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

Lost In My Own Selfish Sorrow …
May 16, 2023, 8:15 am
Filed under: Comment, Dad, Death, Family, Mum

As I mentioned at the time, my Easter holiday was rubbish.

I got a virus the day before Good Friday and basically was ill – in bed – for the entire holiday.

To pass the time between falling asleep, I watched endless TikTok’s and Reel’s.

In-between the wannabe’s and impressive, there were more than a few that triggered a lot of emotions in me.

Posts that talked about memories and loss …. whether of friends, family or pets.

I’d love to say that I cried a lot because I was feeling sorry for myself, and while that is true – there was a lot more going on.

Despite being 52.

Despite my parents being gone for 8 years and 24 years respectively.

Despite having an utterly wonderful family and professional life.

I’m a bit of a mess.

There’s a whole host of reasons – part of it simply being a sentimental emotional bastard [as Andy used to say] but there was one clip that dug deep.

It was a kid on the streets of London who was asked what was one of the saddest times of their life.

They talked about the loss of their Dad and then they mentioned how amazing their Mum had been, because even though she had to deal with the loss of the person she loved most, she had to also ensure their son didn’t fall too far.

And while I’ve always recognised and realised that, something in their comment hit me hard.

There have been far too many occasions where I’ve been stuck in my own pig-headed selfish world. Thinking about the impact of things on me, not really considering the impact on those around me. And while most people have let me get away with this – knowing I’m going through a hard time – it still upsets me I can get so lost in my own shit.

That’s not how I was brought up. That’s not how I used to be.

So with that I want to say thank you to Mum.

Thank you for your love and support.

Thank you for sacrificing your pain to help me get through mine.

Thank you for always being there with your gentle encouragement.

Thank you for your strength when everything was falling apart.

Thank you for your love, support, patience and protection.

I am so sorry I took more from you than I gave.

I am so sorry I chose to be ignorant to the truth for so long.

Believing you were being negative about Dad’s situation when you were caring for him 24/7 and I was visiting from Australia.

I appreciate now how much additional worry I must have caused you, wondering how I’d cope with his health reality, when I chose to finally let it in.

When I would be forced to let it in.

I wish I had not been so blinkered and blind and lost in my own distress.

I wish I had been stronger so you could fall, rather than always pick me up.

I wish you had not lost the man you loved so much so early.

I am so grateful for all you did for me. And continue to do for me.

Thank you for being the best Mum I could ever have.

Love you Mum.


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Where I Want To Die …
March 30, 2023, 7:45 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Death, Family, Jill

A few weeks ago, Jill and I were chatting about plans when we started talking about where we wanted to end up.

By that, I mean, where we would want to be when we die.

As in location.

Of course, at the moment of death, the primary desire is to be close to each other … but I am talking about after that. When all the tears have gone and life has recommenced.

Sure, I shouldn’t care as I sure-as-hell won’t know … but apart from being a sentimental fuck, the reality is when you have lived in a lot of places, a lot of places become important to you so we just had this surreal conversation about ‘resting place’.

For reasons I’m still not quite sure of, I asked this question on Linkedin.

I presume my driving motivation was that there must be other people who are in similar situations – at least in living in multiple countries – and I wanted to see what they thought.

So I wrote this …

And while I got a lot of people dismissing my viewpoint – saying the only thing I should care about is being with my family [thanks for that folks, even though I literally said that in my post] … one person sent something that was pretty wonderful.

OK, it didn’t actually help answer the question I originally had, but it’s a wonderful way to imagine the final moment.

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The Most Unlikely Beautiful Gift You Can Have …
March 9, 2023, 8:15 am
Filed under: Anniversary, Comment, Dad, Death, Jill, Love, Mum, Mum & Dad, Otis

Today is the 8th anniversary of my Mum passing.

I’ve written a huge amount about how her death affected me.

How I realised that the operation to save her life, had cost her her life.

And yet, unlike Dad’s anniversary – that looms large over me, every year – Mum’s often slips my mind. There has been more than one occasion where the only reason I remembered it was because a friend wrote to send me their love on her anniversary.

Now I should point out I utterly love my Mum.

She was an incredible human who continues to influence how I look at the world.

But while her birthday is cemented in my heart and mind, the anniversary of her death isn’t.

Of course the circumstances between Mum and Dad dying were vastly different.

+ Dad died first.
+ I was 29 when Dad died and 44 when Mum did.
+ I was single when Dad died and a married father when Mum did.
+ I had just left home when Dad died and lived in lots of countries when Mum did.
+ When Dad died my Mum was still there to talk to, but when Mum died, I was alone.

I should point out when I say ‘alone’, I don’t mean literally – I had my wonderful Jill, who was amazing – but even that is different to having someone you can talk to about the life of the person who has died because you were both part of it for many years.

If you read this one day Jill, I hope you understand what I mean.

You were a rock to me. You helped me get through one of the worst times of my life without letting it become more terrible. So please don’t think I didn’t appreciate you – I did and I do and I always will.

This is all a bit rambling isn’t it?

The irony is that while I feel guilt about having to consciously remember Mum’s anniversary – despite having a tattoo of it on my arm – Mum would probably be very happy about it.

For her, she would see it as me remembering her birthday more than her final day – and that’s exactly how she would want it.

It took me 10 years to get to that stage for my Dad, but with Mum it was much quicker.

Again, there are probably many reasons for it – including Otis being only 3 months old when Mum died – but when I think of her, I think of her warmth, compassion, curiosity and spirit.

She was a gentle woman but also a determined one.

Actually determined isn’t quite right … she was, but in the pursuit of her independence. By that I mean in terms of her mind, beliefs, interests and life.

The older I get, the more I appreciate how she handled life.

It wasn’t the easiest, but she never complained or wanted help because she always recognised there were people worse off than her.

I can’t tell you how many ‘discussions’ we had about me wanting to give her money to make her life a little easier and her refusing to take it. It took years for us to find a way to make it work for both of us … which was me putting money in her bank account and she not spending a penny of it. Hahaha.

Oh I miss her.

I miss her voice, her face, her eyes, her questions and her love.

I am so glad I was with her when she died.

I knew one of her biggest fears was being alone when it happened … we had talked about it after it had happened to my Aunt – which is why of all the things I could do for her, making sure this didn’t happen is the one that I know she would have appreciated most.

Of course, not everyone is so lucky to know when this could happen – but with both my Mum and Dad, circumstances meant we were together and I’m so grateful for that.

Not that I always felt that way …

When I was much younger, the idea of being with my parents when they died was too overwhelming for me to consider.

I think I may even have told my parents.

How I imagined it would destroy me.

And it did.

But it was also incredibly important.

Because at that moment, everything was about them.

Their comfort. Their peace. Their ability to take that final step.

I’m not saying it was easy … I’m not saying it didn’t hurt … but in my mind, if it helped them, that’s all that really mattered.

And it helped both my parents.

Which means it helped me.

Because when they needed me most, I was there.

And while the pain of them dying will never heal, I know being there means it didn’t go as deep as it could.

When I think of this day, I think of everything that happened over that day.

It still stings.

But as much as I wish none of it happened, I am so glad I was able to be with her – and Dad.

Because I now see it as the most unlikely beautiful gift we could give each other.

I miss you Mum.

Love you.

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Being A Donor Is Not Just About Giving Others Life, But Keeping Your Family Alive …
February 15, 2023, 8:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Attitude & Aptitude, Dad, Death, Family, Love, Mum, Mum & Dad

I was going to say the reason for this post is because I’m still in a sentimental mood from yesterday’s Valentine’s day post.

Then I thought, ‘who am I trying to kid?’.

Because as much as I appreciate I can be a prick, I know I am also a massive sentimentalist.

Which is why this article affected me so deeply.

I can’t imagine what that must have felt like, but I do know what the impact would have been.

When I got married, I made sure I had a picture of my Dad on the table with us.

It was this one.

I wanted him there, even though he wasn’t really there.

And while it may sound weird, it made the whole occasion feel more complete … more perfect.

Which is why I get why the bride in this story would want the man who had received her father’s heart, at her wedding.

And I love that he came.

That he knew what it meant for her and for him.

That literally nothing would stop him from attending.

Because despite being invisible, he could see the thread that connects them.

He appreciated this was a chance to say hello, thank you and goodbye all at the same time.

A way to tell each other the person who is so important to both of them lives on, even though he’s gone.

I wrote about a similar situation a few years back … except this one was a chance encounter.

It still gives me goosebumps.

Still overwhelms me with emotion.

And while the price they both paid for that encounter was one of unimaginable pain, I also know how much I’d give to have that one additional moment with my Mum and Dad … which is why I’m so glad the bride and Mrs Carter got to have that with their respective loved ones.

Because while memories never leave us, moments stop us getting too lost in them.

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Why I Am Eternally Grateful For Anthony Hopkins Eyes …

I’m not back.

Not properly.

But today is the 24th anniversary of my Dad passing away and I couldn’t – and wouldn’t – let this pass without mention.

24 years means I’m fast approaching him not being in my life for half my life.

And yet he is always there.

Maybe not always in the spotlight of my life, but always on the stage.

A warm presence.
A secure presence.
And sometimes, a surprising presence.

You see there are times where Dad appears seemingly out of nowhere.

From deep in the shadows to centrestage of the light.

Anything can trigger this.

A song.
A place.
A situation.

But the most common of all is a pair of eyes.

Specifically these pair of eyes …

As the title of this post reveals, those eyes belong to Anthony Hopkins.

And while the life of him and my father could not be further apart in so many ways, his eyes could easily belong to my Dad.

Not just for their shade or shape, but their character.

They are welcoming. They are warm. Caressed by lines around each eye that shows they have seen and they have lived. A journey that has led them through fields of pain, fear, laughter and love. And while you’re left in no doubt they have the power to make you feel fear or guilt with just a glance … that the lines around the eyes curve upwards, reassures you their resting condition is to let you in.

And that’s what my Dad gave me.

The power to always be let in. Even when I disappointed him.

Yes, there were times later in his life – when he was ill – that became a little harder, but even that was just temporary.

Because his main focus was for me to feel his love and support not his fear or wrath.

And his eyes were his way of reinforcing that.

I still remember a moment towards the end …

Dad had had many strokes by that time which had robbed him of his ability to talk and walk.

One day I got a call in Sydney – where I lived – telling me he’d been rushed to hospital and may only have 24 hours left to live.

I caught the first flight home and after a traumatic journey from the other side of the planet, I was with him … relieved he was alive, devastated he may die at any time.

At some point Mum and I were told we should get rest and go home.

Their house was literally 10 minutes from the hospital and they assured us they’d ring if anything happened.

Reluctantly we agreed and as I was saying goodnight, we looked at each other.

A firm, focused gaze into each others eyes.

I can still feel the intensity of that moment.

How the feeling of love was almost breathtaking in its power.

Because I knew exactly what those eyes looking back at me were saying.

What those eyes looking back at me were saying for him.

He loved me.
He was proud of me.
He was so glad I was there.

But it was even more than that …

It was him trying to take in my face.
Every line. Every mark. Every detail.
To ensure he remembered how I looked in case what we both knew was going to happen, happened while we were apart.

I remember how I felt my eyes were overflowing with water as I looked down on him in his hospital bed.

Our hands gripped so tight with me kissing his over and over again.

Holding back the tears in an attempt to express what I wanted to say.

That feeling you’re trying to lift a huge weight in an attempt to not break down.

Massive pauses between words to not let any cracks take hold.

And I managed it.

I told him, “I know … I know … and I love you so, so much my dear Dad”

Then there was a pause as I wondered if I should finish what I wanted to say.

And then I decided I would, just in case …

“And you have to be here tomorrow. You have to be Dad. Please be here”

And as we walked out of that ward, with me constantly turning around to meet his gaze with my eyes, I hoped that was not the last time I would ever see him.

It wasn’t.

Despite us going through a similar rollercoaster 3 months later … a time where he would sadly not be able to find the strength to yet again surprise his Doctors, Nurses, wife and son … he did then.

And I still remember how we knew he was feeling stronger from the moment we walked into that ward.

Because my dad – that wonderful orator – had mastered another skill. This time, the ability to talk … through his eyes.

A million words and emotions passed perfectly through a look from his beautiful, blue, kind, warm eyes.

And while you may think that when I see Anthony Hopkins I get upset, you’d be wrong.

Because when he appears on the screen – even when I’m least expecting it – I am grateful.

Because he doesn’t reinforce the loss, he lets me feel like I’m close to my Dad again.

My wonderful, warm, supportive Dad.

Which after 24 years apart, is a gift.

So thank you Mr Hopkins.

And thank you Dad.

I miss you.

Give Mum a kiss from me.

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