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Finding a future
by burying the past...
There was a special day this week when my son graduated from University. It was so much more special than I expected and it achieved a lot in the space of two hours.
I had expected to sit there bored for two hours while I applauded the achievements of young people I do not know, and yes that did happen, but those few seconds when his name was called out and he strode confidently across the stage hit me in a way I had not expected.
They say that your life flashes before you when you are in mortal danger and this is what happened to me when the time came, but in a much more positive way.
My mother died recently and it has been a hard couple of months dealing with the aftermath. It is not a traditional story of loss and grief, but more one of why she treated me the way she did. Her death brought closure to 50 years of negative emotions which I have only come to terms with properly over the past couple of years and I finally had time to consider how her actions had affected me for my adult life.
I was fed, I was warm and there was no abuse, but I was not loved in the way all children should be. She made it clear that she only wanted one child and that I should never had been born, and it was made crystal that the preference was to my brother, a man and who has precisely nothing with his life. Everything I did well such as education, creating grandchildren and living a positive life was viewed negatively because all of these actions only further nailed the sense that he was achieving nothing.
It took until a couple of years ago for me to seek help for how I was feeling and to fully understand how I had lived with the after-effects without really understanding what was burdening me every day. The realisation was a jolt at the time, but a much needed one and so I spent time recovering.
And then she died and dealt the final blow, the confirmation of how she really felt. I won't go into great detail, but an almost complete lack of acknowledgment in a will is not easy to take, and alongside an expectation for me to help my sibling who has negatively impact everyone around him since I can remember.
I was not told that she was in hospital and that she could go at any time, and the first call I received was a demand for money as he had run out (again) while telling me she had died. Everything came down to that one phone call and so I have been stuck in a strange mental state for the past two months. It was a state akin to being adopted and not truly understanding where you came from.
And then the graduation day arrived. We got dressed up, my son put on his gown and we headed for the venue. To see him laughing with the people he had lived with for the past year and to see how genuinely nice they were was a good start to the day. He seemed genuinely happy that day, he is like me and outwardly somewhat dour, and there was a celebratory vibe running through everything that happened.
The ceremony was a genuinely big event and when he took those steps and picked up his certificate everything made sense in a moment. My wife turned to me and simply said "We did OK didn't we?" My tears started to flow alongside hers and the sense that the end of the story had been a happy ending was front and centre.
It dawned on me that the fact my mother did everything possible to stop me succeeding did not ultimately work. I qualified for Grammar School, but she sent me to a Comprehensive because my brother would have hated that, she admitted this to me, and so I chose to leave home as early as I could and bought a flat (apartment to you Americans) which meant I had to work to pay for it. My desire to go to University was lost and I never got the chance to go.
My son graduating with a First Class Honours in Law feels like redemption and the end of a journey that I like to think I played a positive part in alongside his mother, who has also lessened the negativity over the years more than anyone else.
I did not push my son to go to University and I did not want to live my ambitions through him, but he chose to go and he worked hard to succeed as he fully deserved to. Seeing him pick up that certificate killed off so many bad memories in a heartbeat and finally I understand what it is like to be in a family where love and support are the most important factors.
To say I feel lucky today is a huge understatement and I'm so happy that a positive future has finally come to me, and that a negative past is finally buried for good.