 14.02.1948. My poppa bear from the 16.03.1969 when he became a dad for the first time to little old me! There were another three more to come over the next 5 years and he was made to be a father. For most of my life Valentine’s day was a double celebration filled with giant cards (Remember them? They were huge, padded and came in a box!) The double celebrations stopped though, when sadly ‘Bill’ lost his battle with mesothelioma on the 14th November 2002 aged only 54, a year before he could have retired from nursing. He never made retirement despite planning for it with our mum Pam. He never got to draw his pension, he never got to meet his last granddaughter or his first great grand daughter and I miss him so much it actually physically hurts.
People talk about time being a healer, which of course it is to a degree: the wailing, ugly snotty crying and thoughts of ending it all to be with him do pass, but the aching sadness gets worse year after year. I miss his advice, his words of wisdom. I miss his brutal honesty even though it had made me cry in the past. I miss his voice, his sense of humour, the way he never really took himself seriously, I miss his embarrassing dress sense on his days off ( he always said that if he has to wear a suit and shave for work, he was going to smell bad and grow a beard when he was off work!) His Hawaiian shirts in the middle of winter and his socks with scandals in the summer (I’m not even going to mention the wig or ‘toupe’ as he preferred) were mortifying for us four kids and his long suffering wife, as was his insistence on holding our hands in public which at 15 was frankly devastating!! He still had so much he wanted to do in his life, so much more to give, to see, to feel and to experience but the Universe clearly had different plans for this beautiful man, and as I fast approach the age he was when he died, it all feels so scary and wrong.
So as you can probably guess, for the last 19 years Valentine’s Day has been bitter sweet. Sweet because I’m lucky enough to have a life partner/husband but bitter because our Poppa Bear isn’t with us anymore.
Anyway, enough of my sad ramblings. The point I actually wanted to make about this year’s Valentines day, was that it is also the day my contract with the NHS was terminated. Its funny as this has been a very long time coming, but after months of it being a vague thing that was going to happen but wasn’t happening ( if you work in the NHS you’ll know how slowly the cogs turn) I asked the Universe and my dad to speed things up so that I can move on with my new life as an ex nurse. Imagine my surprise when the very next day I received a letter telling me that the 14th February 2022 was going to be my ‘Freedom Day’. Now if that wasn’t a sign from my pops that he has still got my back, then I don’t know what is!
So, here I am! Naomi the ex mental health nurse! I’ve never been so scared and so excited! Other than washing up in a pub when I was 16, nursing is all I’ve ever done. I know dad will be smiling in approval: he knew how stressful the job can be and its about a billion times worse now than when he was in the job! Mental health nurses are now just risk assessors. The culture of care, compassion and time for patients has all but gone now and I simply don’t want to be a part of it anymore. If you’ve read my previous blogs you’ll know I had already cancelled my NMC registration, but ending my employment was the next big step and now its done!
In true Pickard’s Preserves style, I spent my Freedom Day making the most beautiful organic Blood Orange and Whisky marmalade and sowing my first seeds for the growing season ahead. It seemed a fitting tribute given there will be no retirement party, no fuddle, no speeches or carriage clocks for me, instead I have quietly slipped out of the back door without anyone really noticing. Ceremoniously sowing my first seeds on this momentous and slightly sad day, gave me hope. Hope for my new future as an ex nurse!