The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

Signing Off One Of The Worst Years Of My Life With One Of The Best Things That’s Ever Happened To Me …

So this is the last post of this year.

Yes, I know it’s only the 11th December, but frankly, I can’t wait to see the back of 2015 and I need to spend a few weeks letting out all the angst of the past 12 months so I can start 2016 as I mean to go on.

It’s no exaggeration to say this has been one of the worst years of my life.

Of course, the main reason for that is my wonderful mum passed away.

Having a parent die is always going to be tough … but when that parent is so full of life and – after her operation – expected to blossom, it makes it especially hard.

Alas, things didn’t work out the way they were supposed to and the events of that day on March 9th, still haunt me.

The high hopes.

The precious time together.

The slow, almost torturous, delay in being told any news.

The creeping fear of what may be happening.

The battle between hope and devastation.

The realisation of tragedy.

The hell of loss.

That 5 weeks in England seems like another time. Involving other people.

Recently, I was sent a new credit card from my bank in Australia.

When I opened the envelope, there were 2 cards.

One with my name on it. One with my Mum’s.

I’d forgotten I had given her a supplementary card. Not that she ever used it – getting her to take anything from me was always a struggle – but there it was, with her name embossed on the front.

It affected me deeply.

It was something precious and sad all at the same time.

Despite having organised so many things following her death … things that honoured her legacy, respected her beliefs and gave me a sense of peace for the future … I still feel I haven’t truly grieved.

I need to. I want to. But I’m also scared to.

It took me 10 years to come to terms with my Dad’s loss.

He – nor my Mum – would not want me to experience that duration of pain again, but I feel haunted by her loss … reinforced by the numerous beautiful things my son does that I wish she could see, experience and share. But the fact is she died this year and it casts a dark shadow on how I will look at 2015 for the rest of my life.

But there is a but.

Despite living each day carrying a burden of loss and sadness, there have been moments of sunshine pushing through the clouds.

I find it amazing how the human spirit can still move forwards when you feel everything around you is collapsing.

At first, I almost felt guilty when there were things that I found filled me with joy – as if I was dishonouring my Mum – but I knew in my heart of hearts, it would be something she would want for me.

Despite the utter tragic reasons for it, one of the things I treasure from this year is that I got to spend 5 uninterrupted weeks with my wife and son and my best friend and his wife.

To have that period of time to spend with the most important people in your life is always a gift … to have it at your greatest time of need is almost divine intervention.

To be together – just hanging out – sharing, talking and being an active part of each others lives was something I will always treasure.

By having it … by feeling connected to it … it highlighted how much I miss that interaction. Don’t get me wrong, I utterly love my life and the fact I have lived around the World … but being able to just drive over to my best friends house with my family and just hang was something I feel I’ve not had for 20 years. I felt I belonged. That I was home. That I had come full circle.

And maybe that is why another of my favourite things from 2015 is when Shelly, Paul’s utterly awesome wife – and Otis’ “oddmother” [because we are not religious] – came to visit us in Shanghai.

She was only with us for 2 days, but being together reinforced how much I love her and Paul being close.

It’s brought up a lot of questions for me, things I don’t have the answers to yet … but I feel so lucky that they are in my life.

Talking of ‘in my life’ … another thing my Mum’s passing did was reconnect me to her family.

We were always a relatively ‘independent group’ … my Mum, Dad and me.

That doesn’t mean we had issues with the broader family, just we loved our independence.

But Mum’s passing brought them all into my life again, especially her Italian family … and reconnecting created a connection we have all embraced and nurtured and it feels good.

I cannot tell you how happy I am that Mum’s beloved sister, Silvana, got to hold Otis.

If my Mum tragically didn’t get to do it, I’m so, so glad her sister did.

And then there’s the other stuff that made sure there was a silver lining in a dark year …

Seeing members of my team reach new stages in their life and career … getting one of my colleagues to have a perm … somehow being recognised for being OK at what I do [not to mention, what I don’t do] … finally passing my teacher exams AFTER FIVE BLOODY YEARS … being given a level of support and compassion that reminded me just how special Wieden truly is … meeting old friends, travelling, laughing, feeling loved and cared for by people that stretched much further than I knew or deserved.

And that includes everyone of you who reads or even insults me on this blog.

But there’s 3 people that made sure this year had moments of happiness in them that transcend everyone and everything else.

Rosie my cat.

Jill my wife.

Otis my son.

Without taking anything away from all the people who helped ensure this year was not be as black as it could – or should – have been, those 3 protected, loved and cared for me during every bump in the road.

The big ones and the small.

From the worst moments of my Mum passing … to the hell of the legalities that death forces you to deal with … to the sadness of other situations occurring involving people I care about.

OK, so Rosie did it by being annoying.

Regardless how down I was feeling or sorry for myself, she would miaow as if she was the only one having a hard time.

And while I would never want to tell her this, her selfishness was kind-of lovely. It forced me out of my darkness to sort her out. It gave my brain an excuse to focus on something else.

The other person is my wonderful wife, Jill.

I have no idea – no idea at all – what I have done to deserve her, but I am so glad I managed to convince her I was worth having.

Her compassion, care and love got me through moments where I wonder how I’d cope without her. That may sound dramatic, but it’s true.

She makes me a better person. She makes the darkest days brighter and I can never thank her enough or show my love to her enough for what she means to me.

Thanks Jilly, you’re perfect.

And the last person is of course Otis.

12 months ago today, this little bundle of perfect came into the World.

Yes, my son is a year old.


A year old. Today.

That is bloody amazing.

[When you’re older Otis, click here for a birthday message]

A year ago, I literally had no idea what to expect … I was a mixture of nerves, fears and anticipation.

Nothing – absolutely nothing – could have prepared me [or should I say, would make me believe] for the joy this little boy has brought into my life.

Watching him grow has been one of the most beautiful and wonderful things I have ever experienced.

He has done far more for me than I have done for him.

He has made me feel a sense of pride and happiness I didn’t know existed.

Literally didn’t know.

He has shown me that the wonderful woman I married, is even more wonderful than I imagined.

He has made Rosie – that selfish, self-centred, pampered moggy – start to be a little bit gracious.

Sure, it’s only to him, but that’s a start.

He gave my Mum an energy and happiness that literally radiated out from her.

She sadly may never have got to meet him in the flesh, but he ensured the last 3 months of her life were filled with joy and pride.

For that alone, I can never thank him enough, but he did even more than that.

At my greatest time of need, he ensured I didn’t fall.

From giving me the most infectious smiles imaginable to the most delightfully inappropriate behaviour at the most inappropriately appropriate times … he made sure I always had hope and love to cling on to.

He has been a revelation.

I am so proud and honoured to be his Dad and I hope I can repay him for everything he has done for me in his first 12 months of life.

[Let’s face it, I probably can and will … especially if he starts developing the same tech tendencies as his old man]

OK … that has been a super long post.

Few – if any – will have probably read all of it, but this was done more for me than any of you, so I don’t care.

All that leaves me to do is say this.

To my beloved son, Otis … happy, happy birthday.

You are perfect in every single way.

Literally, every single way.

I am a better man for having you in my life.

Thank you my darling son, I love you so, so much.

To everyone else … every single one of you who was gracious and kind enough to care and be part of my year this year … I wish you a Happy, Happy Christmas.

Whether you gave me hugs, laughter or just a well-timed message, your actions meant more to me than you could ever imagine and I wish I could see you all in person so I could return the gesture.

I’m so grateful for all you did for me and I wish each and every one of you, nothing but happiness and the hope that 2016 is a stellar year in your life.

We all deserve it and I need it.

Have fun and make sure you tell everyone who needs to know, that you love them.

See you January.

49 Comments so far
Leave a comment

You have had a tough year Robert and so to still be able to see positives is a testimony to your character. May I wish Otis a wonderful first birthday. He is a grand little man. May I wish your family an excellent holiday season and the best of health and happiness for the new year. May I thank you for the enjoyment and the thought provoking points of view you have given me reading this blog.
All the very best and I look forward to seeing you soon.

Comment by Lee Hill

Thank you Lee, you’re way too kind – both with your words and generosity. Thank you to you for all the help you gave us at very tough moments in my life. You have no idea how much it meant to us.

Comment by Rob

Happy first birthday Otis. You are a gorgeous little boy. We cannot wait to finally meet you. Hugs and kisses from all of us to you and your Mummy and Daddy.

Comment by Mary Bryant

you cant wait to meet otis or see jill but you sure as fuck can wait to see campbell again. have you forgotten how fucking annoying he is?

Comment by andy@cynic

We all know she means Otis and Jill, Andy. You didn’t have to rub it in.

Comment by Rob

oh but i fucking did.

Comment by andy@cynic

No more posts till next year. That’s a present worth getting. HBD Otis.

Comment by Billy Whizz

xoxoxoxo to all 3 of you. Extra xoxo for Otis.

Comment by Jemma King

billy is going to be so fucking jealous.

Comment by andy@cynic

And to you Jem.

Comment by Rob

Nice words big man. Hope 2016 sees you in Amsterdam again.

Comment by John Greening

Thanks mate. Hope so too.

Comment by Rob

Great post Robert. Despite being one the toughest years of your life, you’ve somehow managed to still laugh, teach and inspire others. Your Mum would be extra proud of you.

Comment by George

Thanks matey, not sure what I taught anyone other than what not to do but I’ll take the compliment. See you soon.

Comment by Rob

fucking hell, war and peace is shorter but because youre a cunning bastard you wrote nice things so anyone slagging it off looks a fuckwad. you genius manipulating wanker. shit year but you came through like a fucking champion. consider that compliment your christmas, birthday and next years christmas present. now where the fuck is mine.

Comment by andy@cynic

Careful, despite your best efforts, you’re showing what a sweetie you really are. Thank you matey, I look forward to continue annoying you next year.

Comment by Rob

you dont have to write your planning bollocks to achieve that.

Comment by andy@cynic

I read all of it. That’s the best compliment I can give you. Fist bumps to Otis.

Comment by DH

You must be bored. And if you weren’t, I bet you are now.

Comment by Rob

Now you come to mention it.

Comment by DH

Glad to see Otis taking more after his Mum. Safe travels and holidays Rob. This is a break you actually deserve for once.

Comment by Bazza

Yes. He’s even luckier than he could imagine.

Comment by Rob

Happy special day little boy.
Kisses to you mummy and daddy.

Comment by Katerina

Beautifully put.
Happy Christmas to the whole family, and wishing you all a wonderful 2016.

Comment by Rob (other one)

Oh and Happy Birthday Otis!

Comment by Rob (other one)

happy birthday Otis……. legendary first year. And Rob, looking forward to a few more doughnuts in 2016……

Comment by aaron

Very nice post. Merry Christmas Rob!

Comment by Valentin

A lovely post, Rob. One thing I want to add: you’re a good, good man.

Comment by MJ Jung

It’s a moving and lovely post Rob, thank you for sharing. Happy Brithday to your son & Merry Christmas to you all!

Comment by Willem van der Horst

You are a good man Robert. Happy birthday Otis.

Comment by Jonathan Rosenberg

Happy Christmas to all of you Rob. The way you have dealt with this year has been an inspiration.

Comment by northern

What a beautiful post. Hope 2016 is a stellar year in your life too. You absolutely deserve it. Happy birthday to Otis!

Comment by Naoko

Happy first birthday Otis! But are you really sure today is his birthday, Rob? It feels like he came into this world only a few months ago. This is a lovely post. You’ve had tough year, but have still managed to do great things for a lot of people. Your Mum would be extra proud of you. I can’t wait to see you. Happy Christmas to the Campbells from the Sarnblads!

Comment by fredrik sarnblad

its all so nice nice nice. you deserve it but its still fucking weird to see it on this blog.

Comment by andy@cynic

Happy birthday Otis. Have a wonderful day Robert and Jill. Hope to see you in the new year. x

Comment by Marcus

Beautiful post, Rob. Thank you for sharing so openly. Wishing you, Jill, Otis and Rosie a very Merry Christmas. And happy birthday, Otis!

Comment by Paul

You don’t know me. I stumbled across your original posts about your mum last spring—and guzzled them like water in a desert. Six weeks earlier, I lost my dad. Remarkably, everything you wrote lined up with my own thoughts. I bookmarked your page and filed it under “Dad’. Fifteen minutes ago I randomly opened that forgotten file and found this wonderful new post. Once again, everything you wrote lines right up. Thank you so much for this generous gift. And a very Happy New Year to your lovely family.

Comment by Laura

Hi Laura, thank you for you lovely words. I’m very sorry for your loss and if my stream of consciousness helped, then that actually helps me too. Sending you good thoughts and hugs.

Comment by Rob

Thank you to everyone for your lovely words but seriously, I’m thanking you … so I hope you have an amazing holiday season and I hope I get to see you all in 2016, if only so I can say a big thank you in person.

Comment by Rob

so what do you fill your days doing now you dont have this fucking rubbish to write?

Comment by andy@cynic

I have 12 windows open in Safari with ‘stuff’ I’m meant to read (severe FOMO!) but instead I chose to read this post in its entirety 😉 and it was worth it! Have a great break and I hope 2016 is full of health and so much happiness that it makes you forget 2015. Happy Birthday to Otis, Jill and Yourself.

Comment by Brenda.

Quiet here isn’t it. Too quiet.

Comment by DH

He’s even signed off social media.
He’s planning things.

Comment by northern

Happy new year Rob. 2016 will be a good one for you and your family.

Comment by Pete

Oh come on now it’s surely time for a post

Comment by Northern

Happy new year folks, hope you had a great holiday season. Mine was amazing. Simply amazing. Just what I needed.

Will that mean I will start writing positive posts from next week? What do you think …

It will be groundhog day from next Monday.

Till then, enjoy the last few days of positivity.

Comment by Rob

how much fucking time do you need to write your shit campbell?

Comment by andy@cynic

I’m scared how long his comeback post is going to be.

Comment by DH

who the fuck cares, no one reads his shit anyway.

Comment by andy@cynic

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