Separated

“Separated”.

What a word. What a big word! A word loaded with meaning.

“removed or severed from association, service, etc., especially legally or formally”  Dictionary.com

“severed”, “removed”. Reminiscent of surgical amputation, or tooth extraction: it sounds painful!

And it is.

Not quite married, not quite single. Both, and neither.

“But I’m not really married!” isn’t the exactly the world’s best chat-up line is it? Damn, I even wrote a song about it!

But that’s not the worst part – not for me, anyway. I don’t think it would help anyone – me, my children or their mother – to drag any recriminations, whys and wherefores all over the internet, and I don’t intend to.

“Separated”. Not just from my wife, from what is now the ‘family home’, but also – and most importantly – from Jake and Ellie. That’s the worst part.

Jake and Ellie. Who I’ve described as “the best thing I’ve ever done with my life”.  In low moments “the only good thing I’ve ever done with my life”.

Jake.  The Jake who I held “skin on skin” when he was born and who promptly stopped crying, then relaxed enough to relieve himself all over my chest. “The happiest moment of my life” I called it at the time.    DSCF2769

Ellie, my “Tiny Dancer”. The countless hours I spent cuddling her and singing her to sleep night after night, not leaving until I was sure she was soundly asleep.

That first year I spent with them, along with their mother, as a full-time parent was at once the richest and one of most demanding of my life.

The (for the first year at least) twice-daily walks in the double buggy, in all weathers, to give them the naps they needed. The vomit, the nappies, the sleep deprivation, the tantrums. Their first steps! Their first words! I remember tweeting “Teaching my little boy to roll a ball. Happy.” And I meant it. All those precious moments I spent with them, helping them live, learn and grow: three years a stay-at-home Dad.

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They’re now 8. At school, doing well, making friends, making music, playing rugby, and much more: so grown up! I see them so little by comparison. 1 day on a weekend and 1 evening during the week. I feel like they have been and are growing up largely without me.

It’s painful.

I’d defined myself and my life around them. And now we’re “Separated”. I left my heart with them and it’s still there: Separated.

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The Gallery: Education

The theme this week for Tara Cain’s Gallery over at Sticky Fingers: “Education”. Interesting one!

She’s had the brilliant idea (suggested to her by a twitter friend) of making a BLOGGER YEAR BOOK. Unfortunately I don’t have any old school photos; I think they’re all with my Mum for safe-keeping on the other side of the world. Probably just as well, for me anyway!

I do have this photo ‘though:

I’ve mentioned my Dad here before, how he passed away in 2004. He was born & educated in Northumberland, for all of my childhood & as a young adult growing up in New Zealand a place I knew very little about. I felt I knew very little about him as a young man & about his roots & his early life.

So when in January 2008 I found myself in Newcastle I took the opportunity to go on a Quest to find out more about the most important man in my life, my Dad.

All I knew was that he was the son of a Cornish miner who moved north to mine coal, that he grew up in Ashington & that he attended  Morpeth Grammar School. After some asking around I managed to track down what used to be his school. Most of it had been rebuilt, & it was no longer a Grammar School. The staff there though were brilliant: when I told them why I was there they were fantastically helpful. They gave me full access to their archives, letting me stay there as long as I liked. After a lot of digging I came across  the above, my Dad’s actual School Register, also School Rolls: fantastic! No report cards ‘though, unfortunately. It was so amazing to get a glimpse of his distant childhood, a time that was so important to him & that I knew so very little about.

From there I even got his house address & was able to zoom off to Ashington, to see the place where he was born & raised. I could almost see him there, it was so rich with history. I took so many photos that the current occupant got very suspicious & came out to ask me what on Earth I was doing. Can’t say I blame him, really!

I’m so glad that I was able to in some small way connect with him & his roots in this way! And all because I knew the name of the school where he was educated.

So who’s the teacher’s pet? Who’s been sent to the Headmaster’s office for a ‘chat’? For more educated Gallery posts why not head over to Sticky Fingers (click the pic):

Life Goes On

My Dad passed away 7 years ago.

He lived a full life, & made it to the great old age of 94.

I can’t help thinking ‘though that if he was still alive he would have turned 101 today. He lived such an active healthy life that I always thought he would make it to at least 100.

It wasn’t unexpected; he’d been ill for some time with the cruel illness that is Alzheimer’s, & it was complications from that which took him in the end.

I am extremely grateful to my then boss, who was normally quite spiteful, for allowing me the time off at Christmas 2003 to visit him at his home in New Zealand, where I was able to say what would turn out to be my goodbyes.

I will always remember how I heard the news: a ‘phone call at 9am on a Monday to my desk at work from my sister & my Mum; I swiftly retired into the relative privacy of the office drinks room on my mobile.  Although not unexpected, to say it came as a shock would be an incredible understatement.

It took me a week to recover enough to return to work. And it’s not something I think you ever recover from fully.

Even in his confused state during my Christmas visit there he still thankfully knew & recognised me most of the time. While on the ‘phone to a friend I heard him saying of me “I am extremely proud of him”. I’d never been happier. Deep down a son wants few things more than to earn his father’s respect. Although I do remember thinking at the time that if he knew everything about me he maybe wouldn’t be so proud! But then that’s probably true of us all

I owe him so much; I see so much of him that lives on in me. His love of music, his love of nature & gardening, his positivity, so many things.

And what has this got to do with a blog about me being a dad to my twin babies? Every day I see him in the loving face of my baby boy Jake. The resemblance to my Dad as a child is sometimes uncanny.

So he lives on not only in me but also in my son.

I miss you, Dad; you were a great man & a great father. But I’m so glad you left so much of yourself behind, first in me, & now in my own son. You may have left us in body but your spirit lives on.

I’ve never written about my Dad before; I felt encouraged to do so after reading Today is the day… by the lovely Kate on her blog The Five Fs, & also A Love So Great at MumtoJ by Jo: who I don’t know so well but who I’m sure is also lovely