I thought I'd be good at being a grown up, once upon a time.
Like all fairy tales, turns out it was pure fantasy. I didn't do bad, for a while. I bought a house while many of my friends were still on their YTS courses, I had a lovely motorbike and a sexy car and I went to work in a suit. But I was never really happy.
I suppose it was just nerves, maybe I was amazed at my good luck and couldn't quite believe it. I think I was always scared I would lose it all, that I wasn't really worthy and sooner or later someone would surely notice, bringing the whole charade crashing down. Slowly, I dismantled the fledgling life I'd built and spent as much time having as much fun as I could.
And it was the late eighties and the early nineties, there was a lot of fun I could have.
Then came children, punctuated by a marriage, and a vain attempt to act as if I were worthy of this honour. I attempted to pretend to be something I wasn't and wound up failing, becoming a man I neither was nor wanted to be. I enjoyed it, being a family man. I was lucky enough to have two sons, what man doesn't enjoy bringing up two sons?
It's fucking brilliant, I heartily recommend it.
My marriage didn't really collapse, it fizzled out slowly. I was immature and wasn't suited to it and, inevitably, I took on the role of absent parent.
MacDonald's on a Saturday, football on a Sunday, museums, cinemas and DVDs. I was better at being the absent parent, something to be thoroughly ashamed of, but eventually I failed at that too.
At some point during my transition from shit family man to bitter old bastard I began living a life that was something like a mixture of Withnail and I and Train Spotting. During this time I had a brief relationship which ended after, I think, I'd gotten myself pissed and disappeared off the face of the earth for a day or two. It didn't matter, I'd given up on relationships and so it was easy to move on. Then I heard she was pregnant. Although I knew it was almost certainly my child, I'd discovered I'd not been the only man she'd slept with during what, if I stretched the maths enough, was the critical period. I got pissed again, for a very long time, and lied to myself.
Of course, chickens always wander back home come roosting time. Although I've never met my daughter, she did contact me a few years back. She is both beautiful and bright, the image of my own mother when she was the same age.
Unfortunately, I wasn't any good at being that kind of parent either (No matter what those American sit-coms tell you, it's not all loft apartments and baseball mitts) and so, aged forty six, I have three children and two grandchildren that I never see, along with a mother and sibling whose life I am also absent from.
The separation came slowly, so slowly I didn't really notice it. During the time I was losing contact with everyone I had a few problems, some quite challenging, and have spent much of the last three or four years struggling with one thing or another. That which should have caused me heartache sat on the back burner and eventually became just how things are.
Last week, contact was made. It was quite a shocker. A comment on a blog post, one of the many entries that mention my children fondly, from a member of my family. I snorted derision and deleted the comment. But I couldn't stop thinking about it.
I wondered why my initial reaction had been such that I had immediately gone on the defensive without having felt a pang of guilt or moment of sorrow. Surely I should? I'm an emotional guy, after all. I cried at a Danny DeVito movie the other day, for goodness sake. So I gave the situation a good coat of thinking about. Maybe the person that left the enquiry will check back and see this, maybe they stumbled across the blog they commented on accidentally and wont ever see another post, but here's what I came up with, just in case.
Please bear in mind, you're only getting my side and for all you know I could be a right lying bastard, but I'm not. You can ask Robert DeNiro, he'll tell you I'm as honest as the day is long.
The longer the daylight, the less I do wrong. [Thank you, Suggs]
Don't ask Dustin Hoffman, he tells lies. He's still angry at me for getting sand in his Vaseline when we went to Formby.
So, back to my side...
As the fractures developed and my family became more and more distant, they began in-fighting and one or two tried to drag me into situations I had no connection with or interest in. When I wouldn't agree with whatever point they were making some spitefully told me what other family members thought or had said.
I'm glad they did.
I discovered I'd been accused of something really quite horrid and, rather than anyone tell me, it had been decided that if I were to be given a particular decision to make I would have decided upon the course of action they decided I would decide on. Maybe they were right and maybe they were wrong, but I wasn't very well and, by then, I just couldn't be arsed correcting them. As anyone who actually knows me will tell you, I am a stubborn bastard and, though I'm not proud of it, I unconsciously said "fuck 'em" and got on with things. Not over night, there was a period of mourning, a feeling of loss, a couple of years of crossed fingers on father's day and a few tears over messages received but I'd become poor and hungry, those sensations muffled all else. Anger and self righteousness, I discovered, feels very much like hunger.
I shouldn't have deleted the comment, things like that shouldn't go unaddressed. I should have replied, but I didn't.
So, here is the next best thing, an apology for deleting in haste and a blog dedicated to answering, that wont get shared by me and may quite possibly go unread by the questioner. It's the best I can do.
I have no excuses. I could have tried harder, not focused on the things I focused on, but
I didn't. That was a mistake and I apologise. I can do no more.
Pertinent to the continued separation, I have my own questions, although mine are rhetorical.
- When I had my heart attack, where were any of you?
- In the middle of the night, when I wished I still lived in a high rise flat so I could throw myself out of the window and escape the pain I was in from the nerve damage in my knee, when my screams caused the neighbours to complain, where were you?
- When I sat alone in the waiting room at Salford Royal before the doctor could tell me how much damage my lungs had suffered, where were you?
- When I had to wrap my foot in plastic bags, socks and rags and hold it in place with gaffer tape because my only pair of shoes had one sole between them, where were you?
- When I wore the one soled pair of shoes to walk thirteen miles in the rain to collect a food parcel after not eating for four days and only eating sporadically for several months prior, where were you?
- When an elderly lady in a Salvation Army uniform held me while I sobbed after she turned up unexpectedly at my door and gave me the ingredients for Christmas Lunch, where were you?
- When I was scared, where were you?
I'd watched you all, for a while, keeping an eye on things. It's not difficult, in these wondrous times, to do so. It might be a bit creepy, granted, but I had the best intentions. Everyone of you, thankfully, were having a great time and doing more than fine without my ham-fisted, half-arsed help. Eventually, I stopped checking. I was busy. I'm sorry. In my defence, I'm of little practical usefulness these days anyway.
When I mention my family fondly, write about good times or bad, there is no pretence. Those memories are from a time when my love wasn't in doubt by anyone. It was real, and continues to be. I have little else, I won't be allowing anyone to refuse me access to those happy snippets of my uneventful existence that preceded this portion.
The years of "fun" in the late eighties and early nineties must surely have shortened the functioning lifespan of my long term memories, they'll be gone soon enough and then I'll just blog about which soup I had for lunch or how my home-help steals my tea bags.
And I'll have some nice memories to revisit if I scroll back on my blog far enough.
If my prostitution of the past offends anyone, then maybe anyone'd be better served not reading my nonsense?
They should probably steer clear of YouTube too.
Some love is unconditional, the spring doesn't run dry. When no one takes a sip from the stream the spring water eventually joins the river and is lost, but it's still there, somewhere. Lost, but not wasted. Nothing we enjoy giving is ever wasted.
I sincerely hope that all of you reading and all those I mention in these blatherings flourish and live long, happy, fulfilling lives. Take care.