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


Happy Anniversary Mum And Dad …

Today would have been my parents 58th wedding anniversary.

Amazing.

And while the reality is Dad died 23 years ago and Mum 7, they had a good marriage.

Yes there were some hard times along the way.

Some that still hurt deeply when I think of them.

As is often the case, they were brought on by stress triggered by a lack of money, health issues and/or family bullshit they were pulled into.

But while there are some moments that I wish could be erased forever, I was brought up in a house of love and support.

Love for each other.
Love for me.
Love for us.

As I said at both my parents funerals, I never wanted for their support or compassion and it was only as I grew older that I realised how lucky I am for that.

The photo above was taken at the Nottingham Registry Office where they got married.

They’d been living in London but came to Nottingham to be closer to my Dad’s family.

They were only supposed to be there for a few years – but you know how it is.

I always thought that must have been hard for my Mum.

Don’t get me wrong, she liked Nottingham … but she was Italian, had moved to London for adventure but met Dad, fell in love and then found herself in the Midlands, even further away from her family.

I think when I came along, it may have helped because she wouldn’t have wanted to raise me in central London and so Nottingham probably became quite a good place then.

She stayed there for a long time.

A lot longer than she had lived in Italy.

We had talked – prior to her death – if she wanted to move back to Italy.

It was a real consideration.

Dad had died. Long term neighbours had died or moved away. Her sister was alone in the family home back in Guardiagrele.

But it didn’t happen and now her ashes, like Dad’s, are scattered over their beloved garden. The garden that was my family home and always will be, despite eventually selling the house.

I’ve written about how hard that decision was.

How conflicted I was when it suddenly became mine.

But I think they would be happy how I handled it. Plus I have a beautiful jar of soil from that house with me. And by selling the incredibly generous gift of their inheritance, I was able to buy our family home in the UK. A home with a garden my parents would absolutely approve of.

I still remember the bizarre moment Mum and I went to register Dad’s death and we realised it was in the same place as where they got married.

It had a weird closed circle to it.

Similar to the fact Mum died in the same hospital where I was born.

I miss them. I regret that I didn’t really talk to them about these things.

Part of that was because I thought I’d have more time to do it but alas, Dad fell ill when I was just 24. And then I kept moving countries.

But I’m very glad they got married 58 years ago today.

Because they gave me a childhood and a family that was as special as they were.

Happy Anniversary Mum and Dad. I hope you’re holding hands and laughing at the silliness and joy your son and his family get up to.

Rx



There When They’re Not …
March 25, 2022, 8:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Comment, Dad, Death, Family, Fatherhood, Home, Jill, Love, Mum, Mum & Dad, Nottingham, Otis

A few weeks ago, I saw a tweet by the comedian, David Baddiel.

It was this.


It was late, but there was something about it that really touched me.

Of course, hearing a parent has died is always sad. And over the years, my stance on Mr Baddiel has gone from ‘annoying’ to ‘wonderful’. But I think it was the sight of the worn chair that got me. A reminder of a parent who preferred comfort over new. A father who saw the chair worn in rather than worn out. An extention of the parent rather than just another piece of furniture in the home.

I definitely related to that.

I still remember going into Mum’s bedroom after she died – the bedroom that my shared my entire childhood – and saw it was a bit worn out. Needed some care, some attention, some updating. But what’s interesting is that while I’d been in that room a million times, it was only then that I the condition. Because when my parents were in that room … in that bed … the whole room radiated love and life and all the worn paint and old carpet disappeared from view.

But I also know how important it is to hold on to some of that.

Getting rid of your parents belongings is devastating.

I definitely remember genuinely considering hiring a security guard to just sit outside the house so I could keep it exactly the way it was. Hell, I even tried to buy the home phone number from British Telecom, or whatever they’re called these days – so I would have a connection to my past … to my parents … forever.

Jill gently convinced me that wasn’t the best way to move forward. Reminded me that wouldn’t be what my parents would want. But she also knew I needed to keep a physical connection to them and that house … so she came up with a brilliant idea that I thought may help a man I don’t know, get through a terribly painful situation I do know all too well.

So I responded to him with this and went to sleep.

The next morning I woke up to my phone screen full of twitter notifications and saw this.

Thousands of likes.
Hundreds of comments.
A mass of retweets.

I couldn’t quite believe it.

And when I read the comments, every single one was positive.

No snark. No pisstaking. Just a mass of lovely, considerate, words. Which was more wonderful than I could ever have imagined, because as much as it’s nice to have something you said/did liked by so many, what made the biggest impact was so many people saying they now had a way to take their family and home with them, when their family and home are no longer there.

A bit of calm in the worst of storms.

And since I wrote this post, the number of people who liked it and commented on how this can help them deal with their grief has increased more and more.

So thank you Jill.

You helped not just make one of my hardest times, less dark, you have helped others see a way out of their darkest moment.



The Best Thing About Me Is Seven Years Old …

Tomorrow my dear Otis turns 7.

Seven!

In some ways it seems impossible it has been that long …

Hell, it only seems like yesterday Jill went into labour and we walked to the hospital from our apartment in Shanghai.

But it can’t be because since that day, so much has happened.

We’ve lived in 3 new countries, started 3 new jobs – not to mention started 2 new companies – seen my wonderful mum pass away, get made redundant, gone through a global pandemic and turned 50.

Even for 7 years, that quite a lot.

And yet, trying to remember my life without him in it, seems almost impossible.

Sure, I can remember certain parts if I try really hard …

The travel.
The dinners.
The concerts.
The ability to go wherever we wanted whenever we wanted … without having to spend 2 hours ‘preparing’ for the trip.

But while that was all very nice … and, to be fair, I still get to do a version of it all at times … it’s so much better now.

Being a Dad has had a huge effect on my life.

What I care about, what I value, what I aspire to achieve.

That doesn’t mean I’ve lost all sense of personal ambition, drive and selfishness [hahaha] – it’s just I view achievement in a different way.

Whereas once it was very much about where I get to in my career, it’s now much more focused on what I can change.

More specifically, what I can change that enables others to win.

I know that sounds the sort of pandering statement you used to hear spouted from a Ms World contestant, but it’s true.

I’ll talk more about that in another post, but while I hope I’ve always been a compassionate person, Otis has made me more so.

But more than that, he’s also impacted the decisions I make.

There’s been situations I’ve faced where the decision I made was the total opposite of what I would have done prior to him being around.

Hell, even moving to NZ has more to do with him – and his Mum – than anything I’d have thought of doing previously, even with the temptation of the lovely Colenso.

Having Otis made me think about what my decisions would teach him about all manner of things.

Life. Money. Career. Happiness.

And because of that, it’s had the effect of teaching me what is really of importance to me now.

I was pretty old becoming a Dad – 44 – and yet, when Jill was pregnant, the issues that affect many soon-to-be Dad’s were affecting me.

Mainly money.

Would we have enough to give him a good home?

Would we earn enough to give him what he needs?

It was ridiculous, especially given the immense privilege we were enjoying in our life, but it was there and it was real.

Then he was born and everything changed.

Suddenly money was not the focus, instead it was about doing things that would make him proud of who his parents were. Helping him have a life of excitement, enjoyment and fulfilment. Exposing him to situations and circumstances that would help equip him with how to deal with things in life.

And while there have been stuff-ups along the way – predominantly by me – the joy of this adventure has been incredible and infectious.

It even made me feel grateful for COVID … because while I would not wish the suffering people have had to endure on anyone, it has been an utter privilege to basically be together 24/7 for almost 2 years.

See him wake up.
Have breakfast together.
Take him to school [when we could]
Have lunch together. [when we couldn’t]
Have dinner together.
Chat, laugh, play.
Put him to bed.

Before that I didn’t really get to do much of this. Maybe at weekends … otherwise it was a hotchpotch of a bit of this and a bit of that … and doing it all the time is much, much better.

And while he is growing up far too quickly for my liking – resulting in me getting obsessed with random lookalikes in the Guardian Newspaper – I have to admire the evil genius of how parenthood works.

From the moment you have a kid, you want them to stay exactly as they are.

Everything they do is just perfect and you revel in getting more of who they are.

The sounds. The squirms. The way they look. The way they react to things.

But you can’t stop evolution and bit by bit, more and morenew things happen.

Now while that should be annoying because the things you love get overtaken by the new … you deal with it, because those new things become a whole new set of wonderful features and quirks you fall in love with.

And this keeps going and going.

Each step of evolution takes you to somewhere even more adorable.

Until you’re here.

At seven.

Which forces me to write this:

_______________________________________________________________________

My dear boy.

Oh how I love you.

I can’t put into words how wonderful I think you are.

I’ve loved watching every second of you exploring, experimenting and discovering the world you’re in.

I’ve laughed at your good-natured cheekiness

Felt pride at the way you’ve embraced the challenges and changes I’ve forced on your life.

Been overwhelmed by your level of compassion, consideration and kindness.

And been in awe with your ability to learn and absorb … even when that has meant seeing you beat me at certain video games and horrify me with your use of Roblox slang such as, “call those muscles, look at these guns”.

To me and your Mum – and maybe even Rosie – you are perfect.

It’s an honour to be your Dad.

I still can’t believe I could have something to do with creating someone so wonderful. Sure, your Mum has the most to do with it, but I’m in there too.

I hope the next year is even better than this.

I don’t simply mean in terms of you being able to go out and enjoy life without restrictions and limitations … I mean in the adventures you have and the friends you create mischief with.

You have handled the past 12 months with such amazing grace.

Now houses … new schools … new countries … new friends.

It is a huge amount for anyone to deal with – and more than any young boy should – but you have taken it all in your stride. But I do not take that for granted. And I do not forget I have put you through this 4 times in 6 years. But I can assure you I won’t put you though it again for a very long time. So embrace your new home. Enjoy the possibilities of the world you have. You are a delightful kid and the world is better for having you in it.

Happy birthday my dear Otis …

I hope you have an amazing day.

I am so, so proud of the person you are and excited to see the person you become.

Love you.

Rx




Happy Birthday To The Woman Who Isn’t There, But Is Always Around …

Today would be my Mum’s 89th birthday.

EIGHTY NINE.

My god, that would have been something to celebrate.

I sometimes wonder if we’d have come to NZ if my Mum was still alive.

There’s a chance we would, but it would have been much harder to go, especially with COVID.

I just don’t know how I’d have been able to leave, given all she would have had to deal with in the last 18 months.

There were days – when we were in the UK – where I found myself being relieved she wasn’t here to experience the horror of COVID.

That’s incredibly hard for me to admit, but the idea of my dear Mum being on own and suffering ill health, without me – or anyone – being able to be near to protect, reassure or support her for over a year, literally ignites my anxiety.

Of course, millions of people had to go through just that, which is why I have nothing but admiration and compassion for all they went through. To not be able to see your family is unbelievably painful. To worry that if you do, you may kill them, is a burden that no one should have to deal with.

But if we were here in NZ … and if Mum was still alive … then today would be a day where not being with her would be one of the most painful of them all.

It certainly wouldn’t be for lack of trying, but the reality is if I did find a way to get back to the UK, then there would be no guarantee of when NZ would let me back in the country due to the quarantine situation.

I would feel torn in two.

And I know this because it almost happened in 2014.

Mum was going to have a major heart operation at around the same time Otis was due.

As in literally, a cross-over of time.

The idea I would have to decide whether to be at my son’s birth in China or be at my Mum’s side in England was something I was genuinely terrified of.

Fortunately, I found myself in England about 5 months before Mum’s operation and accompanied her to a meeting with her surgeon.

There she explaining the situation to him to which he said he felt Mum could wait another 3 or 4 months for the operation so she could be in ‘tip-top form’ to meet her grandson.

I am so grateful to him.

Not just for removing an obstacle that no one should have to deal with, but because it gave me 4 more months with my Mum – months that she got to see her grandson via Facetime – because sadly, she died of complications when she ended up having the op.

And as sad as that is, I smile at the thought of being with her today.

Not only can I imagine how it would go, I can even hear her voice.

She’d be saying how she can’t believe she’s 89.

She’d gently brush off my excited, “and next year you hit the big 90”, with a calm explanation that, “you never know what may happen in the future”.

My god I miss her voice.

Her kind, compassionate, warm, curious voice.

How I would love to hear her asking questions about Otis, Jill and Rosie the cat.

I remember the times I flew home to surprise her from Australia or Singapore or HK or China.

I’d knock on the door and then I’d hear her walking towards it – asking “who is it?” before she saw me.

She would look for a second in shock. Amazed her son … her beloved only child … was standing in front of her.

And she would say, “Oh Robert” before giving me a huge hug and then telling she was so surprised and happy.

Then before I knew it, she’d be asking if I’d eaten and say she had to make the bed up for me as there’s no sheets on it … hahaha.

Oh Mum, I wish I could be with you to celebrate.

I wish that day in March 2015 had turned out so differently.

But as I wrote over that week, at least everything had reached some beautiful finale … though you never got to see the new heating Angelo had put in for you, ha.

Mind you, with energy prices so high in the UK at the moment, you’d likely say, “I’ll just put on an extra jumper”.

Oh how I miss you Mum.

You were the best.

I hope Dad is looking after you.

Thank you for everything and happy, happy birthday.

The countdown to 90 now begins.

Love you.

Rx



A Glimpse Of The Future …

Every Saturday, the Guardian Newspaper runs a feature where they interview 2 people who have been out on a blind date over dinner.

And every week, they ask the same questions to both parties.

Sometimes they find love …
Sometimes they find a friend …
Sometimes they find their worst nightmare …

… but it’s always an enjoyable read.

Now while you may think my favourite stories are when the couple hate each other – and some truly do, with a total inability to hide their distain behind their one word, printed answers – that’s not actually my favourite.

As soppy as it sounds, it’s quite marvellous when people find someone they want to see again. Maybe it’s because it’s so rare, or maybe it’s because I’ve found my inner-romantic in my old age, but it’s really lovely.

The thing that makes it even more warming is how they answer the questions.

It’s not simply that they say, “I really like him/her”, it’s the way their answers have a real warmth and respect for the other person. It’s not simply about what they feel, they describe how the other person made them feel. It’s delightful and a very different experience to people who didn’t like their date.

Some get very personal.

Expressing themselves in a way that shows they genuinely think they were aesthetically, intellectually or morally superior. Which, of course, has the result that you find them actually the uglier person inside and out.

Anyway, a few weeks ago, I read about these 2:

Sadly Johnny – 24 and an artist – and Gen – 23 and a post-grad student – didn’t hit it off. But I couldn’t stop looking at their picture.

Or more specifically Johnny’s.

Not because I’m a weirdo, but I kept thinking how he looked like an older version of this one:

Yes … the hair is a big part of it, but there’s other things.

The gentle face.
The compassionate energy.
The wry smile.

I know it’s ridiculous, but it felt like I was seeing my son in 18 years time.

You see, when you’re 51 … your father died at 60 … and your son is 6 … you start to think about death a hell of a lot more.

I don’t like it. I don’t like how it sometimes makes me feel. I don’t like how stupid it can make me … but the reality is there is a chance I won’t make it to see Otis at Johnny’s age and that terrifies me.

I mean, I hope I do.

I hope I live a lot longer than that.

But then my Dad wished he could have seen me get married and become a Dad and he never got that chance … so seeing Johnny felt like a bit of a gift. A chance to glimpse the future, which I appreciate sounds utterly stupid. Because it is.

But it gets worse.

I found myself reading Johnny’s answers over and over again – wanting to make sure he was a nice guy because for a moment, I’d convinced myself that meant Otis would be to. [Good news. They both are, hahaha]

Then I found myself wondering what sort of artist he is and how he got there.

Is he happy?
Is he fulfilled?
Will he achieve what he hopes?

Obviously all of this had triggered my fears and insecurities … projecting the life of a complete stranger who looks a bit like my son on to my son.

Fortunately Otis – who was sat next to me at the time – was living in his own world playing Roblox on his iPad, not giving a fuck that his Dad was having a bit of a meltdown, hahahaha.

So to Johnny, I want to apologise.

I’m sorry an old bloke got kind of obsessed with you for a minute.
I’m sorry I temporarily stole your life to give it to my son.
I’m sorry Gen and you didn’t click. [though you may be happy about that too]

And to Otis …

Well my wonderful boy, know I love you.

Know I wish I could be here forever … to be near you.

To see you grow and blossom. To watch you discover a life of adventure and fulfilment. To witness the choices you make and the life you create.

I hope I see you at 24 and beyond.

And I hope you know my interest in Johnny was not because I want you to live his life, but because I just want to see you live yours.

For decades.

Rx