I got the SMS to let me know my visa was ready for collection, so yesterday afternoon off I went. I collected the boys from school, drove myself down Najda St, Electra (I think, or was it Hamdan), past the disconcertingly large hoardings surrounding the Cultural Foundation (on which excellent institution, more information will be forthcoming), did the U-turn, found a park, went upstairs and collected my passport which was indeed back, complete with visa glued in.

It all went swimmingly well. Which made me realise just how awful the other day was. I told you about it just down here. The mister did get back in time from his dentist appointment (an abscess on his old, already-fixed root canal, so it has to be redone ewwww and ouchies), he had money in his wallet and he knew exactly how to get there (the visa building being just a few down from the dentist’s – small world, no?).

It was okay, going okay, I was holding it together, but then, just before we got there we saw the worst, very worst kind of accident.

The mister, who had, I think, been hoping I wouldn’t notice the accident while I kept an eye out for the building, found a park, turned the car (and thus the air conditioning) off, the sun beat in through the windscreen.

‘That looked like a bad accident, didn’t it?’ I said. Quietly.
‘Yes,’ he said. ‘It did.’

I sobbed. Great, gut-wrenching, very few times in a lifetime kinds of sobs.

My poor boys. Eldest boy said (quietly), ‘Dad, do you think it would be okay to give Mum a hug?’ As my Dad would say: ‘How good is that?’ How good indeed.

I felt completely, absolutely, utterly unable to cope.
Like if the mister died, how would I survive? No, really, how would I? And I don’t mean how would I survive his death, I mean how would I live. How would I ever look after myself?

One week on, that moment is easy to understand. There was a lot going on.

Firstly, there’s me learning to live without parents. I know I’m forty, and it’s been a long time – nearly half my life – since I was dependent on my parents. But there’s a safety that parents give you that no one else can (and here I note how lucky I’ve been that it’s only in their death that I’ve had to grieve this loss, far worse for children who must learn to live without that safety even while their parents are alive).

Secondly, in form after form after form I’m labelling myself ‘housewife’. Every time I want to do something, I have to get a form from the mister that says he has ‘no objection’ to me doing it. We’ve only just been able to add me to the bank account, but it’s not a joint account in the way that I might have understood it, because if the mister dies, the assets in that account are frozen, and do not automatically become mine.

Now I don’t want to get into a big discussion about ‘housewife’ here, suffice to say, I’ve had an important and valuable cross-generational caring role and different people bring different things to relationshps and so on and etcetera and I think our society would be a better place if more people had the opportunity to do it. So that’s fine. And I completely understand that when it comes to living in foreign lands, someone is the person around whom the rest of the family is defined. That’s fine too.

It’s just that after a while it does grind down your sense of self-identity – there are days when I cringe even to hear the mister say ‘we’ or ‘us’. Actually, I shouted at him about it the other day.

And of course, there’s nothing quite like submitting your husband’s salary slips and bank statements as official proof to another party that you can support yourself to prove to yourself that you can’t.

Other things that led to this point?

It’s hot. Scorchingly, searingly, relentlessly hot. On the walk to school, if I’m wearing my knee-length skirt, I feel the sun burning my shins. Once I’m out in it, I can’t think. I have to plan every move before I leave the apartment, and if anything happens that doesn’t fit that plan, I don’t know what to do.

And the accident. That was it. Any ounce of reserve I might have had was gone. On my bad days, the days when I’m tired or homesick or lonely, the roads here frighten me. The cars are big and the windows are tinted and people use their horns too often, their indicators rarely. I’ve always preferred the bus or the tram even on roads I understand (and it’s true there are buses, but I’ll tell you about them another day). And then, as it so often is at the moment, my Mum. It was a car accident that killed my mum and it’s her birthday this week.

So, you know, that was me, sitting in the front seat of a car, which was in a carpark, which was in front of a building which I’d been too frightened to come and find for myself.

But wait…

I don’t want you to think that I’m miserable every moment of every day. Because I’m not. Far from it. I’ve had lots of great moments.

My Dad used to say that every five years or so you look in the mirror and you see yourself for who you are right now. Not quite as young as you thought you were, but not unhappy with your age.

That’s what happened when I looked at that photograph you can see down there. I do know a photograph isn’t a mirror, but in this case, it’s the same effect. It isn’t especially flattering of me, but I love it. It’s a woman who woke up one day and found herself, quite unexpectedly, forty years old and exploring the Dubai Creek.

From dubai creek