The Nocturnal Dad | Episode 7 | Rainbow Tears
Despite being an anonymous columnist, I don’t have the courage to write about ‘real’ stuff. Miss-guided adventures through pop culture and self-depreciating everyday catastrophe confessions = comfy. Searching my feelings and baring my soul = hideous. Then, I read this and realised I needed to ‘go there’.
This month’s episode was set to continue along the familiar theme of meandering aimlessly around for a real-life happening to try and re-tell in an over-wordy, clumsy but hopefully entertaining way. Notepad entries; ‘The profound effect of Harrison Ford’, ‘Basketball is more exciting than football’, ‘Top ten moustaches of all time’ ‘Sleaford Mods lead dad joke revolution’, ‘Is Tim Burgess the second coming?’ ‘Rock n roll Sons’ and ‘Becoming my Mum’. But reading A Man’s Grief by Hype contributor Jim Briffett sent a shockwave through me. I scrubbed a line through the lot and wrote the word ‘Real’ in capitals.
What comes next is The Nocturnal Dad Uncovered. Not an uncovering of identity because A) I am too chicken to put pen to paper in public and, B) Because I am not the Secret Footballer and nobody knows me anyway. Uncovered in the sense that, unlike Jim, I have never shared my feelings of grief and worry with anyone – but he has inspired me to do so. So here are 5 short ‘real’ stories, each with a promise I intend to keep.
(Good luck illustrating this one Dom!)
Promise #1 My Aunty
My auntie is in her seventies and is bi-polar. She has relied on medication all her life. She lives overseas and I haven’t seen her since I was a little kid but we have bizarrely become pen friends over the last 7 years since my eldest was born. I can always tell from her handwriting how she is feeling. Jagged and leaning when in pain, neat and straight when healthy. I knew she was ill but I never realised how ill. Then she tried to take her own life last year.
“She survived because, despite downing a huge quantity of pills, her body was able to cope with them after a lifetime on medication. My mum flew out to see her. I didn’t go and I wish I had”.
Last week on my 42nd birthday she sent me the first letter since her suicide attempt. I was scared to open the envelope. Thankfully her handwriting was neat and straight. She put $70 in the card which is a huge amount of money for her. I legged it upstairs into the bathroom, locked the door and cried my eyes out. I am struggling not to cry right now. I am full of grief at what happened and for how she has to live her life as a prisoner in her own mind. Yet I still haven’t booked that flight. Why? I can’t think of a better way to add a few more hundred quid onto the credit card. I promise myself to have a flight booked by the end of the year.
Promise #2 My Brother
I’m really lucky. I have brothers that are my friends and I am proud of all of them. We were a handful growing up but one of us was renowned for being the craziest – happy, hyper, beautiful crazy. If you asked me which of us would suffer from depression, he would have been the last one of us that I would have guessed. Two years ago he went missing for 48 hours. Completely off the radar. His wife couldn’t trace him and his phone was off. Totally out of character.
“We deployed a search party and tried to calm mum down. When he finally made contact, everything unravelled. He tearfully told me that he had seriously considered doing the worst. He opened up, sought professional help and went on medication”.
He’s a determined and strong character and he’s doing much better now but he carries it with him every day. We all rallied around at the time and then things went back to ‘normal’.
He recently asked for a monthly catch up with his brothers and I’ve missed the last two. Why? He lives nearby and I’m his big brother and I love him and I should be there for him more. I promise myself that I will not miss our next get together.
Promise #3 My Dad
He’s alive and kicking and still hilariously angry with the world. I was at a family BBQ a few weeks ago and he suddenly scowled up at a small plane buzzing overhead “Fu*ck off and fly over someone else’s garden, you fu**ing poser”. It was both embarrassing and hugely funny.
When I read Jim’s article and the last words that his dad said to him, I realised just how much I am going to miss my dad when he is gone. He’s hard work. Very funny but also very negative about most things and is a real ear bender. I hate to admit it but I swerve having conversations with him sometimes.
But if he was suddenly not around I would be absolutely devastated. I remember a few years ago my mum called me to say he had fallen over and banged his head and was in the hospital. I was distraught. So why am I so lazy with him when I love him so much? I promise myself to make more time for my dad and to do all I can to envelop him with positive vibes.
Promise #4 My Wife
My wife, known as Rock Solid in this column, lost one of her best friends to cancer two years ago at just 39 years old. I was mates with her too, in fact, we were friends since junior school. It really cut me and I did a half marathon in her memory to raise some money for her hospice.
Within days of our friend dying, Rock Solid lost her beloved nan too. Then, a few months ago she lost her other nan. I can see her suffering from grief and I don’t know how to comfort her. I hug her and I try to find the right words but it’s not enough and I worry that she is depressed again and I know what that can do. I am lucky. I haven’t lost my best friend and my grandparents passed away when I was very young. So I don’t really know how she is feeling. I show compassion but only when she is visibly upset.
I think she is carrying this sadness with her more than she makes out and when I really think about that it breaks my heart. I promise myself to be more aware of what this amazing woman is going through and to be there more as her Rock Solid, too.
Promise #5 My Son
My seven-year-old, affectionately known as Drama in this column, is absolutely crackers. He wears his heart on his sleeve and is one of the most emotional people that I know. He can be crying ‘rainbow tears’ of happiness (a phrase that he, amazingly, coined) one minute and tears of sadness the next. He is funny, he has a beautiful soul and a kind heart but can be incredibly hard work.
“I ’m struggling with the promise to myself on this one – I guess it’s to be as brave and supportive for Drama as my mate is for his son”.
We spoke to his teacher because we wondered if he had ADHD/ADD but she thinks not. He’d been getting progressively more erratic and we had started to worry about him. Then we watched a Panorama program about depression in children. It filled us with panic. We went upstairs and watched him sleep. I sang Live Forever to him, as I used to do to comfort him as a baby, and cried. It made us realise that we need to anticipate the worst rather than hope for the best and we are now seeking some professional advice, just in case. One of my best mate’s kids has Autism.
He says going through his son’s diagnosis and the endless process of securing school support – on top of the everyday madness of just being a parent with young kids – has left him feeling an inch shorter. I am worried sick about what the consultants might say about Drama (the irony of that nickname now making me feel bad). On top of that, I am not as tall as my mate and an inch lost would be very noticeable. I’m struggling with the promise to myself on this one – I guess it’s to be as brave and supportive for Drama as my mate is for his son.
That was tough but I feel better for writing it. I feel good about those promises. I’ve even shed a few rainbow tears of my own.
Ok, time to bring up the drawbridge again. Next month’s episode will be a return to business as normal – a comparatively shallow, real-life happening that I will attempt to re-tell in an over-wordy, clumsy but hopefully entertaining way.
Missed previous episodes? Catch up with The Nocturnal Dad’s adventures here
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Illustration by Dominic Murray @no_subs_blog