… an anachronism.
… an enigma.
… a hero.
… a survivor.
… a father.
… a chance to understand.
… a chance to heal.
See that is one of the problems with being in bed so much.
Your mind starts to wander and to play on its own.
Additionally, since it is stuck inside a head which is totally dedicated to doing an impersonation of a loud-speaker at a heavy metal concert – constantly and uncontrollably throbbing – it won’t really accommodate any real reading, praying or even any serious movie watching.
Likewise, trying to divert the boredom with back to back television is like trying to self-medicate using jellybeans. Mildly amusing but really not effective and totally not good for you.
And so the mind starts wandering and where it chooses to roam is as uncontrollable as the throbbing it seems.
And where does it wander in the wee small hours of the night-filled morning? To the places long since avoided, the memories many moons buried and the questions constantly unanswered.
The place where the dead find life only through the almost obsessive confusion and sorrow that pumps through its veins until it reaches that heart of remorse and regret.
A glance at the date floating in the bottom corner of the laptop screen and with it comes a momentary comfort with the realization that perhaps some of it does at least make sense.
It was around this time of year all those years ago when it happened, When he died, And with him the final breath of a relationship that had been terminally ill for years before that.
He was an anachronism. In so many ways, or more rather in so many ways within the altered perception my mind permitted, an anachronism. A man born in the wrong century with principles, histories, hurts, wounds, duties, methodologies and responsibilities in many ways incongruous to both the time and to the world in which I was trapped.
He was an enigma. Not by his own mystery or secrecy although certainly that played its part, but by my inability. An inability to understand. To connect. To perceive. To relate. To receive. To reach and to be reached, To love and to be loved.
He was a hero. A hero to his wife – my mother. To his children – my siblings, To his children’s friends – my friends. To his son. Yes even to his son. His middle son.
Yes I can say it. Even to me he was a hero – a superhero – right off of the comic book pages of a small boy’s admiration for his father. or at least his need to admire his father.
And yet even in his super-hero status did that super-hero costume often seem so stained, so battered, so worn, so grubby and so ill-fitting up against the light of his son’s own understanding twisted by the super villain of a child’s mental illness.
He was a survivor. A survivor not only of a world war but of a private war. A family based, tormented, unfair and unjust war that it seemed had raged somewhere in his childhood and from which the battle sounds carried across the years even into his adulthood and to his children’s childhoods and from which the shrapnel still claimed its victims. Despite his efforts.
He was a father. Yes to each of us he was a father. Even to me in my acute, heightened, altered perception, and misunderstood experience of him he was a father. My father. A father in every dutiful, responsible, Victorian, English sense of the word.
Strong. Resolute. Unyielding. Principled, Harsh and Unreachable in my understanding but in equal measure to how caring and kind and patient and fun and loving he was in my siblings understanding of him.
But then he died, one painfully un-memorable day around this time all those years ago and he did not die alone. No he did not die alone. For along with him died…
… A chance to understand. To understand him better now that my understanding of my own mental health and it’s effects on me and how I perceived and even still perceive things, has grown.
… a chance to heal. A chance to heal some of the wounds that I carried and till do carry as a result of my mental health, his past and indeed our inability to understand both in each other. Yes a chance to heal, perhaps even a chance to heal some of the wounds that I inflicted on him.
Was he a great man? A good man? A kind man? A good father? A kind father? Who am I to say?
In the spirit of honesty and objectivity I can say that is how he is seen by my siblings and my mother and certainly in that alone there is weight of testimony.
Additionally I can say that I have little to no doubt that my own mental health robbed me of a good experience and understanding of him then as much as his death has robbed me of the experience of him now.
But then mental illness can do that can’t it? Just as it can take a grown man out of the familiarity of boredom and sickness and transport him into a small lost child in the small hours of the night-filled morning.
Do I mourn the passing of this man, this anachronism, this enigma, this hero., this survivor. this father? Yes absolutely I do.
Despite the misunderstandings, the arguments, the pain, the rejection, and the wounds which we inflicted on each other. Even amidst all of the hurt and sadness and sorrow and darkness those things sewed there was still, I believe, love.
Do I mourn the loss of my father through his death? Yes I do. But do you know what? In many ways even more than that I mourn the relationship that, as a result of my mental health and our inability to understand it, he never got to have with the son I was meant to be and that I never got to have with the father that he was.
Mental illness does many things to many people, but one of the saddest things to me is the damage that it can do to relationships.
If you are reading this and have poor mental-health. Or if you are someone who loves and cares for someone with poor mental-health. If your relationships, or some of them, are struggling. Then I urge you to do all you can to break through it all and to heal and repair those relationships.
Is healing possible for me? For my father? For our relationship? Well even though my earthly father is no longer with me I know that God is with me.
God. The most perfect and loving and holy Father of all fathers, and who is my father’s Father before me. So even in the depths of my sadness and my mental illness I trust in Him and lay it all down to Him.
Can mental illness can take a grown man out of the familiarity of boredom and sickness and transport him into a small lost child in the small hours of the night-filled morning. Yes absolutely it can.
But do you know what? I don’t care. Because not only can it not keep me from the love of my heavenly Father but actually it helps me lose my macho-ness, my self-reliance, my pride and my inhibitions and actually it helps me to see myself fit so much easier into His arms.