“I’m okay really, just have a lot on my mind and work is piling up…” I lost count sometime earlier this morning as to how many times I’ve replied to a polite “are you okay?” It’s not that I don’t appreciate the concern, because I do, it’s just that I don’t feel like telling that story again. And I really am okay, not for any other reason other than the need for me to really be. I need to keep moving, keep smiling, keep making those jokes Joe, that’s why they love you. Keep on keeping on. You’ve got this. It’s a fantastic thing to witness how much a person can hide behind a Nikon D7000, a smart outfit and quirky smile.
I look at that face staring right back at me in the mirror as I shave off stubble left to its own devices for a week too long. “Where are you?” I know that if I look past the shaving foam and those tiny wrinkles mapping a life across my face, that he is still there – somewhere. That guy that handles things as they come. Rolls with the punches, takes life by the balls and screams, “is that your best shot?!” The guy who swam across the Bahamas’ most shark invested waters, did a back flip off a friggin waterfall and traveled through 26 countries with nothing more than a backpack and an FM2 as company.
The guy who started this. I need him now, more than ever.
The tug at my leg draws my attention. There, right next to me looking up with sleep encrusted eyes so bright and a smile sincere enough to make me forget the boiling hot water now spilling over my shaver onto my wrist, stood my life moment. For him I am a god. Not even the Pooh bear he was clutching in that tiny fist came close to his daddy. Daddy makes things okay. Daddy is who he wants to be most like. Because, daddy is bulletproof. I bend down and a big hug later he runs off to get dressed for school as I turn back to the shaving foam and stubble. I smile as I hear the pitter-patter of his tiny feet chasing down the hallway shouting something about Spiderman and lunch money.
It’s the same thing every day. Get up make coffee, iron those smart clothes, do those push ups and look the world flat in the face when you get into that car. But I’m not okay. I am not really smiling and those jokes are there for my distraction more than for their entertainment. I have tried, god knows I’ve given this my all and I could not save it. Not even when he came along was that enough for her. I never asked for her to become a different person, I only ever wanted her to meet me half way. Half way it seemed was half way too far. And so I carried the burden until it became a job and then still further until it became me. But it’s not me, not even halfway.
As I approach the crest of what many call your prime, I face a task that at first seems truly daunting. Overwhelming in fact. My new year started with unemployment, car repossessions and the subsequent financial difficulties that come with being the only bread winner in a town where nobody cares to pay you any attention unless you have something to offer in return. But there was a turning point. On the third day of walking my son to school in the best sing-along horsey way I knew, a man in a very big German sportscar drove past, windows open, with his son sitting on the seat next to him. I heard the son ask his dad if they should stop and offer us a lift as he was a classmate and friend of my son. The dad replied that they didn’t have time and continued driving past. The boy riding horsey on my shoulders didn’t notice and happily continued with his best rendition of Old McDonald and his mooing cows as I battled the steep incline to his school.
But I did.
I had something to offer and although I did not know it at the time, that something was me. Eight months on and I now stand an inch from a dream that has been a decade in the making. I have two loving children, a roof over my head, a car an income and a measure of confidence that could challenge society’s view of arrogance. That heap of compost in the backyard has sprouted a rose bush of opportunity even a lowly gardener cannot help but appreciate.
But sadly, roses do have thorns. The pain comes not from the prick, but from leaving that thorn to fester. It is equally traumatic when you decide to dig out that thorn and give your flesh the time to heal. I have removed my thorn. And the rose whelped along with it, for at the time I could not understand the relief that would soon come as that wound started to heal. It has now been my experience that sometimes being handed a plaster can make the world of difference, for although the scar will still remain, the wound will close and the plaster will hide it from the world for as long at it needs to be. It is when that plaster eventually comes off that daddies will cry, but not from pain, but rather relief.
I am okay. And I will carry this until it becomes a reflex, until it becomes more than okay. I know this, because I was handed a plaster not a disinfectant. Thank you for seeing me. Thank you for helping me hide.
Thank you for handing me that plaster.