Monday 8 October 2012

The age of understanding

Stuck in the stickiness of life,
not jam, marmalade or honey
just stress, loneliness and thoughts of money

Struggle and strive but no home or no hive.
Purpose for plenty but running on empty

Queasy with questions and dizzy with doubt
I falter with faith but flounder without.

Time plays heavy on my mind at this time of year, the relatively calm seas of wheat and barley are replaced by the choppy waters of the freshly ploughed fields, indicating Autumn's here. But more than this that dreaded yearly marker of reflection comes around, my birthday!

This year I crawled through one of the worst and that's saying something because I've had some stinkers. I never liked birthdays and can't quite remember when they became such celebratory occasions, at our school it was something you never made public knowledge for fear of the bumps, a lot more unpleasant than the name portrays. There was often the sight of some poor kid being chased across the pitches at dinner time by an angry mob ready to sling the birthday boy around like a rag doll, knocking the wind and any sense of enjoyment out of them. 

I have four lasting memories of birthdays that stick with me like a bad case of flu. The first was my 6th. I had skipped to school this day excited in the knowledge that I was going to tell my friend that I was a year older, but when finally saw him to pass on the news, no congratulations, instead he ran off shouting that I was liar and it wasn't my birthday and as we know kids love a chant, so it wasn't long before this echoed around the playground.

The second was the day even my mum forgot. It wasn't that I got presents or anything, but there was usually at least a card and a smile, on this particular morning, nothing. After the initial shock and disappointment, I realised that there was a surprise planned, there would be a favourite meal, a Frey Bentos steak and kidney pie followed by a soggy pineapple cake waiting for me when I got back from school. However, as I exploded into the house after a long, long day of learning, again nothing. I couldn't hold back any longer and choked out, 'mum its my birthday', she was very apologetic but I still didn't get my pie.

Third, was the time of the watery bumps. I'd managed to avoid situations for most of the day at school where the mob could corner me. I'd watched them whisper, plot and plan revelling in the fact that I'd out smarted them, so it was with a feeling of quiet confidence that I got into the pool for our swimming lesson. No sooner had I got into deeper water than I was grabbed from all angles by a ravenous shoal of sharks, dragging me under the water and tossing me back out of it.

This surprise attack meant I swallowed a mouth and consequently a lung full of water and with no chance to catch my breath and no voice to scream, I was dunked for what seemed like forever, seeing my short life pass before my eyes. I was left struggling and spluttering, drifting towards even deeper water, until someone finally thought it would be a good idea to pull me to the side, at the very least so people could carry on doing their lengths.

Anyway I've been noticing a few things lately as age is piled on me. Time seems to weigh as heavy as an overstuffed suitcase with a wobbly wheel and a broken handle, but even with all of its awkwardness, there's never enough of it to drag. Also to fly in the face of the common belief that with age comes wisdom, I seem to have more and more questions and less and less answers the older I get.

However, the other night as I sat on the sofa, plate of dinner on my lap shouting at the TV getting more and more annoyed that it didn't answer back, I had the awful realisation of something that I had long suspected and feared....I've turned into my dad!

Now my dad had a few questionable habits that sat uncomfortably with his general sense of fair play and morals, in fact much like me he was a knot of contradictions, but probably unlike me, he had a lot more reason for it.

Both my parents pasts were a little shaky and as they had me relatively late in life, it had all seemed like ancient history to me, but Dads past was shrouded in mystery, but more of that in my next post.

Oh and there was that fourth birthday memory... that was the one where he died the week before.