It was late on a Thursday evening and Rodger and I were walking up Upper Street in Islington, looking for a Thai restaurant. We were a little worse for wear
“You OK?” he asked looking at my awkward gait.
“Yeah,” I said with that little inflection that indicated that I didn’t really mean it. “I put my back out last week and it’s still sore.”
Rodger nodded. A man of similar age, he knew what I meant. “How did you do it?”
I sniggered to myself. “Well, it’s a really old injury. The first time I did it, I was 28 years old and on a dive boat in the Red Sea. I was picking up an air cylinder, getting ready for a dive and the boat was rocking. As I put it on I felt something click in my back. Still did the dive though. A great physio showed me how to fix it but that doesn’t stop it going every couple of years.”
More nodding from Rodger. “Cool story. Manly, macho activity.”
I shook my head in response. “Last week, it went again – as I bent down to pull my trousers up.”
Rodger bent over double laughing. “Seventeen years on even getting dressed is a dangerous sport!” He guffawed.
And that sadly is the truth of it. Somewhere along the way, somewhere in the last seventeen years a young man has turned into a middle aged man. Taking the time to reflect, I know exactly when it happened: when I had kids.
Up until the point my twins were born desperately early, I always thought of myself playing at life. Work was just a game and weekends were spent watching sports, eating, drinking and sleeping. The moment I became a father everything changed.
Overdoing it was no longer an option because whilst my boss or my clients might forgive a hangover (and very often they were the ones responsible for it), I rapidly discovered that my children wouldn’t.
Moreover, the responsibilities of raising a disabled child with serious medical complications were a world apart from anything I had ever known before (or since). Losing Arun’s twin brother to some of those complications was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
When I started writing this blog almost 5 years ago, I had just started a year-long sabbatical from my job in the City. At that point my main motive was to spend a lot of time with my son and new baby daughter. Having lost a child made me understand just how precious they are and I was adamant that fatherhood was not going to pass me by.
At that point, I didn’t know what I wanted to do with the rest of my life and used the time to explore my own ambitions. My initial ideas around writing, politics and teaching fell by the wayside in that year as I learnt a little more of the reality of these professions. However, the little bits and pieces of charity work I was doing soon turned into more and more substantial projects, assignments and consultancy contracts until for the last 2 years I have been working to help organisations that work with disadvantaged children and the disabled.
And now, five years on, my journey is almost complete. I have been honoured to be offered a position as with the country’s largest disability charity: Leonard Cheshire and after some soul searching I have decided to accept.
Sadly, this means that I will be drawing a curtain on a wonderful phase of my life which includes this blog (next week’s posting will be my last one). Over the five years I have written it, my main focus has been enjoying raising my family. I have been privileged to watch them grow up and in being able to shape their little lives and thoughts.
However, it’s only now, when I stop, that I realise that they’ve shaped me far more than I ever could shape them. Somewhere, in the midst of raising a family, it was me that grew up.