As I write this, it is exactly eight years to the day since Dunc asked me to marry him. In fact, he asked if he could keep me. This confused me somewhat, as I wasn't entirely sure if he was just buying a bit more time while he made up his mind about actually marrying me, or whether he was finally proposing! Eventually, I summoned up the courage to ask him directly to clarify his intentions, and he confirmed that, yes, marriage was indeed on the cards!
We were in Cornwall - possibly our favourite place in the world. Those who knew Dunc would have expected him to take the traditional 'bended knee' route for a proposal, in front of one of the many beautiful Cornish coastal views that drew us back there every year. But no, Dunc suddenly realised during dinner in a village pub that he had left the ring (that he had secretly chosen for me) unattended in our tent. He rushed us back and decided to seize the moment there and then, so glad was he that it was still safe where he had left it! He had forgotten to take account of the fact that it would actually have been my dad's birthday that day, had he not died 18 months earlier. In reality, this just meant that 15 August became a day of both happy and sad memories. Now, of course, it is a doubly difficult day, and the first of the special occasions that I will mark without Dunc sitting next to me, red wine in hand.
On 18 August, it would be our seventh wedding anniversary, and in order to help me make sense of my feelings right now, I thought I would compose the following list (named after the film 10 Things I Hate About You, which is the first film I can remember watching with Dunc). So, for Dunc (and in no particular order)...
10 Things I Miss About You
1. Your amazing ability to say exactly the right thing at the right moment. You definitely had a way with words and were particularly empathetic for a male of the species. You were confident and comfortable talking to absolutely anybody, in your usual relaxed manner. You said things diplomatically, sympathetically and were always extremely encouraging. That's why I still hear you now, urging me on and keeping me going when things are tough.
2. Your love of the great outdoors and the occasional 'short' walk or bike ride. I have kept your baseball cap and woolly hat, as you were never without one of them (depending on the season) on any of our outings and they signify the adventures we shared in the beautiful British countryside.
3. Your sense of responsibility. You were always keen to do the right thing, in any circumstance, and could be relied upon to help people move house, to help me through each and every night shift with the boys, even though you had to be at work the next morning, and to do your half of the chores (if at your own speed..). I was always very aware how lucky I was to have you, compared to many of my friends whose husbands felt that their role as the main breadwinner relieved them of any domestic responsibility.
4. Your nocturnal activities. I didn't always appreciate you turning on the bedside lamp in your sleep and looking for spiders under the bed, or your regular sleep talking, but it made for good conversation with you and our friends! Our bed is very empty (and quiet!) without you.
5. Your cuddles. A tight squeeze from a big, tall male is not to be underestimated, and you were one of the cuddliest that I have ever met. In fact, you taught me how to hug people, and I think it's made me a better person. The night you died, I recall you hugging me while I was trying to make the tea and me saying, "I do really love your cuddles, but it is a bit tricky to make spaghetti bolognese at the same time." If only I'd known.
6. The fab team that we made together. I always felt that I could take on the world with you by my side. We were different in many ways, but our differences seemed to compliment each other well, and made us a really strong family unit.
7. Our Scrabble marathons. In fairness, we didn't play so regularly after the boys were born, but you really knew how to play a good game of Scrabble! I soon learnt from the master how to play tactically and was often able to match your score until the last turn, when, somehow, you always seemed to win! That was, unless I was pregnant, when I seemed able to win several games in a row. Of course, you claimed that I had an unfair advantage, as we were technically playing two against one!!
8. Your laid back attitude to life. You taught me how to sit still once in a while, and I know you would have appreciated being allowed to do so rather more often! Admittedly, you being laid back sometimes drove me slightly potty, but I did admire your ability to ignore the washing up, and the boys fighting, when the FA Cup final/the Ashes/the Six Nations was on television. Somehow it never bothered you that you turned up to one of your best friend's weddings after she (the bride) did, and I always felt you would live longer than I would, because being consistently late totally stressed me out. Just how wrong could I be? What I wouldn't give now to hear the regular conversation in the car between the boys and I, which usually went along the lines of, "What are we waiting for, Mummy?" to which I would reply, "We're just waiting for Daddy!"
9. The fact that you were indisputably the nicest, kindest, most lovely bloke a girl (or, indeed, anyone..) could ever hope to meet, and somehow, inexplicably, for ten and a bit years at least, you chose to be with me. I always felt incredibly lucky, and that won't ever change. If I can bring our two boys up to be anything like you, I will feel I have done a good job.
10. Your bum, actually.. (Sorry, Mum!)
Happy anniversary Dunc. I've found your 'Films to watch with Beth' list (gulp...) and I may just pop one of them on while I do my regular Sunday night ironing session this week.