And then there was six…
Since Dan’s death, the girls and I have been a team of three.
A team of three surrounded by family and a village of people who have supported us online and offline in ways that continue to astound me – we have truly experienced the best of people.
And now the strangest thing has happened.
I seem to have met someone.
He is also widowed … and he is a commercial beekeeper.
Yes, this is amusing as I do indeed have a mild to moderate obsession with bees, which I have shared on my blog and social media for many years now.
I have actually been fascinated by bees since childhood. One of my most vivid childhood memories of my grandparent’s farm is of looking up from the house to the commercial bee hives on the hill and grandad talking to me about the importance of bees. He was a regenerative farmer before regenerative farming was a trending hashtag. It’s very weird the way life does a full circle sometimes.
So … The Beekeeper
The Beekeeper and I met at the 40th birthday party of a friend. Said friend happens to know a lot of beekeepers. I realised there was a table of beekeepers behind me and I eventually gravitated to their table to slightly fangirl over actual beekeepers. The Beekeeper and I meet briefly and discussed our shared experience of losing our partners and the immense responsibility of solo parenting.
Quite some months later we met again at another bee-ish event. The Beekeeper was witty and loud, full of dark humour and talked with such confidence that I was both annoyed and intrigued. Usually I am the loud one at a table, but he definitely won that round. I’m going to claim that I’ve won every round since. This may or may not be true …
We decided it would be good for our kids to meet – group therapy if you like. My kids already had quite the little band of young people who had lost a parent, but The Beekeeper and his two young sons had not yet met children in similar circumstances. The photo below is one I snapped on my phone of the Moreton Bay Fig trees in the park the afternoon our children met. There is a strength, solidity, complexity, and also fragility to these trees which somewhat reminds me of those same qualities in our own four children.
I have discovered that beekeeping involves a heck of a lot of truck driving and during lockdown, The Beekeeper did six trips between Brisbane and Mildura, pollinating almond crops with approximately 50 million bees. It’s been a strange start to a relationship between #covid, extended work trips, solo parenting, grief and unusual professions.
The Beekeeper and I have both dug deep into our work since the loss of our partners – not only to escape grief but also to provide meaning and stability to our lives and joy in contributing to industries we feel passionately about. How we bring this all together in a more sustainable and manageable way for all of us is an ongoing discussion but oh my glory it is good to be looking forward with someone once again.
As we have all rumbled together as a team of six it has been the loveliest, albeit loudest, of times. There has also been a lot of bee stings (both literal and figurative) and what The Beekeeper calls ‘storming and norming’ amongst the kids who are 4, 7, 9 and 12. I have had a few meltdowns because that is how I roll, while The Beekeeper is very calm and seems to love the energy of four kids – I would go so far as to say he looks content in the midst of the chaos.
It is, of course, deeply confusing to be in a new relationship while also grieving and loving partners who died suddenly. We both have love and loss living deep within us and we are both so tired. Grief is exhausting. It seeps into your bones and every fibre of your being. Adding hope and possibly even joy into the mix intensifies that exhaustion and confusion and we discuss this endlessly.
This is not however a relationship based on grief. Far from it. I’ve not laughed so much in a long time and I’ve absolutely met my match, especially in the talking stakes. When ChickPea asks him a question she will often add, ‘just a one sentence answer please, I DO NOT need the full two paragraphs’, and PudStar recently quoted him in an assignment on local flora and fauna and had to seriously cut down his direct quote.
Thankfully, The Beekeeper reads – this could have been a dealbreaker of course. He reads history and war almost exclusively but ‘How to Bee’ is now in his house and I keep moving it when I visit so that he can’t miss it, though he claims he can’t possibly read dystopian fiction about bees.
The Beekeeper was at first alarmed at my bee crockery, bee artworks, extensive bee earring collection, bee themed clothing, stash of bee fabric and my many bee and beekeeping books and he did make it clear that he hoped he was not to be part of some weird bee collection.
You may like to nicely stalk The Beekeeper on social media here on Facebook and here on Instagram. I of course did this when we met and was instantly concerned by his love of Christmas-themed shirts. I naively assumed I would quietly break the Christmas shirt tradition but apparently this is a dealbreaker for him – one must be joyous and festive at Christmas I am told.
You can hear The Beekeeper on Richard Fidler Conversations here. Whether you know about bees or not, this Conversations episode is a must as bees are fascinating and crucial to life as we know it.
I realise now that grief and love can co-exist quite contentedly. The Beekeeper and I will always be grieving what was, but it also works for us to share our pain, loss, joy and love together and with our children. There is more than enough space in this relationship for all of us and we are holding space for those we are grieving and making space for all that is to come. Plan A took a sideways step but Plan B is a great option.