it’s a very long time since I’ve written here… Bill is wonderfully recovered after a long progression through from wheelchair ‘don’t push me so fast’ and ‘look out for that tree’ ( it’s no wonder I never learned to drive…) to crutches and amazing inflatable boot and finally back to a walking stick which is now being ‘forgotten’ more and more frequently.
he is on the road gigging again and despite the magnified pre gig nerves that come from a long break is back enjoying the rollercoaster of anticipation and anxiety followed by relief and exhilaration that he has been experiencing ever since he went into the performance business all those years ago, he tells me it never gets any less scary or wonderful and I believe him.
the bundle of wordy energy that is my only flesh and blood contribution to the future world continues to dream of other worlds and wrangle them onto paper with an increasingly impressive vocabulary and wit. I was reading part of his latest text last night and became so caught up in the story I forgot it was just a draft and got all grumpy when it suddenly stopped.
so everything is mostly looking fine with those I love… but time has this habit of speeding up as we get older…
I love my Dad more now than at any point in our adult relationship, as a child I loved but didn’t understand his unpredictable and often moody male presence in the house although I do remember the time he spent with me when I was very small as a magical interlude.
we have not always found each other easy, two strong and flamboyantly opinionated people it was inevitable we would lock horns as I grew into myself and out of him. but this process was almost completely forestalled for many years by his departure from the family home just after my 11th Christmas. for a long time all I felt was guilt. what had I done to drive him away? I was, after all, the eldest. so responsibility for things seemed to come with the territory.
Then came the weekends. the many, many weekends we spent Saturdays with Dad, the wistful days of wanting to do the right thing, of wanting to be noticed, all four of us vying for attention which was often not for any us but directed towards a far horizon as my father tried to make sense of who he was and find peace by searching through the flotsam and jetsam of his own past, like an explorer he hacked and slashed through the jungles of his psyche employing a bewildering variety of approaches to finding oneself without ever seeming to meet his very own Dr Livingstone of revelation.
This meant that I never said any of the things I would have done if I had grown up with him around all the time, for years I couldn’t face getting angry with him when it would be an entire week before I would see him again and then… I couldn’t face seeing him at all for a while, with so much unsaid and the whirlwinds of adolescent self loathing swirling around in my head it seemed easier somehow.
then I left home for college and we met up occasionally and were happy as I was full of art and ideas and always had things to tell that were new and I listened to his ideas without feeling I needed to be them… finally.
things rolled along… we talked many times without actually speaking to each other but it was comfortable, it was okay.
then I got a place to do a postgraduate diploma at Goldsmiths in London, living in the community where Dad was already settled seemed a great idea so I did my trial week, and was accepted ( the fig tree community is a special place and I will blog about it another time)
During the first year I lived there my relationship with him was turned upside down and completely redefined. knowing we lived under the same roof and would see each other every day seemed to finally free my 26 year old self to give voice to every hurt feeling I had stored up during those awkward, confused years of my childhood and adolescence. I raged, he baulked, I marched out into the street shouting over my shoulder. I took all that stifled sense of betrayal and threw it at him in one turbulent storm and he braced himself and weathered it. and finally after many painful silences and hard conversations. he said sorry. and weirdly, that was enough. we have had our disagreements since then but always from a position of real understanding of each other.
now my Dad is 78 and has Parkinsons disease and diabetes and along with the physical frailty that brings, is the sometimes gossamer like fragility of his memory and focus. He often struggles to find the words he needs in conversation, at others he can talk anyone under the table (on the subjects of music, psychology and spiritual philosophies he is deft and deep) he can still chat in several languages but occasionally mistakes instant coffee for breakfast cereal. he tires very easily and has moments of confused absence and giddiness. Over the last couple of years I have started to treasure the times when we are together more and more and have travelled twice to Barcelona with him as his ‘minder’ (his word!) which has been a challenging but ultimately very special experience.
I struggle sometimes to adapt to the changes time and this disease are making in him but also am trying hard to find peace with it, because he seems to be able to meet it all with acceptance and equanimity and despite the difficulties he faces is still fully and completely in the world and seeking new experiences. I hope that I can face whatever challenges are ahead of me as openly and bravely.
I am now off to think some thoughts about my feisty and seemingly indestructible mum… and probably give her a call.