Having lost my parents, my stepfather, my only uncle and – decades ago – my grandparents, one of whom died before I was even born, life might be a lonely place. I’m not lonely, of course, thanks to my partner, my children, who aren’t children anymore, her family, my father’s widow and my two brothers and a surprisingly wide group of friends. My day job reminds me that I am very much one of the lucky ones. There are a lot of people who have nothing.
One of my brothers, Noel, came to see us last night. It was a fleeting visit but it was wonderful for all that. I seldom see him because he lives in Vancouver. It will probably be years until I see him again. The feeling as I dropped him off at the bus station in Bristol today was far more powerful in terms of upset than seeing him arrive yesterday was of great joy. Saying goodbye is just so sad.
Gradually, with family dying at frequent intervals, I began to treasure them even more. The longing to be near everyone has become more of a need than a longing. I was reckless and careless with some family members years ago, not visiting them as often as I should have done, taking for granted the thought they would always be there. And suddenly, with the passing of my father in 2011, with whom I had finally, belatedly, established the father/son relationship I had never known but always dreamed about, it was taken away from me. With that positively came the negativity. I missed all that growing up.
Canada came into the equation, but it could have been anywhere a long way away. My dad left for Canada in the 1960s and that’s where his second and third sons were born and now live. Apart from infrequent visits, I hardly ever saw them and even when I did my head was so fucked up with the confusion of it all, I wanted to be somewhere else. But even if I had wanted to spend more time with my relatives who lived in Canada and the Netherlands, where my uncle lived, I couldn’t have, firstly through financial reasons and secondly because my uncle didn’t want to know his sister’s son anymore than he wanted anything to do with his sister.
Such a short time with Noel, it will feel like and probably be an age until we meet again, or my brother Vaughan for that matter, and as I drove back up the motorway I didn’t really want to do anything except hide away from the rest of the world. I am very lucky to have a partner who allows me to do that. I could have gone to the football, but I didn’t want to wear a painted smile because I knew that once I said goodbye after the game, I would feel horrendously guilty for having enjoyed myself when really I wanted the world to open up and swallow me whole.
Goodbyes are more awful than hellos are good, that’s a simple truth. I don’t wish that my brother hadn’t come to see us – that would just be plain silly – but I wish him leaving didn’t make me feel so bad.
Like I say, I am the lucky one because I am not alone and I am not feeling sorry for myself, either. But being near the people I love means more to me than anything on earth and that’s why I am so down tonight. It seems all the happy pills in the world can’t make you happy. Just a little less depressed.