Birthdays

Birthdays are curious events when we stop to think about them, a celebration of us being alive and the passing of time. Sometimes we stop to think of those who have been part of the journey with us, those that left lasting impressions (good and bad), and those that are no longer with us that we would give anything to have just one more meal with them.

Today marks my father’s 78th birthday, a leading paediatric neurologist across the world, achieving many things but alas I shall not be marking it with him. In my early years he was the parent I loved to be around, from visiting antique shops and art fairs, to museums and bookshops, although a very busy man he was the big arms of comfort that when needed were there.

Equally, he was the one that introduced me to politics and to open my mind to what was going on in a greater context than my own bit of the world. We’d regularly watch together current affairs shows like World in action, The Cook Report and Panorama, with documentaries by the great John Pilger and supplemented with the comedy of Monty Python and Blackadder

That all changed twenty five years ago, I felt abandoned by him as he left to live his new life and even asked him at the time “why are you leaving me with her“, the answer of “because I have to” still rings in my ears and sends my eyes gushing like a great waterfall. I would sit glue eyed not to the soap operas but the news broadcasts as felt his presence when not there.

In the years since he has let me down, often a conversation to explain a situation was needed; from the birth of my half sister (rather than discovering via a card dumped on my brother as he ran out the door) to after my near suicide attempt being told I could not stay with him (we’d been estranged for a decade and been in contact 18 months when it happened).

My father’s achievements in medicine and to the world we live are quite impressive but as a man I feel I do not know who he is. Regardless of what he did or did not do, he will always be my father and the 21st of May I’ll always pause to think about him. So happy birthday to him, thank you for the good memories and hope he continues to be happy in his senior years.

© Fi S. J. Brown

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Thirty Six Years

As I approach the thirty sixth anniversary of my birth, I walk up the hill with an observatory that I have climbed many times before, often in the company of a four legged friend of fur and bark. However, today I walk alone to reflect not the lens of a telescope to the stars but my mind on the journey I have taken so far to reach the point I am at today.

As I walk, I look out to a city that became my place of birth after an eleventh hour decision meant I was not born where my journey had biologically started. This city of birth is also the place of many childhood memories that now echo across where I look and make trees sway as feel their vibrations. Many of the trees look on fire, not with passion but as a warning not to dwell on the past for too long. If look close some are shedding their leaves in empathetic tears to the memories they now feel from my memories, good and bad.

I think back to my earliest days, filled with wonder to the world around me and curious to its ways like a newborn puppy yet as wise as an owl in what I seemed to know. I remembered a world that was filled with many colours, but school and family taught me that it was black or white; they replaced the songs of birds and rivers with their own drills and guns; they said I had five senses but I was sure I could pick up at least twice that; and gave me pills to sedate me from asking the questions I wanted answers to, as could or would not answer them. The grown-ups ultimately told of a world of them and us, where the humans ruled over all that l could see and deeper, wider and higher than my eyes could; they were only judged by a man named god, who had created it all and forgave if I did wrong as long as I asked him to.

As I became a grown-up myself I felt a boomerang effect, in whatever I did and wherever I went this city would bring me back. Sadly, I never wanted to be back, in fact quite the opposite, I longed to explore the world like the explorers I read about in childhood books and was not content to do it from a seat any more. At the same time, those around me were settling in “normal” life: getting a job, finding a partner, setting up home and having kids. I felt like an alien in a world to which I did not or would ever belong. Restricted to a tourist visa but not granted citizenship to this world.

Like a circus freak in Victorian times since my earliest teens I wanted to hide away, as my head said I looked like the love child of Frankenstein’s monster and the Hunchback of Notre Dane, an unloveable ogre with growths over my body, and faults greater than San Andreas. I often wondered on making my curtain call, I had enough of being a player in someone else’s movie and being used by those I thought I could trust. When I took what I wanted to be my final bow, I fell not on concrete but autumn leaves, leaving no visible scars but many scratches that I could not itch. Picking the pieces up I knew only I could glue them as there was no one but me there to add glitter or shine.

Much of my life I felt like a donkey among the thoroughbred horses in a race of life, but against the odds I completed a degree, masters two and PhD before I reached the age of 32. When I signed off my final word on my doctorate, I took my own Hippocratic Oath, never to work or study in a laboratory again! The relief felt like I had been given the chance to start again from where I had last saved, which turned out to have been almost twenty years before. So I picked up my pen and let the colours, visuals, sounds, tastes, feelings and smells of that moment release like a series of tributaries forming one big river with each ones strengths and weaknesses.

Now I return my thoughts to today, spinning around on where I stand, thinking where in each direction I could go next without the boomerang pulling me back here. I thought of people that I knew in every one, the special people who’s emails, texts, and phone calls make me smile like I could never have imagined but two years before, for it hurt my face to even try. Whereas now I could share my journey with them, sharing in tears of both pain and laughter. I do not know what tomorrow will bring, but I know where I have been. Life has a bittersweet taste but the colours, sounds, visuals and things that belong beyond my wildest dreams are within my touch, so I’m going to take a leap and follow them wherever they may take me next.

© Fi S. J. Brown