Firstly, I missed my father. He left this earth more than six years ago, but I don't just mean that I miss him - which, by the way, I still do - I mean that I missed him. Like a fool I missed my chance to find out about him before his last illness diminished him so cruelly, and while he could still share something of himself. Over the preceding years I didn't ask enough questions, nor ask them persistently enough to elicit meaningful answers. All I know of my father is ‘Dad’; the little that this quiet man allowed to rise to the surface - an idea of which can be gleaned from the fact that after over eighty years of life, all he ever wrote down about himself was – at my urging, I might add - four or five pages. He barely told us more face-to-face. He was a generous and loving man, but he made a sad mistake in this regard. He left us wondering, and unknowing. I cannot let the same thing happen to my children.
His lost legacy is now the reason I write; I write – consciously – for and to them, and to their children. I am so very grateful for the lesson my father unwittingly taught me, and for the opportunity to avoid repeating it.
It took me a long time to learn to be loved. Indeed, I’ve only very recently – lying in a hospital bed and watching my lady loving me with a benevolent and passionate ferocity – begun to understand it properly. Even the thought of it now moves me to tears. I have always loved intensely, but I was always an unhappy lover, and only recently, in my mid-fifties, have I realized that I was eye-wateringly terrible at being loved. I denied it, I refused to believe it could be true, and I closed the door upon the joy of it. I loved desperately and hopelessly, and as a result, I lost. Awakening to being loved has transformed my outlook. Suddenly, my world is full of colours, filled with happiness and chances to return that gift. How blind I was; how beautiful is this new glorious panorama.
Looking forward is still fun. My lovely lady and I long ago formulated a step-away-from-it-all plan for our semi-retirement which we have now managed to bring to fruition. It's a simple idea, but one which fills us with excitement at the thought of creating a new chapter of our lives together. We managed to achieve a major part of it before I fell ill and were forced to put many of our intentions on hold. We never lost sight of our goals, and we find ourselves now in a delightful, peaceful part of the world, surrounded by natural beauty and softly embraced by our small community. Our future, for a while veiled and uncertain, has returned to clarity and a measure of certainty as we embrace a fruitful last third of our lives. It is a fresh idea and as such is entirely ours, with few echoes of our prior lives. It’s an adventure (in a gentle and not particularly dangerous kind of way), and it gives me a great deal of joy to anticipate living within our little dream, with the person alongside whom I wish to grow very, very old. Looking forward Is not the sole preserve of my young self, after all.
I'm fortunate. Not just lucky, but incredibly fortunate. I am deeply in love with my lady, and she with me (and that alone is enough to make the world worth living in). Together we have three fantastic children - now adults - of whom we are very proud, and we live in a spectacular part of the world. Despite the different routes that we have taken to eventually get here, we have made this happen. This year, we have come through fear, pain and an uncertainty neither of us has faced before. I could not have done it alone; I will be forever grateful, forever aware of the fate that we have been so fortunate to avoid and so fortunate to bring to fruition. We've worked hard to be here today; we deserve our happiness, but we also appreciate how lucky we have been.
It's not over until it's over. My wife and I lived apart for most of our adult lives. We first got together on the stroke of new year 1983/4 and became an 'item' within seconds. We were together for nearly three years before – mostly as a result of my previously noted troubles with being loved - we went our separate ways. But then, as 2008 came towards an end, we found one another again – or should I say she determinedly hunted me down half a world away. The road between 1986 and now has been...interesting. There have been full lifetimes’ worth of ups, downs and sideways-es in the interim, but I have to say that none of that really matters. We have both lived interesting lives on two continents, and we have loved, laughed and cried apart from one another for many, many years. These days, we laugh more than we have ever done, we remind ourselves of how loved we are, and we find joy in our instinctive outpouring of love for one another. Life - and living - is good.
We are now, after all - after all these years - where we truly belong. Together.
And now, I find myself reflecting upon my reflections. When the shimmer clears, when the ripples upon the water’s surface fade away, my reflection is clean and clear. At last, I know. Life – my life, at least - is about love; being loved, loving and demonstrating that love. Over the last year, the reflection in the mirror has changed more than ever before, as have my reflections. As my hair and my beard have grown whiter, my reflections upon the last fifty-plus years have become brighter and more positive. As my life lost its guarantees, it became more valuable and more valued. Life is good, and for the overwhelming majority of time, has been so. I’ve wasted time in not appreciating and enjoying that fact. It is time to change that now.