The art of letting go

The art of letting go

Whilst clearing out my wardrobe yesterday I unearthed a dusty yellow Box. It was bursting to the brim with childhood paraphernalia. Signed Journals, musty diaries lined with teenage angst, letters from Pen pals overseas. These were the tattered remnants of a carefree youth. Relationships that I believed were indissoluble, and circumstances that I thought would never change.  I felt an acute sense of sadness and loss.  What had happened to that smiling child with the furry caterpillar brows, and unfortunate bowl haircut? I yearned for the time when life made perfect sense. The time when the biggest concerns that plagued me revolved around getting my braces tightened, or my declining popularity levels.

I fondly recalled that time of safety and security. Some friendships had admittedly formulated on foundations of convenience. Unified by simply being in the same place, at the same time.  Or forced to succumb to social segregation by necessity. The battle between nerds and popular kids has been ongoing since the dawn of time. Usually your tribal instincts kicked in, and you choose a side to prevent potential ostracism. I knew exactly what to expect. Every problem could be categorised and filed away for “the grown-ups” to deal with.  I assumed once you hit eighteen, your fears and insecurities dissolved. That your thoughts instantly became more mature, and that tracker mortgages would suddenly become fascinating.

It was all so terrifying. Why wasn’t this change occurring right now? Why did I feel like a shrunken baby in a suit? Why did this briefcase seem out of place on my person? I was nothing more than a fraudster. An imposter within my own skin.  That feeling overwhelmed me upon graduation. When we were forcibly ejected from the college cannon, smashing into reality at a ferocious speed. I would now be solely accountable for my actions.

The ghosts of my past haunted me.  I succumbed to the sadness, and regrettably wallowed in it. I lost sleep over faded friendships and lost security. I mourned the loss of the past so much I forgot to live in the present. For the first time in my life, I had time to step back.  Time to soak up the stillness. Time to Observe the frantic rush of the herd, in the stampede towards success, and just breath. To just be me, and to figure out what the hell that meant anyway.

It was only travelling to work, on my first day, that this realisation sunk in. I relished the moment. I felt the crisp morning breeze against my skin, and quietly observed the busy bustle of Dublin City on a Monday Morning.  I heard the Liffey waters lapping, the honking of horns, and the chirpy chattering of exchange students.  I gazed up to the Heineken building, its luminous green light shining, a beacon of hope on the horizon.

This was it! The city was mine for the taking! I was finally autonomous in every sense of the word!

I was Jessica McCarthy, law graduate.

I was no longer bound by rules, regulations or conventions.

I had learnt the art of Letting go.

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The Man behind the mask

14222187_1170894642985788_867287894220647690_n (1)The Man behind the Mask

Ok Ten minutes is far too long… go again. This time I want a bit more oomph as well”.

I clambered up on the rickety stool, this time without the aid of a smudged scrawl. He started the timer, and I did my utmost not to stutter out my Mareva Injunction application.  Public speaking was one of my biggest fears, ranking above bad tinder dates or spiders.  He knew this, but still had an unwavering belief in me. It warmed me to my very core. Suddenly, I embodied the great Larkin at Lockout, waving my arms about with passion. That Mareva was mine. There would be no defendants disposing of assets on my watch.

It will all stand to you Jess trust me”.  I never doubted him either.

Through the numerous exams, from secondary school to college, he was there pushing me on. My side kick on the side-lines. Calling me after exams. Booking hotel rooms for cramming. Being my personal chauffeur during dire drives to the RDS. Cheering me on, right to the finishing line. I remember his face on graduation, shining with pride.

When I was finally expelled into the real world and flailing like a fish out of water, he was there. When I slumped sadly over my desk, after receiving some rejection for X or Y, he was ready and waiting. I had almost memorized his motivational marathons, yet they still brought me the greatest comfort. Life was just luck, being in the right place at the right time, that failure paved the way to success, that it was not personal. I had a propensity to take a negative outlook on life.

I would happily anticipate my weekends. Himself and the kids eagerly waiting at the bus stop. There would be coffee chats in the morning, reflections on life that I would soak up like a sponge. Some pessimistic, others simply fascinating. Afternoons were for snacking and Netflix. I used to make the toast and he had a signature hot chocolate that the whole family loved.  We would stay up late, my mother banging on the ceiling due to the racket we were making.

When Breaking Bad came out, during the holiday season, neither of us dressed for the guts of a week. Our diet consisted mainly of cornflakes and shared Easter eggs. It was ridiculously reckless and involved a massive clean up before mum arrived home.  “The M50 clean-up”, aged us both horrifically.

He was renowned for his crappy DIY skills, furniture tied together by towels, and lopsided bird houses were a speciality. Also, for a man who didn’t care for cars, he went through a lot of them. Each breaking down at inopportune moments, causing him to curse and purchase “Mechanics for Dummies”. It helped him very little.

It was only when he was gone that we realized just how much he did for us all. Every decision made, every crisis avoided, every situation that arose was referred to him by the family. Like an odd system of checks and balances, my Da the chairman of the Upper house.  He had very little time to tend to himself or his own needs. Getting a business up and running, providing for a family of six.  I wish I had helped him more to shoulder that burden.

It was only when we returned to our silent home that it sunk in.  Realization hit us like a truck on the free-way. We saw his empty armchair, his dust covered coffee machine, his tea stained mug on his chess board.

It became apparent the massive gap he had left in the patch work of our lives. Life appeared to be ripped at the seams.  When I returned home at weekends the car was no longer at the bus stop. There would be no more late-night chattering or early morning coffees.

Ironically you find out a lot more about a person when they die. “The great chap now that he’s dead” speech doesn’t wash with me.  I realised just how tired he must have been, how disillusioned and isolated. Stubborn, proud, and unwilling to share the load. Seamlessly keeping it all together till the show stopped, and the lights dimmed.  A man behind a mask till the very end.

A year on there is a certain finality to matters. An acceptance of the truth, the closing of a chapter, a signature upon a dotted line…The myriad of milestones that lie ahead, are now obstacles to overcome.  Future marriages, graduations and grandchildren without his proud presence. We shall overcome!

I hope some time in the future when I’m older and wiser that I will be able to fondly recollect upon the past without pangs of pain.  That I can tell my own children, with precise clarity, about the grandfather they never met.

The Man behind the mask,

my loving Dad.

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.

 

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.

“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.