Trip Number One (of Twelve): Balmaha, Scotland

Visit to Balmaha Scotland, Trip One of Twelve

Trip Number One (of Twelve) Balmaha ScotlandTrip Number One of Twelve: Balmaha, Scotland

We are now into the fourth week of January 2019, and it is my intention to take a trip every month this year. My self-imposed rules are that it could be a night away in a B&B, a hotel or at friends, a weekend break, or even a proper holiday lasting a week or two (or more).

So really the rule is, I can travel near or far, just as long as I am away from my own place in Glasgow.

Why am I Taking a Break Every Month?

Well in case you have missed the memo, it’s been a month since my best friend, biggest fan and hero, my father, passed on. Transitioned. Croaked. Popped his clogs. Died. Whatever you want to call it. I personally seem to be partial the term transitioned. (Well, you know, because we all start as non-form, become form, and then go back to being non-form again – hence transition).

Anyway, for over twenty-five years now, every free chance I got, my trips were out to California. The trips usually lasted between three and four weeks. I went two or even three times a year – every year since 1992 when I moved here.

Every decision with regards to travel, just about, was made with him in mind. Now that visiting him is no longer a consideration, it opens up my opportunities to see the world and besides, it’s…

What He’d Have Wanted

In going through our belongs I found several letters that he wrote to me on my first ever trip abroad. I spent a semester (or more like a quarter) in London in 1987.

At that point, we had never ever been apart longer than about a night.

It was hard on both of us.

In those days, it wasn’t so easy to keep in touch. It was phone calls, usually from those quaint red phone boxes, or it was letters.

Believe it or not, while I was away in London, he actually wrote me letters and sent me a cute Easter card too.

One of the Letters from Dad

Lovely letters from my father Ralph, while I was in London in 1987
In clearing up after his passing I found a box with old cards and letters. I was delighted to discover several letters that my father wrote to me during my semester abroad in London in 1987.

Hi –

See I do write. Just not very fast or much. But you’re the one with all the new stuff. Everything is the same here. I did catch Kimmy sneaking over on breaks to use the pool.

Your mom said she heard from you and you were “starving” and she was sending you a care package. I would send you one too but I don’t know how well a peanut butter sandwich would ship.

I guess I should warn you, I know it will disturb you – but I threw away your Christmas tree today. Don’t worry we’ll get another one next January.

(page 2)
Business has been slow but that’s O.K. I’ve got – getting – of rest. I’ve kept putting off writing because I kept thinking you would call. Now that I am writing you’ll mostly call over the week-end.

I did call your sister for her birthday for you. I am supposed to call and go up to their house sometime, maybe this week-end – maybe.

I hope you got your radio working. Oh did you know U-2 made it to the cover of Newsweek?

Hope you are having a great time. I miss you but I am glad you are getting the chance to take this trip. I love you – take care of yourself.

Love, Dad

Living Life to the Full

Whenever something big (bad) happens we often say, “I’m not going to waste one more minute” or “we really need to live life to the full” – and other similar platitudes.

But after some days, weeks or months, we often revert to our previous personality (or happiness) “set point”.

In other words, those changes don’t “stick”.

But from the moment that he passed, I had a sense of liberation or freedom or something akin to relief.

I truly can go anywhere and do anything now.

The point is that I’m living as though he’s with me on these adventures.

Though I’ve lived in Scotland for the better part of thirty years, he  never visited me once. Now he can see my world – every single day (or whenever he so chooses!)

So as I sit here on a tartan duvet covered, twin bed and type words in this dated, tired room at a B&B in Balmaha, I like to imagine that Ralph’s on this journey with me. He’s sharing the experience and he’s got the tiny bed next to mine.

His #JSSAMO travel mug sits next to me on the wooden dresser.

I can only imagine what he’d say about this place…

Loch Lomond, East Side Rowardenna looking north toward Ben Lomond

Pictures and Videos of Dad Help Me So Much

I’ve got a lot photos of dad, selfies with him and videos too. I wish I did more videos, but I have quite a few, and it’s given me a lot of comfort to just be able to hear his voice. Amazing what that voice recognition can do for us as it’s often one of the things we miss most. Just being able to call the person up and hear their voice.

I have spent most of my FREE time over the past two weeks, since my return from California, scanning photos and trying to consolidate my Ralph assets (pictures, documents and videos) into one repository (an external hard drive).

Decided to bring one of my pen drives up with me and just now watched a two-minute clip where he talked about death, his own,…

It was eerily prophetic and poignant to watch. It’s hard to explain why I am doing so well with his passing, but clips like that remind me of the one important factor in all of this…

He was ready to go.

While I might have liked him to stick around a bit longer, I know, deep down, that his transition was nearly perfect.

He went when he wanted, where he wanted and how. No hospitals or nursing homes. No wires. He just drifted away – somewhat peacefully – at least not in any intense pain that I could witness.

The most surreal realisation I have of those final moments is that I was completely oblivious of what was happening. Seriously as he took his last breaths, I had no idea they were his last breaths.

I believe that too is how he’d have wanted it to be.

Ignorance is bliss.

In many ways it was just that. Bliss.

He was there for my birth. I was there for his death. It was as it should be. That gives me much peace and closure.

Balmaha - views of Loch Lomond Scotland from the hills

Next Month I’ll Do Better

This B&B  was a last minute booking just a few days ago, as I realised the month’s end would soon be upon us. I had to book fast if I was to keep up with my intention of traveling every month.

The place I picked was fine – say if you’re doing the West Highland Way, but not exactly luxurious. I think the word that comes to mind is adequate. And cheap. Cheap but not too cheerful. At least the scenery mostly makes up for what the accommodation lacks…

As I plan to go away ever month this year, they’ll not all be five star, so I am sure it’ll be mixed.

For February though, I think I’ll do more of a pampering trip. Perhaps it should be Stobo Castle or the Isle of Arran. Both have been on my radar for years.

On my Facebook page, I put out a post asking “where I should go?” and some good suggestions, near and far, have been shared…York is now on the list. A few people recommended Fife. The Hague was recommended. ‘Been talking about a trip to Iceland in May or maybe Rome to celebrate my friends’ 50th birthdays. That will be great! Dad would be pleased. Sorry, is pleased.

Gorgeous view from Rowardennan.

The world literally is my oyster.

Oh the places I will go. Wonder where February will take me…Watch this space to find out.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to recommend somewhere to travel for Trip two in the comments below.

Or if you’ve lost someone dear, a parent, a friend, a partner whomever, tell me what’s been helping you process things. Thanks.

4 Weeks Ago Today – My New Life Began

4 Weeks Ago My New Life Began

4 weeks ago today - my new life began4 Weeks Ago Today – My New Life Began

It was 4 weeks ago today that my new life began. I am sure that, soon enough, I’ll stop marking the days and weeks since my father’s transition, but like any loss, it’s a process.

I already blogged about this here on my blog, earlier this week, on my dad moved on (and on his blog too), but I thought I’d keep on writing down how I am handling his passing and this time of change.

It will be interesting to reflect back some day, for me even if for no one else.

Some might argue I am in complete denial, but honestly, I think am doing good all things considered. (That’s my usual response when anyone has asked since his passing).

Wisdom Came on Christmas Eve

On Christmas Eve, the day after he took his last breath, I sat at my sister’s house in a complete fog. As I surveyed all her beautiful Christmas decorations I could not have been feeling less Christmassy if I tried.

I had spent the first night alone in his place, but not managed to get any real sleep. So to say I was in a “fog” would be a bit of an understatement.

Anyway, as I surveyed her decor, I heard the words “choose a different response”.

It wasn’t my father, or any real voice I recognised, it as more a sense of knowing. It was followed up with, “you don’t have to be a grieving wreck for the next year. You can be OK now.”

Well that is not verbatim, but that was the gist of the sentiment. So I pondered the concept of “ok now”.

I started asking “what if I just chose to be OK from this moment on?” or “What if I simply chose to celebrate his life and legacy every day rather than mourning his death for months on end?”

Ramblings of a sleep deprived daughter who just lost her father? Perhaps.

But maybe, just maybe, there was something in there.

What is Different Now?

The questions didn’t stop there. They have been coming every day since, but honestly I’ve been OK since then.

Not just ok but better than expected to be honest with you.

My father and I have had a bond since the day I was born. My mother even remarked that the only reason she had me was to bring he and I together, so one could argue our bond pre-dates birth!

Who knows?

What I do know is that we had a pure, unconditional love, that has truly felt like it was unusual and eternal – for my entire life.

We could read each other’s thoughts – whether in the same room – or even when we were half a world apart. We had a sort of mental shorthand which was both spooky and cool in equal measure.

We spoke every day, often at length (thank you Skype). We even used to watch TV together (from 5000 miles apart)

Best friends forever.

So as I sat there, I started to think, “What’s different now?”

For the last twenty seven years, we’ve physically been apart, and yet remained close as can be.

What if I could choose to view his passing as bringing us closer not further apart? I can talk to him – just like I’ve always done (which I have been doing).

I know him so well that I pretty much know his response to just about anything I could tell him…

I have countless hours of videos, if I feel the need to hear his voice.

I’ve been scanning photos since I returned to Scotland. There are hundreds of those from every moment of his life.

It’s such a blessing.

Ralph Says Things, Still

For the past year and half or so I’ve run his Ralph Says Things Blog and social media channels (RST Facebook, RST Instagram, RST Twitter among them) posting his words, photos and videos.

It’s something I intend to keep doing – as much as my time allows.

Some might say “you are exploiting your deceased father” – but it’s not about them or anyone. It’s about me and him. Thank you very much.

I choose to view it as celebrating him, his life, knowledge and humour.

Perspective is a Mirror Not a Fact

As I always say “Perspective is a Mirror, Not a Fact”.

RST The Project

So here we are, four weeks after Ralph took his last breaths, with me by his side, and I am wondering how best to carry on his legacy. Is it a book? Is it a film? What would Ralph want?

I am not sure to be honest. He had started on a fiction book but only wrote three chapters. I know he’d love me to complete that. (Thankfully I have one long video where he tells me the concept).

Last week, I bought a 2TB hard drive to put all the photos, videos and documents of Ralph’s life in one place, and slowly, as I build the media library for Ralph’s life, I’m sure the right path will come to me. He’ll tell me what to do…

And I’ll probably make some new shirts for his store. You can visit the Ralph Says Things RB collection here.

For now, I’ll just keep on processing his transition, continue seeking as much joy as much as possible, and celebrating his life in any way that I can, as I think that’s what he would want. He’d want me to be happy, making money, seeing the world whenever I can, spending time with friends and living life to the full.

It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life…and I am feeling good (all things considered)…

My Dad Moved On – My New Life Begins

My dad moved on - my new life begins without Ralph Says Things
My dad moved on and my new life begins

So it’s exactly three weeks to the day that my father went away. His transition was swift, somewhat unexpected (at least in that moment) and from what I could see, was fairly painless.

That said, he never complained about pain so, honestly, who knows how much pain he was experiencing?

I’m already in the process of writing a blog about his “ultimate flight” for his own blog, about his final movements and his passing, but this is a more personal post about my reaction to his departure.

I am not sure it will even be interesting to anyone, apart from me, but I guess that’s OK.

This is, after all, my personal blog and at the very least, it’ll be cathartic,…

“On Standby for the Ultimate Flight”

It was two days before Christmas that he moved on – which was kind of unfortunate timing – but in many ways, I can appreciate it went exactly the way it was supposed to.

Right on divine schedule you might say.

He’d recently started joking that he was on “Standby for the ultimate flight” — to heaven, he meant, of course.

I suspect he knew the time was coming…

He’d say “I think God may be mad at me for not taking better care of my shell”…which he claimed he was just “renting”.

Yes, he was ready.

But I am not sure he was expecting to go that day.

Christmas Was Early This Year – Thankfully

Looking back, I feel truly blessed that we had one really good week together before his ultimate departure.

We had some drives, some trips to the Dollar Store and Costco, we took walks, sat in the sun together taking selfies, feeding squirrels, and hours watching TV. We even had quite lengthy discussions about the sharp exit of one of Blue Blood’s characters the weekend he made his exit.

Oh and we set up a wee Christmas tree together too…bit blurry but doesn’t he look happy?

Dad with wee christmas tree 2018

As for Christmas, I am so grateful that we celebrated it on the Friday night, the 21st of December.

My sister Wendy and Rich hosted a lovely festive family do at their place. My nieces were there, some other family members, and a few of their friends too.

I even got to meet my great nephew, AJ, for the first time too.

So at least we had a Christmas, of sorts, before the actual Christmas Day.

The next day, Saturday, we were walking around, collecting the $20 he won from a lottery scratcher (a gift from Wendy and Rich). He was talking about how he was almost ready to take on a trip to Costco – and walk in (and not just stay in the car this time!)

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A post shared by Ralph (Newcomb) Says Things (@ralphsaysthings) on

On the way back from collecting his winnings at 7-11, I was cruising him around his ‘hood in his wheelchair. We took in some of the Christmas lights. Above, was about the last selfie we ever took.

It was a happy time.

His spirits seemed good to me, (or at least he was faking it good, I’m not sure…)

And Then He Was Gone

Sunday afternoon, I returned from a family outing with the girls and baby AJ and he just didn’t look right. He was shaking all over. I thought he needed to go to the hospital. Two or so hours later though, he was gone.

With the benefit of hindsight, it’s still almost unfathomable for me to think that twenty four hours later, he was, just gone. At least in the physical sense.

Honestly, in that moment he left, I never saw it coming.

There was no Hollywood ending here. No last minute “I love yous”. Our last conversation was about peeing.

Really. I kid you not.

So, yeah, it was all a a bit of a shock…

That night, after they took his body away, unable to sleep, I kept repeating, to myself, “well, huh, that just happened”. I shook my head in disbelief. Pure shock.

A Ralph and Thea Santa Cruz selfie - December 2018

“Doing Good – All Things Considered”

Since he moved on, I have handled it almost “better than expected”.

Not that anyone knows how they will handle the loss of their “Person”, their one, most special person in their life.

From the day I was born, until the day he left, he was my best friend, biggest supporter and my one true hero.

So it would stand to reason that I might completely “melt down” when his physical ending came about, but honestly, I didn’t.

I have’t.

Messages have been coming to me, from all four corners of the world, and on every platform I am on.

My usual response is “I am doing good all things considered”.

I mean it. I am.

Why? I think for several reasons.

For one I was there by his side. Had I not been here, and he died alone (or even with others), I would be plagued with mental stories about it all.

But the fact I was there, with him, as he took his last breaths, was a true comfort to me.

Again, he was ready to go. He told me often.

In fact, every time I would leave to head back to Scotland, over the past few years, he’d remind me that if he should pass in my absence, it really was OK.

He’d say his “bucket is empty” (there was nothing on his bucket list).

He’d led a full life.

There are many other reasons I am doing better than expected, but ultimately it’s how I’ve chosen to perceive his transition.

We have always been close. My whole life. Even the 5000 miles that have separated us for half of my life didn’t sever our connection, so I believe that bond is just as strong even though he’s not physically here.

In the first few days without him, I described my vision of him as “millions of little particles of love surrounding me.”

Pure source energy and love.

We All Grieve Differently

Everyone experiences “death” in their own way. People also grieve losses in different ways at different times.

I am grieving this experience different to how I did when my mother passed – twenty five years ago.

I have more life experience, and different perspective about death, to what I had then.

Am handling this OK because of the way I’ve decided to process his passing. Namely that he is still here with me – it’s just that he’s in a different form, on a different frequency, if you will.

It may just be ego talking, but I believe I knew him better than anyone, ever. I knew what he’d say in response to just about anything. So, I am still having conversations with him – just as I’ve always done. Instead of being through Skype, they’re timeless and limitless. 

Instead of the physical separation that we have often had, he is here and now omnipresent. There is no separation. A hotline to dad.

There have already been a few peculiar indications that he is here with me, and whether I am being delusional or not, it doesn’t really matter does it? Coincidence or not – it gives me comfort to believe it to be so, so who cares?

My New Life Begins

So when I say that my new life begins, it’s how I go on living with the day-to-day happenings of life, and continue to feel connected to my father in spite of his transition.

I choose not to be a grieving wreck and sad about his transition. I ask myself “How can I best I go on to honor him and his legacy?” and “How can I keep this new love alive?”

Ralph Says Things, Still

Well, it is my intent to keep his Ralph Says Things going (blog, Twitter, Instagram, FB et al) – in order to celebrate him and his life.

He would want me to do so (and to have it be a success). I’ll continue to do tshirts as that was something we talked about in most of our daily conversations.

He loved coming up with ideas every day. (Sometimes he’d forget and give me an idea we’d already done! Such was life and his memory.)

Also he would want me to be happy and healthy and to go and see the world, make new friends, have adventures and be a success. I believe that he will be with me as I do…

I like to think that some day I will “see” him again….in whatever form or way that means.

Ralph was a great grandfather, grandfather, father, brother, uncle, hero and he was and always will be my best friend.

Gone (physically) yes, but not forgotten. Ever.

#RalphSays - a cushion from the Ralph Says Things shop

Ralph will live on in posts, photographs and in his Ralph Says Things shop on Red Bubble too.

I’m toying with the idea of doing a documentary. Not sure how long it could end up being but that’s what’s currently marinating in my head as my new life begins. Or maybe I will spend some time writing a book. As I sit here I am surrounded by photographs and documents of his life from birth until his passing. It was quite a life. 

A Christmas picture I will cherish forever - Ralph and Thea - Besties forever.

This is one of the last photographs of us ever taken. It will now remain one of my favourite pictures of us, ever….I will cherish it until my last breath.

Thanks for stopping by…and don’t worry, I am doing good, all things considered…