Thursday, June 23, 2011

A Letter to my Broken Hearted Boy

I was moving a lot of files from a laptop onto my new Macbook last night and came across a letter I wrote to my son just before Christmas 2009, very soon after the death of his Mother.

It put a lump in my throat to reread it. But I’m publishing it here because I think ultimately it has a happy ending (given how happy he is now).

How 18 months can change things, eh?


You woke in the night again last night after having bad dreams. You were terrified and shaking but couldn’t communicate what you were scared of.

I think you’re scared of her absence. I think you’re terrified of the emptiness of that hole she left in your heart. I know that because I’ve been there. I’ve felt that. And as much as it hurt, as debilitating as that was, I would do it all over again if I could take that feeling away from you, son.

You’re such a clever lad, so bright, so intelligent. But no child of your age has the emotional intelligence to process this type of trauma and I see how much it frustrates you to not be able to communicate what’s wrong.

5 years old (should that be 5 years, 11 months and 18 days?) and you’ve already experienced something that even people in adulthood are often unable to process. So I know such words as those I am about to say will seem empty when I repeat them to you… but one day they will make sense.

This is what I promise you, son. I promise you that one day this will hurt you less. I promise you that one day the nightmares will stop and you’ll find a way to smile again.

I also promise you that you will never forget her, that we will never stop thinking of her and that we will always, always cherish her memory. You will never stop missing her, son. You’ll think of her every birthday, every Christmas, every Mother’s Day and on random days too. You’ll see people in the street who remind you of her and have to stop yourself from approaching them. You’ll swear to yourself sometimes that you can hear her voice whispering into your ear. Every single time you bring a good report home from school we’ll both be thinking that we wish she were around to see it.

But I promise you that the agony you are feeling right now will not last forever, son. I promise. Your heart is broken into a thousand pieces. But let’s pick up the pieces and put them back together again. I’ll help you find the pieces and together we can start repairing the damage. It’s not a quick fix, I know. But I’ll be right with you every single step of the way, son, holding your hand. And on those days you just don’t feel as though you can take a single step, I’ll carry you.

I know I will never be her and I know I can never bring her back, but I promise you that you’ll be happy again one day. And you will never, ever, ever have to question how much you are loved or how secure you are.

I’ll keep you safe and love you with every ounce of my being. Not just for you and for me… but for her as well.

Things will get better.

I love you, son.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Father's Day

I was treated to cake today, baked by a seven year old who then iced it with footballs and the word ‘Dad.’ My Father’s day card had two names on it. My son’s name and ‘Bumpette.’ That’s the interim name for our little girl until we finally decide what she will be called.

I shouldn’t forget to mention that I got a second Father’s day card from our two dogs (thank you Chloe!).

It was wonderful to enjoy a quiet day with my family… and the ‘Dad Appreciation’ was incredible too. So thank you to my beautiful family.

As they sleep now, my mind wanders to my own Father. There have been 24 Father’s Days that have passed since he passed away. However, it’s only since I became a Father myself that I have really understood what the hollow feeling on this day each year actually is.

My Mother used to tell me I was a lot like my Father in character though I was too young when we lost him to really know which elements of my character she meant.

I don’t remember much about him, to be honest. But what I do know is that he stole my Mother’s heart. I know that she never, ever, ever stopped loving him and that when she was at her sickest, what kept her smiling was a genuine belief that she would be reunited with him soon.

So I truly believe he must have been one hell of a fellow to convince her to move from her native Argentina to the cold, damp UK, to leave her family and to start all over again with him thousands of miles from everyone and everything she knew. My Mother was a tough cookie to crumble. If he were able to gain her love as he did, he must have been a phenomenal guy.

My Father died before I was old enough to have enjoyed a first football match with him (but I do remember his Manchester City shirt collection and have very vague memories of singing City songs with him as a young child). I was never able to introduce my first girlfriend to him or share exam results with him. But I was assured by my Mother that he would be proud. That’s reassuring.

So to my Father, my Mother’s soul mate, the man whose presence seemed prevalent in our household long after his physical being had left…. Happy Father’s Day.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Where Poetry Education Goes Wrong

My son loves poetry. He’s 7.

He doesn’t care much for Shakespeare, Ted Hughes or Wordsworth though.

He loves poetry as the art form he has come to know it. I love his love of words. It’s something he and I have in common. I encouraged him to start writing poems as a very, very young child. And recently at school he has started to encounter the UK education system’s idea of ‘poetry.’

This would be great…. Except for the fact that the way poetry Is taught to children in the UK is, as far as I am concerned, substandard.

“What’s a syllable again?” he asked.

I explained.

He then went on to explain that a poem he had written over a year ago (a poem, randomly about the CN tower), wasn’t ‘quite right.’

I love the poem he wrote. But suddenly he is obsessed with rhyme, rhythm and meter. His poems naturally had good meter, to be honest. Particularly for a child of his age. But as soon as the education system is involved, my son’s free expression is suppressed by the need to tap out syllables on a table and ensure they fit with rules written on a chalkboard in a classroom.

Let me clarify something. I do believe children should be educated in the classics and that they should learn certain styles of poetry. But I think the education system misses the point:-

Poetry is about expression. It’s about taking something you feel, something you see or something you imagine and about putting it into words and organising those words in a way that people want to read them.

I think that children should be encouraged to express first… many, many years before they have to start tapping out syllables on tables and looking up synonyms in dictionaries because they ‘already used that word once a few lines ago.’

I love poetry. But, much like my son, I would not call myself a fan of Shakespeare, Wordsworth, Ted Hughes or Carol Ann Duffy. The existing UK education syllabus does not throw up anything that would have inspired me as a child nor inspires me now (albeit that in my twenties I have come to like one or two Duffy pieces).

I love Neruda’s work with a passion. Not because of his rhyme, rhythm, meter or structure. But because of his ability to take a feeling and enable someone to recreate it for themselves using only letters organised into words, organised into sentences of sheer emotional brilliance.

Poetry should be about expression…. About making an emotion or an imagined image transferrable using only words.

My son will retain his passion for poetic expression, I am certain of it . Unfortunately, I just don’t feel that the education system does much to further that. I think much of his passion for words will, at least for the next few years, be born of our poetry nights at home and outside of school.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Good Morning

The sun sneaks through a crack in the curtains before 5am. I wake up, check the time and roll over sighing. Late enough that I probably won’t get back to sleep. Early enough that I will be exhausted before 6 tonight.

And then I see you… dribbling on the pillow (sorry, babe!) with the corners of your mouth slightly upturned in a sleeping smile. I brush the hair back from in front of your face so I can look at you. Peaceful. I rest my hand on your stomach to see if I can feel her kicking. Most mornings she’s still but nonetheless, I like to check.

I wake you. Unintentionally. But you’re not mad. Instead you smile I lay on my back and invite you to rest your head on my chest.

“Good morning, handsome,” you say.

“Good morning,” I respond.

We lie back and we enjoy a silent hour’s snoozing…. Because we know it won’t be long until we’re joined in bed by two crazy little dogs and a seven year old boy.

But we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Monday, June 13, 2011

They Say...

Clichés. The world is full of them and I dislike them for more than just the fact they are overused (and yet have a massively irritating way of creeping into my writing and my mind). I also dislike them because, frankly, they’re not always true. In fact… the people who wander around my thoughts during the day prove many of them entirely inaccurate:

Blood is Thicker than Water

They say blood is thicker than water… in some way trying to devalue ties not born of DNA. But when I look at him and her, when I watch her cuddle him to sleep, listen to her read him stories, listen to him recall his day to her as they sit gazing out of the window, I know that biology is the smallest part of the equation of parental love.

Blood may be thicker than water – but it is not thicker than love. Blood stains, but it doesn’t stick around as long as an unconditional and eternal love for someone.

DNA won’t keep him warm at night. Genes won’t keep him feeling safe. Love will do that.

All’s Fair in Love and War

They say that all is fair in love and war. Tell that to the orphan weeping over the bloodied corpse of his Father – a man murdered by weapons far bigger than he, fired for reasons far bigger than he can comprehend. A war was waged against the men in power but that wipes out the men on the street.

They say that all is fair in love and war. Tell that to those who lost a love, whose heart never recovered and who were never quite able to fully give their heart to another.


A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. So perhaps, then, they haven’t read hers. Because the prettiest pictures are penned using just 26 different letters and raw emotion. They choose her, the words. She doesn’t necessarily choose them. I know that. I see that. I feel that. Yet those pictures penned of vowels and consonants, free of paint, free of oils, free of pastels, chalks and pencil lines, they create some of the finest art you will ever see.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. So perhaps then, they haven’t read hers.

All’s Well that Ends Well

They say that all’s well that ends well. But just because loose ends were tied up doesn’t mean the knots were ever removed from the middle. Picking up the smashed pieces doesn’t put them back together again.

A happy ending is indeed desirable. But sometimes so much has been damaged during the event that all you can do is look forward… clean up what you can and leave what was to weather away.

Lightening Never Strikes Twice in the Same Place

It does. Or sometimes three times. Or sometimes even four times.

All you can do is douse the flames, repaint and carry on.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Looking Forwards

There’s so much here to gain,
That tonight I stand and choose,
To love and learn and live again,
Not fear what I may lose.

We spend so much of our lives worrying about what we might lose. Well, ok, I do. Too many years of looking backwards in self-pity at a shitty deal that saw me lose a Father at 5 and a Mother in my early 20s… too many years of doing that led to a real sense of bitterness and “oh aren’t I hard done by?”

At the risk of sounding like a whiney ass here, it does seem like bad luck… just as I was getting over my parents, I lost the Mother of my son and little over a year on, one of my closest friends.

Losing the Mother of my son set me back. Majorly. I did the whole push the world out thing and used those closest to me as verbal whipping posts, venting my fury with some nasty, toxic words.

But I’ve learnt, in the past year, the art of looking forwards, rather than gazing backwards and looking longingly for familiar faces I can no longer see.

When I got married last month, I promised my wife I would only ever look forwards – forwards at the amazing life we have built for ourselves.

She made a good point;

“You won’t always look forwards. Everybody looks back from time to time. I just need you to promise me you will let me in and tell me how you’re feeling.”

She’s right. There will probably always be days I think about those I can’t touch or hear anymore. But she just needs to know about it…. And I just need to make sure that the odd glance back does not consume my thoughts. I have too much to look forward to.

My daughter will be born in 3 months.

Oh my God… how terrifying is that? And awesome at the same time!

My son is the happiest he has ever been. He’s taking the joy out of every single day. His wounds have healed. They scarred… but they don’t hurt anymore. In fact, most days he hardly notices they’re there. On some days they tingle, but he handles it well.

He misses his Mother terribly. But he, the fine example that he is, has picked the pieces up and is trudging on with his life and enjoying every single moment of it. He’s an inspiration of a little boy. In fact, right now he is with my Sister and nephew outside jumping in puddles. That’s really all they are doing. We bought him some new wellies when we moved out of the city and he’s been waiting for a weekend as rainy as this one has been to just go out jumping in puddles. Forget Playstations, Wiis, TV and all that material crap… he’s happiest playing in puddles. Just how it should be, right?

Humans are resilient when they choose to be. We’re not as fragile as we sometimes allow ourselves to think we are.

Anyhow, that’s enough of the deep thinking for me for one day. I’m off to jump in puddles too…

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


Wrongs and rights
Are lost in fights
Where words become
Our weapons.

Words now penned,
It’s best to spend
This venom
While alone.

No more will I
Spit words in spite.
Stoop to defensive level,
Take such a gift
As that of words
And use it as the devil.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Adorned in White

Emerging adorned in the purest white
To take the sting from the fiercest night.
She who sang my heart away
To dream filled sleep in my childhood days,
Now fills my dreams, by the river
Adorned in white, angelic figure.

Whisper away the dark and pain,
And sing a song to clear the rain.

Angel of the night.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

My Wife

Joined, we two, in love,

By choice.

Two bodies, hearts and souls,

One voice.

Singing from the same

Song sheet,

Joined, in love, we can


Most anything that comes

Our way

Come rain, or storms,

My heart will stay

My love, my smile, my joy

My life

My raison d’etre, friend,

And wife.