It’s been a long time, since I last checked in. Months, according to the calendar. Light years if you ask me. So many things have happened and so much has changed. Recent events have been personally shattering and I’m trying to put my pieces back together again and refocus on changing the things I can.
On the 6th of April I attended the birthday celebration of one of the most magic kids I have had the extreme pleasure of knowing. The 6th isn’t his actual birthday, that’s a few days later, but it does happen to be his beautiful mother’s birthday. It’s also my youngest sister’s birthday, but I haven’t had any contact with her for well over a decade. Coincidentally, it’s also the birth date of this very blog, eleven years ago this year. So, I celebrated with the Magic Kid and my Beautiful Friend, and I thought once again that I should check in with you here. Accept the things you cannot change; change what you can; know the difference.
February 25th was the thirtieth anniversary of the day my Daughter Number One was born. We spent a quiet day, had some cake and then two days later Son Number Two and I attended Eminem’s final concert in Australia before he left the country to continue his tour. Our seats couldn’t really have been further from the stage in the gigantic stadium but we were at a great angle to see everything. We arrived early enough so that the crowds were overwhelming but not unmanageable, and I had the upcoming concert to focus on. We were lucky enough to get tickets cheaply, in a presale, and they counted as my birthday present as well as our Christmas present to each other. When Eminem came on for the encore and closed the night with the same song that closed Daughter Number One’s funeral I sobbed. And I looked at my Son and was glad to be there.
We have been through a lot together, that kid and me. In a few months he will be twenty one years old. The other night he went out with friends and was picked up on a motorbike, riding pillion. He knows me well enough to anticipate my abject terror; he didn’t know that would be the mode of transport beforehand. He reassured me as best he could, hugging me goodbye ; it was a short journey and he would message me when he arrived. Which he literally did, sending me a close up of his face, in the dark of night, as soon as he got off the bike. In the roughly fifteen minutes it took, between the time he left and getting his message, I had sent a message to my Beautiful Friend, who rang me. I had gone through Son Number Two’s outfit in my head, ordering clothing items in terms of the protection they offered his body. Leather jacket = ✔, jeans = could be worse, running shoes = ❌. Helmet = ✔✔✔✔. I reassured myself that I had my details in the emergency information on his phone and that the trip was only a short one. I sat with my terror and tried to get my breathing under control.
Son Number Two will be twenty one years old in a few months. He tells me where he is going and when. He lets me know when he will be back. If his plans change then he will tell me that too, because he knows I cannot tolerate surprises. He lets me track him on iPhone’s Find My Friend app, which means in theory I can see where he is all the time. I don’t abuse that privilege. I understand the trust and respect that concession is given in, so I return it. I appreciate it. And he hugs me while I sob and closes the door behind him, to go out and live his life on his terms. Which is how it should be.
At the end of January I was sitting in an airport, drinking a hot chocolate and looking at my wrist. On the inside of my wrist is a tattoo that matches one that adorns one of my dear friend’s and wrapped around it a Christmas present from another; a bangle inscribed ‘nevertheless, she persisted’. Another dear one was with Daughter Number Two and I, and the three of us were there to travel across the country to take Daughter Number Two back to where she lived. I was tired. So tired.
Last year I had cancer. It’s still surreal to say that. Last year I had cancer. In one of my ovaries. But I was lucky. Treatment was definitive, with a surgery, my second for the year. After the first operation, for ‘women’s issues’, where they discovered the cancer incidentally, my only real concern was my upcoming holiday time with Daughter Number Two, which necessitated being able to fly across the country twice and care for her, for the month she was with me. After being told the cancer I had was a good one to get, slow growing and unlikely to have spread, my only questions were about the timeline for the surgery, making it clear that if it was going to interfere with Daughter Number Two’s time with us, then it would need to wait. The doctor assured me she would do her best in terms of scheduling the surgery, but that I would need a six week post operative check up before I would be cleared to fly and, given the timeframe, there was no room for any complication of any sort. Ok, whatever, let’s just get it done and over with so I can go and get my girl. And it really was only when the Oncology nurses would speak to me in a certain tone that I would be reminded that it was actually cancer I was dealing with. Anyway, the doctor scheduled the surgery as soon as she was able. It all went smoothly and my post operative check happened just before I went to pick up Daughter Number Two, just after Christmas.
We’d spent four weeks packing as much love and laughter into every moment as we could, but here we were again, at the pointy bit, sitting in an airport, about to take her back. And we boarded the plane, and crossed the country and that was that. Except it wasn’t, because life can spin on a dime and change in a heartbeat and you can NEVER know what is around the next corner, good or bad. So after two weeks we boarded another flight for home and the three of us who were there on the forward journey were there to make the journey back. ‘Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end’, right? So, I have fewer internal organs but Daughter Number Two is home fulltime now and it seems like a more than fair trade.
Which is how it came to be that Daughter Number Two and I were watching Ricky Gervais’ After Life on Netflix together. I had already watched it, but wanted to share it with her. Despite the uncomfortable nature of the subject matter but mostly because of it, the masterful story telling and nuanced, layered characters make After Life compelling viewing. Gervais’ characters are always so multidimensional. In a world where every day we are encouraged to consider everyone who isn’t exactly like us as ‘bad guys’ to our ‘good guys’, Gervais reminds us we all have the potential to be both. And that even when circumstances are outside of our control we still have choices, and we make them. By action or inaction, we make them.
My bedtime routine consists of scrolling through Twitter and falling asleep to paternity test clips, either Maury or Paternity Court, on YouTube. Judge all you like, but whatever gets me through the night is alright. After Life has created a huge buzz on Twitter, well, everywhere really but like I said, I drop in on Twitter most nights. There’s been lots of discussion about Gervais’ character, Tony’s, last scene with Julian. One of the things that has bothered me about discussion of that extraordinarily impactful scene is how the character of Julian is actually referred to by some viewers. The adjectives used. But his name is Julian. He and Tony discuss the fact that they are both grieving and Julian makes reference to the fact that Tony’s grief is more socially acceptable. And OH! How I felt that, down to my very soul. How quick people are to judge and assume, even when others are in the most horrifically heartbreaking of circumstances. When really, we all of us, are shades of grey. There’s been much made on the interwebs of Tony’s final gift to Julian too, and once again Gervais leads us all to the water but doesn’t try to convince us of how it tastes. If anything, for me, his muddying of the waters only increases it’s ability to reflect our own humanity back at us all. Truly powerful viewing that has people talking about grief and loss. Highly recommended.
Speaking of Humanity, since After Life is only six episodes long (thankfully a second season has been confirmed!), Daughter Number Two and I have moved on during the school holidays to Gervais’ Netflix stand up special Humanity and then, of course, to Derek. Two episodes in Daughter Number Two declared“Nothing better happen to my boy Derek! He’s just a sweet, little cinnamon roll!”. It was interesting watching Derek post After Life, seeing how concepts had evolved and grown but each production mentioned stands easily on it’s own merits. The writing is truly exqusite, not least for the many facets of each character that are revealed. In one conversation Daughter Number Two and I were having she referred to the writing being ‘Show, don’t Tell’ and reminded me that there’s always something to learn if you leave yourself open to lessons.
So, I’m still here. Still putting one foot in front of the other. Still learning. Still loving. And I wish the same for you.
Safe onward travel x