THIS is part two of my Back from the Edge quartet and is entitled: Lost.
It is a letter to my children written in October 2005 during the break-up of my last marriage. It is a testament of my love for my kids and admission of my failures. I publish it now for them to read.
Every Grain of Sand
In the time of my confession, in the hour of my deepest need
When the pool of tears beneath my feet flood every newborn seed
There’s a dying voice within me reaching out somewhere,
Toiling in the danger and in the morals of despair.
Don’t have the inclination to look back on any mistake,
Like Cain, I now behold this chain of events that I must break.
In the fury of the moment I can see the Master’s hand
In every leaf that trembles, in every grain of sand.
WHEN I was a small child, I would gaze up into the night sky and marvel at the moon and the stars. And like many others, I would ask the question… why am I here? It is the unfathomable and timeless question that has haunted mankind for thousands of years. Yet it is a question that has stayed with me as I fast approach my 50th birthday.
Now as my marriage lies in ruins and my life seems at its lowest ebb, I have asked that question again and again. I must be frank with you; there have been times in the past 10 days when I have wanted to end it all – a quick painless suicide. But that is something I can never do for many, many reasons. God gave me back my life – first in 1987 and then again in 1988 – and He must have had a reason. Only God can take my life away. So I move on and try to make the rest of my life more meaningful and create peace where I tread.
My hero Bob Dylan once wrote:
“I wish I’d have been a doctor,
Maybe I’d have saved some life that had been lost,
Maybe I’d have done some good in the world
‘Stead of burning every bridge I crossed.”
…. and maybe that’s my starting point.
But where did it all go wrong and why am I a father to so many fatherless children and a failed husband again and again?
Ben – my first born, strong and my rock – but does he ever realise how much I love him and how proud of him I am?
My marriage to Ben’s mother was, in hindsight, a mistake. We were both too young and for the two of us it just seemed the right thing to do as our friends and peers all seemed to fall into line and tie the marital knot. Ann and I were opposites – she was a home girl married to her career and above all materialistic. I was none of those things and our partnership was one of unease and inconvenience. The only remarkable thing is we stayed married so long, even throughout my affair with W – prolonged in a weird way with my diagnosis of cancer. Our eventual divorce was a blessing for us both and we maintained a civil relationship for the next 10 years until Ben left school. Only lately has it become clear how emotionally churned up Ben became during the latter years of our marriage and how that damage has perpetuated into his adult life. I am so sorry for that.
T – so much like me it hurts – she was an absent love for more than 18 years and now I struggle to know how best to love her.
Social circumstances and the situation of the moment meant that T’s mother and I were never to be. We all make decisions in life, but sometimes like Hobson there is no choice left. But all these years later my greatest regret is that I could not have been there for T as she grew up. And it is a massive testament to her mother and her mother’s partner that she went through her childhood and adolescence undamaged, blossomed and is a beacon to us all as a wonderful young woman. Only by our reunion has she been exposed to emotional turmoil … and once more that is my doing. I am sorry.
Rhia – the gentle and beautiful emotional giant of my children – steady, bright and simply gorgeous.
Shannon – the spark in my life, effervescent and a mirror to my soul and in many ways my life.
If my marriage to Ann was a mistake, my union with the girls’ mother was a bigger blunder. She was from a different world to the one I inhabited. Even two years before the birth of our first child close, family told me to walk away from her. But I was caught in a web of emotions. Ironically, as the years passed and our children became our focus, our relationship became easier to deal with. And its eventual demise was a two-way avenue. I neglected her and my daughters in a relentless pursuit of career goals, while she found solace with another man. Our parting was a relief…. but that relief has been replaced by a living nightmare of alienation between my daughters and me … I dread to contemplate the long term emotional damage that could ensue.
Nathan – he will always be my wee one, even when he grows taller than me. Now and always my delight.
And so in my mid 40s I married Ruth and became a father once more. Spoken and unspoken family and friends asked whether the difference between us was fathomable. But we had something between us that I had not felt before. But the years between us eventually took its toll. Even a separation didn’t warn us to avoid the marriage contract. The relationship remained close and with the reunification with T, a family was at last born. I still struggle to accept that the marriage is over and fail to see anything else I could have done to save it. I guess that when a woman needs to “find herself”, it is a message that her husband is the wrong man.
So I stand at the crossroads in my life.
I can look back on achievement and mistakes, look around me at my children and my loving parents and stare again at the stars and ask the question. We only pass this way once and my reason for creation is evident in five faces and five lives.
It is the future that I must now work towards and for you my children this is part of a document of my love and life for you all.
17 October 2005