Updated: Jul 15
I met a girl once. A long time ago. On the hotel balcony. Not quite a short lived romance. I'd had teenage love before but this person, she took my breath away. Late teens, early 20s, even bought our first house together. Had amazing Christmas's with her family, brilliant chats with her Dad, I became, for a while part of the furniture. We had tumultuous arguments on occasions. Stupidly, I didn't understand how relationships were supposed to work, how they do work. In truth I perhaps still don't. And I certainly didn't understand myself. I was mardy, inconsiderate and oh, so incredibly selfish. Some might say, not a lot has changed? That said, we had some of the best times together and best holidays, even pretended to be grown-ups for a while and host dinner parties, which were daft excuses for drinking really. I didn't do her proud. Neither did I do myself proud. I was supposed to be working towards a better life for us, studying a degree to become a teacher. Except I didn't put the effort in, just simply carried on as I had done in my teenage years, expecting some miracle that would provide me with the knowledge to be what I wanted to be. Shame that I didn't realise that to get anywhere hard work, effort and application are required. Now, I look at my friends who have worked incredibly hard, with grown-up families, with respectable jobs, loving homes and with a tiny (very tiny) pang of remorse, I wonder what could have been?
When it comes down to it, I only have myself to blame. Just as I do for my life as it is now. By the way, I can't change the past and I'm not proud of how I have behaved through my history, but I becoming more appreciative of life as it is now, even if, from time to time it's a bit of a grind. Towards the end of our relationship, she was happier, brighter, more confident, more herself and who she was when I met her. Perhaps I stifled her, as perhaps I've stifled others? By December, all those years ago, it had all become clear and she decided to run off with the plumber. Everyone laughs at this point. Me too, now.
She passed away over ten years ago now. She left a hole in my life all those years ago and it's still there now, tinier but it is indelibly dug into my being. For years, I've looked to fill that hole. But no-one fitted just the way she did. Each and every relationship I've had since has been amazing in parts. In some ways the women I've been lucky enough to share a portion of life with have been and are amazing too, but I continued to let every one of my 'better-halves' down. I did care for them and of course loved them, after all we've had children together (before you say anything I know having a child doesn't mean there is love in a relationship but for me it did). This morning I got to thinking that the failed attempts at love have also scratched, etched and bored into me. I'm richer for knowing them, even if I've failed them. The longer the relationship perhaps the deeper the void.
Now, I don't need a better half, a significant other. I have me and that's enough.
Just one tiny drop of time got me to realise that in fact I have more than enough. This morning I went to watch my son play football. He has natural enthusiasm. Of course, I'm biased and proud, but it is his verve and vigour that stirs me. I remember something Bill Shankly once said about natural enthusiasm, 'it's the greatest thing in the world, natural enthusiasm, you're nothing without it'. Perhaps my son won't make it, perhaps he will, but when I see him run, watch him play, all I see is an embodiment of natural enthusiasm. At the end of the game my daughter gave me a kiss, said 'Bye' and ran off to her Mum. My other son, after semi-ignoring me just after I arrived at the game 40 minutes earlier, ran up to me at the end, put his arms around me, 'I love you Papa'. That's enough. That's more than enough. My cup is brimming over. 'How was school?' I asked, nervous of his answer as the first day back was a little wobbly and there's a degree of instability in his self-confidence, 'Brilliant, I was Star of the Week'. Hold on, I need two cups here to hold all this good stuff. And yet these tiny moments of what some might consider nothing had not finished. My daughter ran back, unzipped my jacket pocket placed a daisy inside and without saying anything ran back to her Mum. What more do I need?
Whilst my eldest son has hopes for his future to play football for a living, I'm proud of him as he is. I watched him shepherd his younger sister into her Year 1 earlier this week. I write it as I want to remember it. He put his left hand on her shoulder and faintly said, 'it'll be great, you'll be alright'.
Despite each one of them being different, more or less confident, or intuitive, or sensitive or playful, or thoughtful, or funny, they have (at least to me, as I view them through whatever coloured spectacles I wear) natural enthusiasm.
At some point it will be down to their individual application, hard-work and commitment to get them where each wants to be, if they want 'it' enough. I hope that each one of them gets to the somewhere that they want and hope to be, I really do hope.
Those indelible holes dug by significant others. Be grateful for them. Be grateful for the mistakes you've made in life. Most of them are uncomfortable and when they creep in through the back door to the conscious of your now, greet them with love and compassion, you are who you are, partly because of them.
That daisy; I've pressed it into the back of Winnie the Pooh, the Complete Stories, I want to keep it. Her gesture made me think of something else. Whilst I've opened up the garden of my heart for others to dig holes in, I've sentimentally realised that my garden is alive with these particular common wildflowers reminding me daily the love I have for my children and (I think) they for me, my heart will always be fertile ground for them to grow. Strange thing daisies, apparently they are a weed to some, but they can flower all year round. I might not see them everyday but who needs a significant other when I have more than one already?