Whenever I’m feeling like there’s a lot going on in my mind, I go for a run. Once I’ve got my rhythm going, it gives me a unique chance to clear my mind away from distractions.
Recently, I’ve been going on a lot of runs.
One of the most joyous things that has ever happened in my life is the birth of my first child. Now 18 weeks old, she is at the age where things are developing fast. One day she’s singing back at me, trying desperately to mimic my mouth to replicate what she can hear. The next day she’s trying to roll over from her front onto her back (something I’m sure will cause increasing panic as her proficiency develops). The excitement experienced every day is a feeling I hope I never tire of.
Sometimes it’s hard to be a father when you feel like this. My company afforded a generous paternity deal for me, meaning I got two weeks off plus my saved annual leave – about six weeks in total. Regardless of this, it’s heartbreaking to say goodbye in the morning to my beautiful wife and child and know I won’t see them for nine hours. WhatsApp videos from my infinitely-understanding wife get me through the day; I know she’s fully aware of how I feel.
I simply don’t understand people who are glad to get away from their children by going to work.
So, why do I need some time to contemplate when I’ve got such joy in my life? Well, my positivity at being a father is currently counterbalanced by what’s happening with my own father, who this week is entering a carehome specialising in dementia support.
Life can be cruel sometimes, but snatching away the relationship between a girl and her grandfather when she’s only 18 weeks old is particularly tough to stomach.
My father would have loved to have a granddaughter. Of course, I get to experience the excited conversation of telling him he’s a grandfather over and over again. No matter how frequently I see him, he’s always pleasantly surprised to learn his son now has a child, even if he still hasn’t worked out that she’s female.
He was a proud man and the feeling of him losing his dignity isn’t something worth dwelling on. It is hard for everyone, but the move to a home is the best way to ensure his health and that of my mother. It’s best for me too.
It’s funny that I slip into the past tense when I talk about him. He isn’t the man I used to know at all. It reminds me of the scene at the end of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, one of my favourite films of all time. Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet portray an estranged couple who have agreed to have their minds erased so they can forget about each other. Clementine (Winslet) goes first, with the narrative following Joel (Carrey) inside his mind as his memories disappear. Partway through his procedure Joel decides to reverse his decision and preserve his memories of his lover, but it is too late. Michel Gondry’s brilliantly-visual realisation of what this would be is a vibrant representation of dementia. Or maybe I’m just convincing there’s a version of him fighting what’s happening to help me cope with a horrible situation. Romanticising the horrible is completely human nature.
Whilst my father’s present mind is all but gone, his legacy will live on thoroughly through me. As I approach the everyday decisions of bringing up my own daughter, I can think back to my own childhood. What did he do right? What did he do wrong? I can learn from all of his decisions and prepare myself for what lies ahead. Nobody is perfect, but all we can hope for is to do the best we can, and – to paraphrase Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird – ensure our children are the best versions of themselves that they can be.
Sometimes life deals you a horrible and unfair hand, and all you can do is deal with it the best you can.
Some say life is made up of fantastic memories shared with loved ones.
If you take away your memory, what are you left with?