I turned 30. A few days later Mum turned 60. 30 years ago I was born. It was a Tuesday. The doctors fucked up her C-section so she spent her 30th in the hospital; sick as a dog. Dad visited with my brothers and sister. They brought a sponge cake. It wasn’t the grandest of birthdays. Once they realised they’d left clamps inside her they opened her up again, got them out, and she recovered.
I turned 30 on a Thursday. No fanfare. No spongecake but I had my health. Over the years I’ve grown to the idea that we share a birthday together. A handful of days is all that separates them, but between us a lifetime of experience. At 30, Mum was married with 4 children of which I forever remain the youngest. When I turned 30 I was (and am) single. No kids and painfully alone.
It’s a fight. A struggle. 30 years ago though Mum was fighting in a war. She wanted out of the marriage I know, and it’d be a few more years yet until she gathered the strength for that offensive.
10 years ago I would have seen a multitude of differences between us. Not at all able of connecting the dots to see how we are alike. Today, I see a plethora of similarities that truly connect us.
In the 30 years since I was born Mum has found new purpose. Indomitable strength and vision. My first 30 years have been a muddle of soul-searching, struggles and discovering who I am. We’ve walked different paths that lead to the same destination. Thanks for being that guiding light Mum. Happy birthday to us.
If love is a rose then I’ve always wrapped my palm around those thorns and held onto it like a rodeo bronco. It hurts like hell but I can still smell the flower can’t I? I’m addicted to feeling. I’m addicted to feeling for I rarely feel much. Not to do a disservice to my friends and family but I’m someone who feels in extremes. What draws reaction from me is those highest of highs and sometimes unfortunately, those dark depths. So I spend most of my time not feeling much. I shuffle. I shamble. I meander through the park that is called life. I’m that solitary man sitting on the park bench staring into the distance. Not staring at anything or anywhere in particular. Just, staring.
Love to me is an awakening. If I see in black and white, these feelings bleed my vision into colour. I begin to see beyond myself. Seeing what could be. Seeing what can be. Seeing what two can achieve. Love inspires me. It fills my glass that’s sometimes half-empty, otherwise half-full. Feeling the love of another ensures I never fail. It empowers me. I never fail because I’d never quit. No task is too big, too hard or arduous. I fight with tenacity to keep that light of love to guide me.
However love for me now means the unknown. It means saying goodbye when I don’t want to. It means I don’t know where we’re going or even if there’ll ever be a we. Love has become a stranger. I grasp in the blinding dark to find only to find where she once was. Dark because my love scares her I think. Where I see open plains in the most fruitful valley in the land of opportunity, I believe she see’s a single path carving through the depths of a mountain to an already determined destination.
Love gets lost in translation. I struggle to explain my love sometimes. I just want them to understand. Here’s an attempt.
We’re driving down a highway. You’ve got the wheel. We don’t know where we’re going but we’ll figure it out. You thought you wanted to go to the beach but maybe now we’re headed to the mountains. I don’t mind ’cause I’m happy to do it with you. I’m playing DJ. It’s equal parts eye-rolls and karaoke. It’s an adventure we’re both figuring out. We don’t know if we’ve got enough money. But we’ve got no place to be. We’re scared but it’s alright. I take your hand and give it a squeeze. I give it a squeeze because I’m trying to say I’d go anywhere with you but I don’t know how to say it without my heart skipping a beat. And I’m scared. I can see you’re scared too. I want to ask what’s wrong but I also don’t want to rock the boat. I know we’ll fight at some point. I’ll say something stupid or I’ll really push my luck with my song choices. But it’s OK. I could never hate you. You’re my person. I know you and you know me.
You’ve got the wheel. I want you to have your journey. Your adventure. I just want to enjoy the drive with you. And take stupid pictures. I love you and I’m just as scared as you.
It’s been nearly 6 months since Dad passed away. I think I’m fortunate that looking back now, I don’t have any regrets with how our time was spent; there’s no part of me that looks back and wishes things were different. Ultimately, everything that passed between us, every interaction and shared moment, defined and shaped our relationship and helped nurture the peace I feel now. In those last few days watching him sleep, hearing him breath, I truly loved him. I am forever grateful that he was half the reason I came to be, despite 20 years protesting it.
I think most of the issue was I only ever looked at Dad through the lens of a son. I only allowed or rather, wanted him, to exist and behave as a father alone. I refused to see him as his own man who had his own dreams, loves, passions or ambitions, instead I tried to frame him around how I perceived he failed. He was a flawed man who I held up to the flame of my ideals yet acted surprised when the image burned to cinders. In the end though, I’m glad I was there and I know he was glad too.
Despite his brain tumour constantly shredding his faculties from him, I look back on our last 10 months and can count more beautiful moments than we’d shared in the last 10 years. What struck me the most was the day I was out walking him in his wheelchair through streets from his youth and we were talking about the years I spent farming. At the time, Dad was always insistent that the life I was leading was beneath me and I ought to move home and go to university or study in some capacity to forge a more financially viable career. I reminded him of how often he used to berate me for sticking it out so long and he was stunned.
Dad said to me “did I really say all those things? I didn’t really say that to you did I?”
“Yeah mate you did, but it’s long gone now so don’t worry about it”.
“I’m sorry I said those things Nicholas, working as a farmer was the best thing that ever happened to you and I’m proud”.
Who would have known that this short exchange absolved 27 years of my angst.
I miss you mate.
I’m writing this to you from that place just over the horizon. We’re two sides of the same coin, you and I. Together we make a whole. We have our differences though. You’ve got some tarnish and grime whilst I shine brightly. However, I only shine the way I do because of your sacrifice. You take all the shit and I receive the accolades. This makes you the better person than I’ll ever be. We’ll never share the same outlook. You’ll never see the world as I do but I hope someday the world looks at you the same way I do. If it’s any consolation I don’t think I’ll ever feel as alive as you do.
Thanks for not giving up yet Nick. We’re in this together.
How very much we take for granted, should it take a holiday to appreciate a sunset or glance upwards at the stars? I feel it’s the simple things we let slip because we fool ourselves that our selves are too important. When we step outside ourselves we would find more to marvel at. As children we did this subconsciously and over time we train ourselves to forget the little wonders.
As time moves forward and our lives progress there is an element of disconnect with the very stimuli that inspired our growth. It’s sad to think that there is 52 weeks to a year and I only allow myself 4 of them to truly unwind and remember forgotten perspectives. I am a little man in a large world but I only allow myself the time to try to be the most important one.
So, Dad is dying. I’m still not sure how I feel about all of this. I’m at odds with his conduct. He’s actively emotionally manipulating people again. At a time when we should all be standing together he’s making himself the most unlovable person. Against the pity and the greed, his very real battle with cancer is being lost.
To top it off I’ve returned to feeling lonely. Although it’s hard to judge whether it’s the culmination of everything going on around me, my continuing/progressing loneliness or whether it’s just “time enough” that I have another bout with depression. This time feels particularly rough. My heart is akin to lead and I have visions of tearing the wretched thing from my chest.
Perhaps I should seek help; go back down the path of medication? I feel like it is the one thing that inhibits me. I piss so much time and energy into the wind. I’m becoming less creative over time. This is the first time I’ve actively written in months. I keep putting it off, hoping that slow-dripping saline that is my apathy will run its course and I will subsequently feel better.
But I never do.