Snug as a bug in a rug

Snug as a bug in a rug

The Smell of urine, stale sweat, and TUC crackers lingered in the air. I heard the slapping sound of a pair of backless slippers shuffling up the dimly lit corridor. Margaret was wailing again, her unmistakable high-pitched voice echoing in the hall.

“MAAAAAAA…DAAAAAAA….MAAAAAAA LET ME OUT OF HERE! I WANT TO GO HOME NOW! I WANT A FAG NOW!”. She attempted to hurl herself out of the bed but couldn’t extricate herself from the burly nurse’s vice like grip. “LIE DOWN MARGARET! LIE DOWN YOU CAN’T GO ANYWHERE YOUR’E VERY VERY ILL”.

I WANT MY MA, HELP ME MA”. She writhed around frantically, eyes wide open, clawing anyone who dared to approach her.  I admired her spirit. For someone who had apparently not long ago suffered a heart attack, she was putting up a valiant effort. She refrained from lashing out and momentarily lay still. She was encircled by a group of about three to four nurses, whilst Vincent two beds down continued to groan quietly to himself.

I glanced over at my granny who had slumped forwards, her oxygen mask slipping down her face. I adjusted it carefully, plumped up her pillows, and tucked her in to her trolley. I recalled the numerous childhood tuck in’s, feeling so safe, “Snug as a bug in a rug”. I couldn’t quite remember the last time I felt that secure. I guess that’s the main lesson one learns transitioning to adulthood isn’t it? The illusions of safety and certainty begin to disintegrate before your eyes. You learn the fake it till you make it mentality, and if you are lucky you can cloak your fears in a daily routine. Every so often you’ll ask the big questions, but I guess that’s what booze or meds are for. Try not to overthink, just roll with it.

I noticed the Oxygen tank was running on empty.  My heart thudded erratically in my chest as I searched for someone to replace it. My eyes scanned the surrounding devastation on the crowded corridors. A rotund mound of a woman sprawled out in the trolley, moaning in agony, requesting pain relief. A scrawny tracksuit clad man in his fifties hobbled about shouting obscenities at the top of his lungs. “F THIS FI’N HOSPITAL, F THE F’IN STEW AND THE F’IN NURSES”.  The F’in Nurses in question certainly had their hands full, I did not envy them. It truly was a vocation it would appear.  A spotty toddler sprinted down the aisle unattended, an Asian couple wheeled their wheezing mother around in circles, and a teenage girl sat on the floor crying. Just another night In the A and E.  A nurse responded quickly to replenish the oxygen reserves and I nodded gratefully to her. It would be a long night ahead, and I wanted to ensure that everything was just right.

A couple of hours passed, and I had filled out numerous awkwardly phrased applications, highlighting how organised and efficient I was, how I would be an Asset to X organisation. Frankly right at that moment I felt more akin to a liability, but god loved a trier apparently.  Better than sitting twiddling my thumbs at any rate. January also appeared to be THE month for application deadlines. Not very original but it resonated with resolutions I suppose. We were transferred to the Special Care Unit to try and prevent overcrowding in the A and E perhaps, and hopefully some other unfortunate soul would now have a trolley. My grans face was puce and crumpled up in the struggle for breath. The woman was a warrior. She always had been.  I felt like a traitor to worry. A doubting Thomas.  She made so many miraculous recoveries that my family had nick named her Lazarus and the doctors in the Pulmonary Unit knew her by name.

 

Beef Stew or Soup? Liquidized or Solid? Mashed or Boiled?”. Jaysus, perhaps my diet would work this year after all. I could see my grans face visibly turn a little paler. She shook her head and croaked how she was parched.  Not even a cup of tea would cure her this time. I slipped the straw under her mask and she sipped weakly, the exertion tiring her. An Elderly man yelped as they inserted a catheter behind the curtain. The woman opposite was lying mouth agape, her chest rising and falling slowly, her eyes wide open and milky white. I shuddered a little and plonked down on the ripped leather chair.

The Doctor approached my gran who was at that moment gasping for breath, her nebulizer omitting a pearly white vapour. “I honestly don’t think I can keep going anymore. I don’t think I want to. I’m really very tired”. A tear rolled down her pale and now withered cheek. I looked away, and excused myself momentarily. I had promised an ice pop. liquidized beef stew would make anyone contemplate death, right? I ran down the numerous flights of stairs, gulping in oxygen with a previously unappreciated ease.  I stood outside in the darkness, staring helplessly at a flickering street lamp, the cold air slicing through me like a knife. I remembered the words of my father, “You’ve gotta stop being so negative and worrying about stupid shit you know. You know anything could happen to you in this life, you are lucky you aren’t sick you know! You could be hit by a bus!”  Sadly, this didn’t change my perspective on life at the time. I just kept my eye out for double decker’s. Both the literal and metaphorical ones.

I returned to the Unit, a slightly melted Solero in my mottled mauve clutches. I spotted her sleeping in the corner, her ragged breathing punctuated by the beeping of a Hitech oxygen machine. My grans R2D2 like saviour. I stroked her hand as she slept, feeling the navy tracery of her rope like veins beneath her paper-thin skin. The stark realisation about the fragility of life transcended upon me. Everyone in the room was struggling for breath. They were all roughly my grans age or older. They had made it to their seventies and lived to tell the tale. They were all once infants crawling about on all fours exploring the world, or unencumbered youths like me. Then in a flash they landed here in this undignified position. Silently suffering. (or in the case of Margaret not so silently) Yet they were the lucky ones! Shit, aging is not for the faint hearted. This modern extended life span comes at a cost. All of these people were once faking it and making it, presumably a range of professions, raising the families that now crowded their bedsides. Now money, status and glory meant nothing.  In that room it defined nobody. We were all just earth dwellers sharing that moment. Perhaps awaiting some divine judgement in the future or fading into blackness… The honest truth was frighteningly refreshing.

I chatted to granny once more. Telling her about another god-awful date I had endured and savouring her company. I remembered the imaginary rivers I waded through in her kitchen, or the numerous bubbles I blew at the sink. I felt so blessed, lucky and grateful.  Just then the Nurse sent me packing. It was getting late and she said I could return in the morning. Just in case tomorrow never came I plumped up the pillows and tucked her in. “Snug as a bug in a rug”. Gran smiled and closed her eyes. I vowed to take nothing for granted ever again.

 

Advertisements

Lessons one can Learn from loss

 
I shifted uncomfortably on the wooden bench facing the alter. Two nuns nodded to me smiling, walking in unison up the aisle. My hands were trembling slightly from the cold and the potential thoughts of reading at the podium. It had been so long since I had been to mass, I was surprised I didn’t spontaneously combust whilst crossing the threshold. This was a different sort of ceremony however. It was in commemoration of all those that had died within the past year in my local area. I had lost someone dear to me, like all the other unfortunate victims in the room. I could hear my granny whispering prayers behind me, searching for some sort of relief. It wasn’t the natural order of things for a mother to lose her son. Death grasped my father like a merciless thief in the night, and it had shocked and stunned us all. No one is ever prepared for loss though. Not really. Even though death is one of life’s only certainties I was naive enough to think it could never strike my family, least of all my father. I am sure I was not the only one in the room to believe that to be so.

Although I wasn’t a spiritual person I was searching for answers, a solution, or some form of comfort. Oddly even knowing that others in the room could relate to my family’s unfortunate predicament brought me some peace. I listened sadly to the priest reciting the names from the list of lost loved ones, and suffered a horrible jolt to the heart when my dads name was called. It was then a voluntary worker from the Irish hospice, Brian Nolan, rose to speak at the altar. He smiled sadly at the mournful crowd, and began his speech about loss. I can honestly say it changed my perspective on life, love and loss completely.

The first thing he mentioned was how difficult it can be to speak to others about grief, how hard it can be to remain hopeful in the face of adversity and despair. He discussed the icy feelings of Isolation one can succumb to with grief. Feeling like you are the only one in the world that could be shouldering such a burden. I remembered my father’s funeral, seeing cars passing by, and pedestrians on the path chattering. My friends had arrived and taken me for a jaunt in the car. I could hear the echo of my own laughter in my head. How was I laughing? How was I even breathing? I wondered how the world kept turning when our family had been obliterated. My friends had been incredibly kind to me throughout, but the harsh truth was that life went on. Myself and my family were trapped in a glass bowl of grief. We circled lost, like sad little goldfish at the hands of some vindictive owner. I watched the world pass by but I didn’t feel like I was part of it. Like actors taking part in a nightmarish production, we felt like it was all happening to someone else. Now I know that everyone in the room that night probably felt the same.

He highlighted how the feeling of loss was accentuated during the festive season. Everyone in the Church, was facing their first Christmas, with an empty seat that would never be filled. A lump rose in my throat when my mind travelled back to last Christmas. When our house had been filled with life and laughter. Things were better than ever with my father’s business, and we could all see his elation when he produced the latest gadgets and gizmos for the family. I had never seen anyone so content. I know at the time I probably didn’t appreciate it. I took those around me for granted in a way, assuming they would be there forever. Now I know I could never do that again.

Another poignant issue raised was how you must learn to deal with different aspects of life alone. For some in the room it was the loss of a housekeeper, a breadwinner, a lover, or a friend. For myself my father was my guide. I had never made a decision without him. Now in my twenties, a time of chopping and changing I felt like I needed him more than ever. I recalled back to my examinations, trying desperately to scribble down answers, my brain cloaked in a shock filled fug. It would be the first time I would face failure without him. I stared over at the young woman beside me, who was crying silently, and wondered whom she had lost. We were all suffering together, like soldiers at war. I revelled in that feeling of special solidarity.
I came home that afternoon and reflected upon the lessons that could be learnt from loss. Was there anything one could gain from this personal pain? Here are some of the take home lessons I took home from Mr Nolan’s speech that night, and from travelling along the winding path of grief.

Firstly, I vowed to appreciate my life and the gifts that were given to me with a vigour I had not previously possessed. I was accustomed to submerging myself, like a melancholy hippo, in the murky waters of negativity. I would try my utmost now to not take anything, or anybody for granted.

Secondly, I learnt to become more resilient. M Scott Peck, in his novel “the road less travelled” reckoned that we all need to understand that life, as well as being wonderful, could also be hard and unfair. I now accepted that life contained a series of obstacles to overcome, punctuated by brief moments of Joy. Once you can appreciate this for what it is, and accept some things happen for no apparent reason, you can face challenges without wallowing in self- pity. You can truly enjoy the good times, and tolerate the bad.

Thirdly I realised what a major role friends and family played throughout life in general. I was blessed with mine. Even when I felt that they couldn’t relate to my own circumstances it was great to know that they were there for me when I needed them. I also learnt that everyone shoulders their own burdens, and the human mind is an intricate and complicated thing. They might not have understood my pain, but I learnt that I shouldn’t expect them to. Perhaps I did not know about, or understand theirs. I also realised if I was in their shoes I couldn’t have related to my circumstances either. I was incredibly lucky to have one friend, who knew I had fallen on hard times financially. He set me up with a temporary job and I now have a simply amazing employer!

Lastly, I learnt the fundamental importance of acceptance. Acceptance of yourself and of other people. You can’t put a timeline on mourning, or force yourself to be ok now because society, or other people don’t feel comfortable around your grief. Everyone processes loss in a different way so its best to be kind to yourself and the people around you.

I sat at my Christmas party in work, surrounded by merriment, listening to music and excited conversation. I felt a mixture of things. I felt tremendously grateful to be encircled by such kind supportive people. I experienced a heightened sense of belonging and inclusion, and a slight twinge sadness that I couldn’t share my newfound joy with the man I missed most. I looked at the twinkling lights and felt a burst of hope. My boss said we couldn’t remain stuck in the past, but we must move forward in search of a better future. Dad invested so much time In all of his children. It would be a disservice to his memory if we didn’t really give life a go. We all only get one shot at life. It’s all gone in a flash. He didn’t get that opportunity.
I want to see the world through his eyes, he was always curious and eager to learn new things. I yearn to embody his love of learning.
I want to hear through his ears. My sister is an amazing pianist. She plays exactly like him.. Every time I hear her songs my heart beats with his pride.
He lives on within me and my siblings. I aim to enjoy every moment of happiness.
Appreciate every success.
Learn from every failure.
Love with all my heart.
Be the best version of myself that I can be.
I’m not choosing to do it solely for him… I’m doing it for me.

“No man is an island” – advice from my father

I had confided in my father about almost every issue that arose in my simple life. Dilemmas  I had encountered revolving around exams and studying, career advice, and relationships.  I trusted him with all of my being, his advice was golden. I followed along blindly down the path he had paved for me, spoon feeding me like some form of stunted infant. Decisions bothered me. They overwhelmed me and I often felt a little bit like I needed to be programmed. That I needed a simple answer, without the internal monologue.. without the fear of potential error. Essentially, and I’m ashamed to admit it, I wanted someone to make everything ok, as if all of the answers to lifes problems could be neatly gift wrapped, and boxed away.. I think although perhaps he thought he was doing the right thing in protecting his soft daughter from potential danger ,and directing her down the correct route, it had left me a little weak.  I am trying everything to finally take my first steps towards independent thinking, towards a life with little, to no reliance on one person, but I’m finding it incredibly difficult. I feel like a wounded bambi, learning to walk with bullets implanted in his buckling legs.

I think thus it would benefit me greatly if I could endeavour to recreate some of our precious moments, if I could recall every word uttered from his mouth, to be stored for later use. So that when I feel lost, that I can summon up those comforting pep talks. Like a sheep in a storm, bleating desperately for his shepard, I seek his guidance!Where are you now dad ? I can’t hear you anymore..

His words are laced with pain for me now, but I am a woman on a mission, and it simply can not be completed without my fathers nuggets of wisdom..his kindness, his great patience and humor.  I shall never forget him, and now as the heart flutters frantically in my chest, I will conjure him up before me.. I hope through my writing, through the stories told by his friends and family, that part of him shall remain alive. For how could he be wiped from the earth? How could I possibly survive if he was gone? He created me in his own image, his thoughts reverberate in my skull.. He gave me life, and hope and enabled me to flourish. He isn’t gone.. He lives within me, and my siblings, in particular my brother Sam.. I’ve seen him cock his head in a curious fashion, his stance the same, familiar gestures.. The same dry humor. I feel less afraid. I think I can still cope when remnants of him linger. Remnants that go far beyond the physical body that remains behind. For a man as great as my father, could not simply be reduced to a mound of blackened ash.  With that in mind, I shall recreate this memory as best as I can! This conversation is based around love, and how to pick oneself up when you lose someone special.

We sat down on the brown leather couches facing one another.. Sunlight filtered into the room, highlighting specks of dust..  Dust swirled around us, as if we were joint figurines encased in a christmas themed snow globe. Dad sighed, cupping his mug of coffee in his hands.. Perhaps he was warming his own hands, as he often distinctly refused to turn on the heating.  ” Do you think I work for the ESB?!”, he’d often ask, a look of incredulous disbelief on his face, if one of us dared to crank up the heating during the day. “Did yeh ever hear of a jumper no?”

Dad I’m really scared. I feel like the stuffing has been knocked out of me. I’m scared I won’t ever meet anyone else.. This really hurts dad. I feel so betrayed. It really really hurts“. Dad sighed but smiled up at me, adjusting his navy turtle neck which now hangs in my wardrobe.

Do yeh really think you won’t find anyone? there are billions and billions of people out there. This one soul thing? crock of shit. People end up with people due to circumstance, or maybe they can just tolerate one person more than others. You just have to find someone who isn’t an arsehole. You’d be better off alone than with an arsehole right? standards have to be very high at all times. They say no man is an island right? But I am. Hell is other people. You have to learn to be happy in your own company.  You’l find someone out there. Just sort yourself out first. sign up to the gym, meet up with your mates, and get your exams! This will all work out, you just have to keep a positive attitude at all times.  You’ve everything going for you. The world at your feet! Just go for it”. 

But dad, what about him do you think I could maybe salvage a friendship ?” The thought of losing the man I had met when I was still a kid terrified me. He was the safety net that shielded me from the storm. Once another prominent figure in my life.

You shouldn’t want one.. and it isn’t possible, much too awkward.. You need to cut your losses and walk away..”  I mentally prepared myself to walk away and cried gently. My dad wrapped his arms round me. “Jessie, it will all be ok trust me.. This is definitely for the best?! who wants to be stuck out in the middle of nowhere feeding cattle anyway? Not what you wanted i presume. Never settle”. 

I closed my heart to the memories. I vowed never to speak to him again. I thought about my fathers words. I let them sink in. So love should be assessed on a scale of compatability? To put it simply, although most people would let you down on some levels, there would be some you could tolerate more than others.  It was a matter of shopping around, discovering new people as you stumble along, allowing each experience to enrich your life, bringing you when step closer to a person that could be tolerated better than all of the others. I was ready to try! I was ready to put my best foot forwards.

So what about friendships to be salvaged? I felt my heart rip in two, as i deleted messages, threw away presents, cut off communication.. I thought I knew him, but as my dad reminded me, nobody ever knows anyone. Not fully.

I felt like the pain would never leave me. It was worse than a death I thought! Here I was, I was still me, I never changed.. I saw it coming he said.  He was right, I had . Why did it still hurt then? I think it was because a fondness remained. Fondness mixed with fear. Friendship is a reassuring consolation prize.. Something could be salvaged from the ashes?  I knew he felt this too. We were not strangers. We were not monsters. Why not hang on? why let go when the nature of the relationship was so intimate. So precious.. we spoke to each other sometimes, to my fathers displeasure.  I think we both wanted to help each other through it, but barriers had been built. Barriers that could never once crumble, or god help us.. it would lead to the destruction of our progress. Regression was not the answer. So what was then ?

JUST CUT IT OFF, YOU KNOW WHAT YOU HAVE TO DO”. Although I thought this seemed like such a harsh response I knew my father was correct.  Every conversation would be filled with forced politeness, bitter anger. They would both reignite hope and insult intelligence. On his side it would invoke guilt, on my side shame. Intentions could be misread. Just like they were so many years ago, when we met up under the false pretence of friendship, only to lock lips with one another in a secluded garden of our university.

Trying to be friends would be a last desperate and crude attempt at memorialising a relationship of fundamental importance. Alas friendship is not faithful to love, it is a disservice to the intimate nature of our joint past. An ex would not be a friend but a willing torturer..  Companionship would reignite hope, cause self doubt and frustration. It would be bitter sweet. Pleasure laced with pain.

The answer was not to attempt a farcical friendship but to maintain a mutual civil distance.  There would be an assurance that the relationship would live on, in the confines of our minds. I cried as I let go.. I pictured the termination of the relationship akin to a  balloon being released into space.. soaring higher and higher, and taking with it the pain, the hurt and the horrific sadness that consumed me.

I opened my heart to others. The odd flirty swipe on tinder. The occasional smooch in the dark corners of a shady pub.  I learnt to let go. I learnt to stand on my own two feet, and with each exciting, albeit somewhat strange, romantic encounter I learned a little more about myself.  What I liked in a person, and what I didn’t. I had fun, I also felt pain. I shared the funnier aspects with my father, some of my more crazy dates. “Tell that Bastid your dad is influential in the fist industry”. ( I will save the details of this sordid affair to another time.)

The shattering of that relationship allowed me to become a much stronger character. Someone who could withstand an immense loss and continue to bravely trust. Someone who was able to understand although it was about us, it wasn’t in fact personal. It was nobodies fault. It was the right decision. Coming to that conclusion took a great amount of time, months in fact.. But when I did I felt a deep pride well within me. I could see it in my fathers face, as I passed my solicitor exams, got fitter, stronger and braver.

Your’e getting better, I can tell!”. He was right, of course.

I Had empowered myself once more.

I had learned to let go.

“In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks..” Dedicated to dad..

So as you may have gathered from the title my father was a bit of a naturalist. It probably resonated from his passion for biology, and the fact he had his science,biology and molecular pathology degrees etc ..The list goes on.

Anyway he always tried to instill the love of wildlife in all of his offspring and he was particularly thrilled when my youngest sister Beth returned home from school with her first ever nature project.

Dad was ecstatic at the prospect of flaunting his newly self constructed bird house, which stood precariously in the center of the small garden, both lopsided and flimsy.  His DIY skills were,and always had been,exceptionally poor. I recall the broken frame of my bed being held together by a towel and supported by bricks that had been retrieved from the back garden.

“Jessica listen to me now, do not roll on this, or move to much on this. Stay to the left and the middle of the mattress if possible. There is some sticky tape there if you have any issues yeah?”

I remember clinging desperately to the edge of that dreaded mattress, like a sailor on a broken raft during typhoon season.  I thought spitefully of those morons who stated that money couldn’t buy happiness. I would be pretty god dam happy with a new bed that was for certain.

The wooden bird house was constructed utilizing similar methods. Unfortunate Sparrows entered cautiously and at their own peril but were amply rewarded for their troubles.  My father had bought every possible brand and variety of Bird seed. Obesity became a prevalent problem within the tightly knit sparrow circle of Marino. So Rotund had the local sparrows become, that the Bird house creaked beneath them. Their little wings struggled to carry them. My father did not seem to be satisfied until each sparrow was fattened within an inch of its life. He got a great buzz out of stuffing them to the brim. Those brave puffed up popinjay minions, who managed to enter the birdhouse of horrors unscathed, deserved star treatment.

“Look how big and fat they are!” He said, a broad grin splayed across his face. He seemed to desire them to be bigger…fatter…. and for them to spread the word to all their friends. Sure enough, soon our garden was a popular destination for swarms of neighborhood sparrows. Our garden, to my slight discomfort, was black with them.

Dad had the novel idea of recording some of them for Beth’s nature project  The duo stood at the window excitedly anticipating the influx of birds, camera’s and binoculours at the ready.  Dad was slightly disappointed as very few sparrows seemed to appear in his moment of need.

” They have got too used to luxury brands, they are just normal nuts Beth, and they don’t like them half as much. Anyway take a few photos of that chap there, he’s a regular here”.

Beth complied, taking various photos of one hefty dozy looking sparrow. All of a sudden the nearby bush appeared to rustle and shake violently. Beth and dad both stopped what they were doing and stared in unison.  A humongous hawk emerged from the foliage, claws at the ready, his beak razor sharp. His amber eyes scanned the garden and he spotted the vulnerable sparrow with apparent ease.  The rippling sparrow puffed and panted trying desperately to spread his wings and fly to safety. The hawk was much too quick, and nose dived down upon the unfortunate creature, with the accuracy of a boeing jet. The sparrow was snatched up and carried away, to be devoured at a later time.

“THEY’VE JUST GONE OUT TO PLAY BETH, THEY ARE GREAT PALS THOSE TWO MADZERS”. Beth’s face had drained of all color, she was pale as snow white in her coffin.

“Are you sure dad?” Dad frantically nodded, smiling like a cheshire cat, beads of perspiration forming in the furrows of his brow.

Needless to say Beth’s project, to dads greatest pleasure, was one of the most interesting in the class.  Natural selection in action.

The phantom of the Opera

The Phantom of the opera

Dedicated to dad

I have spent most my life feeling a little bit “different” to other people. I think this was mostly due to over sensitivity on my part, which presumably originated from being molly coddled as a child. Either way often, I would be found anxiously wringing my hands, worrying about whether I had offended X, bothered Y, or whether Z liked my company or did he tolerate me out of politeness.

This lifestyle was completely exhausting for both myself, and those around me who had to endure my frantic blubbering. When I wasn’t panicking, I was deeply saddened by the supposed actions of others. How could X have acted in this way? Why are people so selfish? I was akin to an angry little quasi modo, trapped in his bell tower, staring at the ant like people down below, shaking a deformed fist in anger. Well l was like Quasi before he got laid by that rambunctious curly haired gypsy with the hoop earrings… So basically, a bitter quasi modo, minus the gypsy companion / friendly gargoyles.

My tired father was forced to tolerate my numerous tyrannical speeches about how X had stabbed me in the back, or Y was a faker, or that Z couldn’t be trusted. My life would appear to be akin to a Shakespearean drama, Julius Caesar eat your heart out! In fairness to me, he did slightly encourage the growing mistrust I had of people around me. I am not sure why he had become so hard hearted and cynical over the last few years of his life.. I guess life had, dealt him an unfair hand on occasions. Running your own business Couldn’t have been easy, and he shouldered a lot of these burdens on his own.

The two of us had sat down to our routine morning coffee before I voiced my concerns.

“Dad I’m worried about something, I always feel a bit different to other people, like I’m not quite fitting in or something.” Dad took a sip out of his coffee and looked up thoughtfully at me.

Do you want to be like other people? A little sheep ? Hell is other people remember that”.  The truth was I did want to be a sheep, especially if that sheep was highly intelligent, and competitive, with a massive training contract in a top firm. I could picture groups of affluent sheep together, in black suits and ties, polishing their Calvin Klein hooves, brandishing leather briefcases.

I just feel a bit isolated or something, I think it’s because I haven’t a job yet.” I had tolerated taunting long before I ever embarked upon my college Journey. Poor dad knew of these stories, he knew too much.

Other people don’t think like you, you probably won’t end up in one of those firms, not because you are incapable, but I can’t see you working in a little cubicle every day like that. I couldn’t stick that you know. It depends what you are like as a person. For example, your mother in the civil service will do her nine to five job, clock in clock out, have a regular pay package, nice little pension, some people like all that shit. BUT you must be ready to embrace change, because that’s the modern world now. Your Opportunities will come you just have to be ready for them”.

I reflected upon this for a while and felt a little bit better about the current situation, but the word vomit kept coming “I always feel like I’m out of my depth, like everyone else there is much smarter than me, but I’m unfortunately intelligent enough to be able to realize this, like I can’t avail of the blissful ignorance that comes with stupidity”. Dad sighed.

You do know that everyone is playing a game, don’t you? It’s all a big game. So even if you feel that way inside, on the outside you must try and big yourself up.  You’re in the big league now. The people you’re hanging about with will probably be running the country in the next few years, so now you gotta play ball.”

I reflected more upon this. I realized the error in my ways. I had dug my own grave with the people around me, in the sense that I had acted overtly honestly, but in a self-deprecating way. Handing those around me the jokes they could make at my expense, wearing my heart on my sleeve like an idiot.

I think I’m probably too honest dad”.  Dad smiled wearily. “I think you probably are too. Nobody is honest out there, everyone is wearing a mask, you got to do a bit of acting, why do you think I sent you to so many drama lessons as a kid?”

I thought about all the people around me. Confident, cool, bright and breezy. Distant and surface. Could they too possibly be thinking as I do? Everyone has problems, a lot of peoples worse than mine. If everyone were to be disconcertingly honest then the world would come to an abrupt halt. Our every interaction would be filled with raw visceral emotion and uncomfortable home truths. It would be disastrous. So rather than lamenting the loss of brevity, and pointing the finger, like a prepubescent Holden Caulfield, accusing those around me of being “Phonies”, I reflected inwardly. It was a fault in my own wiring that I was emotional as I was. I was hurt easily because of an inability to protect myself, and a childlike naivety. It was only after my father’s death, that I finally saw this clearly and placed the responsibility back on myself. I realised the affect my words had on other people. Words are an exceptionally powerful tool in building one’s own reputation, or could be utilised as a dangerous weapon of mass destruction in dismantling one’s integrity. As my father often told me your reputation and integrity are two of the most important things in life.

Unfortunately, not everyone can handle crude honesty, and it is of the utmost importance that the person you choose to share your most intimate thoughts with can A. handle them and B. has earned this privilege over time. There are very few people like this and my father was one of them. I was lucky to have had someone special like that for the twenty-four years that I did! You only meet people like him once in a life time.

I have come away from this as a reformed character, with the ability to assess situations with a greater sense of clarity.  Becoming so emotionally invested and entangled in the opinions of others would do me no favours. You can’t be reliant on other people to build you up, or to be consistently understanding. It is not their duty, and it would not be healthy for your own sense of independence. The way I now view the world is through the eyes my father. Accepting of human nature, of my own disposition and those around me. Certain walls would have to be constructed, and certain barriers built. This does not mean withdrawing from the world and enduring the isolated life style of a monk, but it means acting with a distinct level of decorum, and showing certain self-restraint.

I thank god for the numbness that follows death, as I am no longer overcome by the overwhelming need to placate others, and I am no stranger to goodbyes. “You should never be afraid to walk”, dad had said, and there are many situations I should have departed from much sooner. Like the phantom of the Opera I shall put on a mask, and integrate into society, bound by a newly found Teflon coating.

 

My father is in my heart, his words reverberate in my being, his teachings I carry with me. I am surrounded by his memory. My siblings carry him with them too. With that in mind I know that we’ll be ok. I will advance up several levels in this game of life, till my day of reckoning comes. For the moment survival is key and the short-term goal of moving out of my aunties living room should be first and foremost in my mind 😃 .

Mr invincible – Dedicated to dad

Dad
MR INVINCIBLE

Sunday the 19th of February
I remember that day vividly.. It was just like any other Sunday. I was riddled with exam related anxiety, pacing the sitting room floor, my stomach churning. Dad sat in the sitting room, pounding on the keys of his battered laptop with vigour, working on presumably another new proposal. His newly bought square framed spectacles rested on the slope of his miniscule nose. He possessed a highly unusual fashion sense, one of the very few men I knew that could pull of a slightly crumpled shirt, a blazer with elbow pads, and still look fashionable. I sighed, and shuffled in circles around the kitchen, watching the sparrows fight over the last few remnants of bird feed left in the cracked container.
You know those sparrows are actually getting fatter by the minute, I’m probably not doing them any favours, I know their favourite brand and all! “Do you want a coffee? I’m Like a barista now, I’m thinking of growing my hair into one of those little man buns”.
His slipper clad shuffle reverberated through the kitchen as he made his final coffee’s with his much loved machine. He had acquired the knack of making the perfect coffee, from the foam levels, to bean variety, everything was catered for. It was one of our favourite things to do, sit back and slurp coffee, talking about anything and everything. Dad now possessed the coffee machine he had always desired, a new television and his new fitbit “To monitor me sitting back and watching telly”.

This of course was very far from the truth, for never had I seen a man so passionate about his business, so bursting with vigorous enthusiasm, wanting to singlehandedly change the world. He dedicated his life to helping others, manufacturing medical devices for the earliest detection of numerous diseases. He was also involved in the marketing proposals to assist in the mass manufacturing of several other new products, and painstakingly reviewed hundreds upon hundreds of proposals and prototypes. Finally things were coming into fruition, falling into place. I had never seen him so happy.
My brother Sam and I sat on the couch beside him, as he flicked through his Spotify playlist on the large flat screen television. I frowned at him and told him in no uncertain terms how I was feeling. “I Can’t do it dad, there’s so much stuff to learn, five exams in three weeks, I’m doomed. What’s the point at this stage anyway, I still haven’t a job”.
Dad smiled at me whilst searching Spotify for motivational hits. “You always say this every time, yet you have always delivered! If I was a betting man I’d bet on you. Just go get ‘em give it your best shot and sure if it doesn’t work out you can always repeat can’t you. Quit worrying all the time will yeh?!” Sam requested “Eye of the tiger” and we both embarrassingly leapt around the sitting room, karate kicking to the beat. Dad laughed along with us, playing ACDC, Guns n roses, and panic at the disco (for my sisters benefit only )

When the sitting room emptied he played the music of his new favourite pianist chilly Gonzalles. “I like this one white keys, what do you think ?He plays only on the white keys but I like the melody. You know sometimes when I’m stressed I like to close my eyes and just listen to the sound of the Piano. Here you try it there now, I’m telling you it works!” He paused momentarily to gulp slightly cold coffee from a white chipped mug. “You need to stop comparing yourself to everyone else, remember the leaving cert? Yeh Beat them all! Believe in yourself.”I closed my eyes along with my father listening, feeling slightly less anxious. I linked the song on to other FE1 victims, maybe they would find it helpful too. I knew my dad was behind me, believing in me, when nobody else would. I knew I could do it.
The day passed slowly, I was chained to the desk in my sister Beth’s room making my way through pages upon pages of company law. We had our last supper together. Dad wasn’t all that hungry and wasn’t a fan of the desert. The family made their final outing to the beach, my father signalled through the car window that I should hop in. I had so much work I couldn’t afford to go. I wish with all my heart I had gone now.
They returned home around sixish. We huddled together in the sitting room, watching a program about some unfortunate hoarders in Florida, with a love of newspaper clippings and an unbecoming familiarity with racoon droppings. “There sure is heck is some racoons under them papers”. Dad had been gone a while..
An unusual sound seemed to be coming from upstairs, it sounded oddly like loud snoring. We all laughed wondering whether dad had fallen asleep, my brother bounded up the stairs to check. The sinister sound grew much louder, the sound of raspy rugged breaths, akin to a bear that had been speared in the lungs.
“DAD. DAAAD DAAAAAD”. My brother was shouting, my mother sprinted up the stairs desperately trying to break down the bathroom door to clutch my father who was slumped over the toilet grunting and screaming. I stood still as a statue, rooted to the spot, watching everything happen, aware only of the fast pace of my heart. I could barely breathe.
The house seemed to suddenly fill with people, neighbours, guards, para medics. All I could hear were the loud screams echoing down the hall. I was told to call the doctor, that it was an emergency. I did so with shaking hands. An hour passed slowly, the screaming seemed to subside. My brother clung to me with one hand, clutching his chest with the other. “Is dad going to die?
No of course not. Mr invincible could not die. We could not exist without him, it wouldn’t be possible. I could not exist without him, we were interconnected, he did my thinking for me, we shared the same thoughts most of the time. He kept the family together. “Of course not Sam, its Dad, and he’s only a young man, they are going to look after him!
When I witnessed him being carried down the stairs, bound to that stretcher I wasn’t so sure of myself. His arms hung loosely by his side, his head lolled back, the face expressionless. Like a puppet whose strings had been cut loose, his limbs flailed about. He looked through me, his eyes wide and glazed over. I waved frantically. “DA IT’S ME, ITS YOUR JESSIE”,

He could hear or see no-one. I took one final look at his stupefied expression as the ambulance doors were closed. I watched it pull slowly out of the drive and disappear round the bend, taking my poor father away from the home he had created for us. Sadly it would be the last journey he made. Mr invincible had fallen from his pedestal.

Gulliver and Gilligan part three: “Welcome Home.”

Gulliver pressed ahead with his somewhat pompous speech with grim determination. He ended on a jovial note, some tripe about how they were all connected by a common thread and had all impacted upon the legal world in bright and innovative ways. Gilligan swayed from foot to foot, and stared up at the podium through bleary bloodshot eyes. His scornful gaze burnt into a trembling Gulliver, who was consumed by a strange form of guilt and shame. He descended down from the podium and walked across the atrium where Gilligan sat cross legged on the floor, clasping an empty bottle of whiskey close to his chest.

“Gilligan what has become of you my friend.. why are you consumed by such bitterness. This is not you”.

“Fuck off Gulliver. ” Gulliver sighed and attempted to hoist him up under the armpits. “PISS OFF AND LEAVE ME ALONE “. Gilligan vomited profusely, his whole body succumbing to bouts of trembling . Gulliver sat him down, mopping his fevered brow with a silken handkerchief. “It’s ok Gill, come on home with me there’s the chap “.  Gilligan reluctantly allowed a sombre Gulliver to escort him to his car, which was conveniently parked outside of the law school.  They drove in silence along the long winding roads, listening to the clackety  rattling of the engine.

“Jesus Gulliver with the money you are on you think you would invest in a better vehicle then this?!” Gulliver smiled thoughtfully “Could be an idea Gill, maybe you could hep me find one”. Gilligan scoffed and pressed his face against the cold glass of the window. Little drops of condensation dampened his wild and unruly mop of hair. He grunted and regretfully fell into a deep slumber.

Upon arrival the car juddered to a halt. Gulliver gently shook Gilligan’s shoulder till he had awoken fully.  “We’re here now Gilligan, do you need help getting out there?” Gilligan shook him off angrily “I’m not a charity case I’m fine”. They walked up the cobblestone driveway in silence.  Gulliver fumbled in his blazer pockets till he found the golden key.  The lock omitted a strange clinking sound as the mahogany door swung open. Gilligan stepped inside looking around in wonder and awe at the elaborate dining room, the long winding staircase furnished with ivy, the ginormous bookshelves lined with hefty hardbacks. “FUCK ME !YOU HAVE LANDED ON YOUR FEET”.  He collapsed down on the leather recliner, rubbing a bleary eye with his curled fist.  Gulliver smiled forlornly and patted Gilligan’s curled up fist . “What ails you Gill?is it financial? do you need a loan?”. Gilligan sighed “Is it ever not financial ?! No I just don’t see a fucking point to anything anymore. Laura’s gone. My house is up for sale. My life is a fucking Joke. To be honest I’d do myself in now only I heard hell was pretty hot. You recall how much i hated that class trip to Cyprus”.  Gulliver knelt down beside him, and looked up at him through polished spectacles. “Well Gill you can stay here as long as you like. I’ve been searching for a lodger. can be awfully monotonous up here by myself. As for death…how about we make a pact? let’s just say each morning we shall check on each other and ensure each other’s survival”. Gilligan looked up at him perplexed, his ashen face creased in confusion. “How do you mean?”. Gulliver smiled “Well i’ll pop my head in the door and politely inquire on whether you have succumbed to the reapers deathly grasp. Have you killed yourself yet Gilligan? and hopefully you will respond that you simply didn’t get round to it at the moment and that you will last till the evening time.”. Gilligan stared, his eyes wide with shock. Then he broke out into peals of raucous laughter, which reverberated through the room. “Oh that is some seriously twisted shit right there Gully boy”. Gulliver smiled, “Quite… and i will expect it to be reciprocated. Goodnight old boy. we shall talk more tomorrow”. He flicked off the light switch. Gilligan rolled over on the couch , his pain numbed somewhat by the alcohol. He wanted to cry but felt he hadn’t the energy. He curled up into the foetal position and was haunted once again by Laura. He could almost hear her whisper goodnight, smell the faint aroma of perfume.He hugged his knees tightly and stared into the darkness, allowing it to consume him once more. He had never felt so alone in all of his life.