THIS is the fourth and final part of my Back from the Edge series. It is entitled: Love
The Bigger Picture
I may have missed the bigger picture you know I never had a clue
Till you gave me all these wondrous things when I stood next to you
I could take care of the details every minute every day
But I couldn’t read the crystal ball or learn from past mistakes
Or learn from past mistakes
You gave to me my little girl she thinks her Daddy’s cool
But wait till boys come sniffing round and she’s home late from school
Vin says I’ll find another pocket it’ll come out of the blue
You will never have to share this love there will be enough for two – there will be enough for two
Now I’ve reached the big five zero not everything works well
But then it’s been a busy life and I’ve got some tales to tell
But I wish I listened harder and cherished what I found
I wish I kept more photographs and written more things down
And written more things down
But I wouldn’t change a single day well maybe one or two
But we can’t go back and start again that’s not what I would do
(Kieran Halpin, 2007)
AT 45 years old I never expected to become a father again, but there it was, I was a daddy for the fifth time.
In summer 2001 Ruth and I had been together for two years and we had both agreed to put parenthood to one side, at least until we were settled in our new home on Tyneside.
But after her visit to the local family planning clinic to have a contraceptive implant fitted, she came back with the totally unexpected news that she was pregnant.
The pregnancy was complicated with pre-eclampsia and Nathan was born four weeks prematurely by emergency caesarian section on Christmas Eve. He was a tiny mite, weighing in at just 4lb 11 ounces, but he was healthy and within weeks was thriving.
The early months put pressures on our relationship, but we pushed on and grew closer together. In May 2003 Ruth and I married, and later that summer moved into our big family home on South Tyneside.
We seemed to thrive as a family and made our home a real nest and retreat for ourselves and our extended families and friends.
So when I caught Ruth cheating with another man in the autumn of 2005 it was a hammer blow.
By Christmas I had initiated divorce proceedings and in January 2006 moved to North Wales to be close to my sisters and my parents… particularly for my father who was terminally ill with Parkinson’s Disease.
It was an attempt to find sanity and comfort from a world gone horribly wrong, yet again.
Suddenly I was again bereft of a child.
Then the unexpected happened…
Late in March, during one of my regular weekly trips back to Tyneside, Ruth asked me to meet her for a coffee. I reluctantly agreed as I felt intense emotional pain and wanted any divorce discussions to be exclusively between our solicitors. But she said it was important and was to do with Nathan.
So we sat down for coffee in a small bistro in Corbridge.
I was left open-mouthed when she suddenly told me that she thought Nathan should live with me.
She gave many reasons, including the fact that she thought I was the ‘better parent’, but that did not matter… here was my chance to be a real father at last!
I am forever grateful for her trust and bravery.
I discussed Ruth’s proposal with my youngest sister and my parents who all agreed that I should accept the offer.
My sister – who had been a single parent herself some years earlier – warned me that single parenthood was at times a struggle, but its rewards were many.
Nathan had only just celebrated his fourth birthday and I knew immediately that the task was going to be hard for a working man to raise a child, but I was determined to succeed.
So after a successful weeklong trial stay at Easter, Nathan moved to Wales to live with me.
That was eight years ago and I have never looked back.
He was – and still is – my joy, delight and pride.
From the early days of attending his every need such as wiping his bottom, cleaning his teeth and dressing him every morning, life has eased into the current state of pre-teen sulks and a sometimes ‘Kevin and Perry’ personality.
Along the way we have moved house four times, sat together and watched movies on the sofa, had friends for sleepovers and even lay on the lawn one evening to watch bats fly from their roosts.
He has also cared for me when I have been in bed with flu and sat by me in A&E holding my hand following an assault which left a temporal artery gushing blood from my forehead… he was only six years old and told me not to worry because “the doctors will make you better”.
In return I have taken him on bike rides in the local country park, played football and rugby in the garden, gone for walks in the forest and a week long holiday exploring caves and castles in the north of Scotland.
The highlights are too many to recount but top of them has to be him standing by my side last February as my Best Man at my wedding to my wife, Gill.
The pride and smile on his face will stay with me for the rest of my life.
My pride in him is manifold.
At primary school he excelled at almost every subject. He even wrote his first book! I beamed with delight when two teachers told me he was one of the most polite and well-mannered children they had taught.
His personality and confidence blossomed and was capped when he performed in the lead role of Prospero at his school’s production of the Tempest.
On leaving primary school his class teacher said: “I don’t know what I will do without him. I will miss him.”
He carried his enthusiasm for learning on to high school. He was placed in the top set for all his subjects based on his attainment. In his first half term in Year Seven he gained more merit points than any other pupil. He was rewarded by later being made a School Ambassador and given an Oscar at the Christmas award ceremony for being the highest achiever.
He continues to excel and has already gained three Platinum awards for his project work and continues as the top boy in school merit awards.
Outside school he has practised the Korean martial art of Taekwondo for the past four years and is now just two belts away from gaining the coveted Black Belt.
He has recently taken up rugby. In freezing rain and wind I smile and squirm when I see his small body throw itself to tackle boys who are six inches taller and a stone heavier than him. But he loves it.
Now if I can tear him away from his X-Box long enough I need to thank him for being such a wonderful son, thank him for accepting that his parents are divorced and his mum is 200 miles away and finally thank him for loving his step mum Gill.
I also need to tell him I am so proud of him, I love him and he has saved my life by proving I am a good dad and giving me a purpose once more.
The words of Kieran Halpin at the top of this piece ring so true… with each of my children I simply find another pocket of love.
Your pocket, Nathan, is right here by my side.