Learning To Love You More




Assignment #14
Write your life story in less than a day.

Newcastle, UK



I was born 6 weeks prematurely in October 1983. My dad always said I looked like ET as I was so small and wrinkly. I don't have any real memories of being a child. The one I do have is of the attic in our first house; I remember a wicker chair with a really high back and high arms. Maybe they were only high because I was so small. There was a picture in the attic too, a picture of a woman. My parents didn't know what I was talking about when I recalled these memories many years later so I'll always wonder whether I made them up or dreamt them.
My mother worked in the local secondary school as a cook. She left work when her mother, my nana, became ill. She looked after her. My dad worked in the power station as some kind of foreman but he was paid off when they let a large number of staff go. I was a baby when my dad had his first heart attack and didn't understand any of it. My granda on my mum's side died when I was just 3. I can still remember him, but I don't know if those memories are more from seeing the pictures of him than real life. I've been told that he used to dip a hot poker in Guinness and then let me drink it when I was a baby. He was Irish. My nana, his wife, died when I was 8. I was old enough to understand it then and hers was the first funeral I ever went to. I remember standing halfway down the church with my dad. My mum was at the front and I could hear her crying from where we stood. It was heartbreaking even to my 8 year old self. I've never seen her cry since. Before that happened, I used to spend almost all of my weekends and summer holidays at my nana's house with my cousin Kerry. We were the best of friends. My nana had brought up another of my cousins, Barry, and when she died she left her house to him. Kerry and I would carry on spending weekends there for a few years, but not for long. She's older than me and so started to grow out of me I suppose. We always had a lot of fun though. She has two children now.
I used to have an imaginary friend. She lived in the wall behind my bed and I called her Nambria. It was a name I made up. There was a whole back-story that I created for her: she used to live in London but her house burned down and so she had to move. She was the same age as me and she didn't have any parents anymore. I felt sad for her. When we moved house, she came with us but only briefly. She'd completely vanished by the time I was 7.
My dad was married to another woman before he met my mother, and he had a child from that marriage. I didn't really see my half brother growing up. He was 9 when I was born and I think he must have hated me for taking our dad away from him. Not that that was the case, but to a 9 year old I can see how it might feel like that.
I was always quite popular at school. I didn't ever get bullied in any way and I was friends with everyone in my class. My best friend lived just up the road from me and we did everything together. Her brother had a pet snake and I thought that was really cool. We had a misunderstanding when we were 11 or 12 and didn't really see much of each other at all after that. Strange how moving up to secondary school can have such an effect on friendships.
My first boyfriend was a boy called Craig. He wasn't really my boyfriend - we were only 5. But we always played together and if the class was playing kiss chase, we always ran after each other. I was fickle with boys even as a child. When Craig moved to America with his family when we were 6, I started to like another boy, Anthony. I would go to his house for tea and we would watch Aladdin or some other Disney film and hold hands. He used to sing to me.
The summer before we went to secondary school, I had a slightly more real boyfriend called Steven. We never kissed. I don't think we ever even held hands. But I can remember that that summer was amazing. It was before I'd fallen out with my best friend and the three of us and a boy called Paul hung out together every day. We played in the river and ran through the grass and sang songs and just generally had a great time. The song that will always remind me of that summer is Year 2000 by Pulp. We said we would all meet up in the year 2000, just like in the song. It was only 1995 then so I don't know why we thought it was so far away. I suppose as kids 5 years is a long time. And I suppose the impending start of secondary school made us all feel like we wouldn't be seeing each other as much. Which was true as Paul was going to a different school and the rest of us wouldn't be in the same class anymore. Well, Steven wouldn't.
When we got to that school, Steven and I had 'broken up'. Not that there was really anything to break up. Maybe I imagined that we were anything more than friends. But not long after starting that school, Steven started going with another girl. She was called Jenny and I remember being jealous and wishing I'd told Steven that I liked him. I also remember cockily thinking that I was better looking than her. I didn't tell anyone that though. I was pleased when they broke up but I didn't tell anyone that either.
When I was 14, my dad's uncle - my great uncle -Bill died. I was always close to my uncle Bill. He used to tell me stories from when he was in the navy, and stories of how our little town used to be when he was growing up. I still have a street plan of the town that he'd drawn up for me to help his descriptions of the place. I used it for an English project we had to do once, but I can't remember what the project was. Weird. It was either the same day or the day after Linda McCartney died. I only know that because I went running down the stairs to tell my dad after I heard it on the radio. My dad was a Beatles fan and I thought he'd like to know. When I got halfway down the stairs, my dad opened the door and I could see he'd been crying. I was puzzled because I didn't realise he'd been much of a fan of Linda McCartney. I'd blurted out that Linda had died, but he cut me off, saying "You're Uncle Bill's died". It kind of knocked the breath out of me. I scooted back up the stairs backwards and cried in my room. Dad hugged me. That was the second funeral I attended.
I went on holiday that year. It was only my second time abroad but I thought of it as my first. The first time had been to Paris when I was 12, but we went on a coach so somehow it didn't really feel like I'd left the country. This time, I went to Tenerife. I went with my dad's brother Geoff and his wife and son, and my dad's half sister. My dad wouldn't fly, so I think that's why I never went abroad with my parents. It was probably because they couldn't really afford it if I'm honest. After he'd lost his job and my mother had quit work, there hadn't been much money in our house. It never really bothered me. I was happy and that's all that matters. My cousins friend had came on holiday with us. I had fancied him from afar for quite a while. On that holiday, we kissed. It wasn't my first kiss, but it was one of the most memorable I suppose. It felt a little bit dangerous, being away from home, in the strange heat of a foreign country with the boy I'd been thinking about. He was two years older than me, but he didn't seem to mind that I was less experienced in these things. When I got back from the holiday, my dad was in hospital. He'd had another heart attack. My mum had got me a kitten, as if that would somehow soften the blow. I was furious that they hadn't told me while I was away - I'd been on the phone every day. That same summer, I went camping for the first time. I wasn't allowed to go camping; I never had been allowed to go camping in my entire life. There was me, my two best friends Helen and Diane, my cousin Ashley (who I'd been on the holiday with), his friend Aidan (the one from holiday), and another of their friends, Andrew. Helen liked Andrew. I think they were maybe even dating then but I can't really remember. All I remember is the intricate - or so we'd thought - web of lies that we'd weaved in order to go. I had told my parents that I was staying at Diane's house. Helen had told her parents the same. Diane had told her parents that we were all staying at another girls house, Gail. My parents knew Gail's parents, and that's where we'd come undone. My mother had called Diane's house to tell me something that was entirely made up, just because she had a suspicious feeling about what was going on. Of course, Diane's mother had told mine that we were staying at Gail's. My parents knew that Gail was being a bridesmaid at her uncle's wedding that day. And so the ball started rolling. Helen's parents were called. They all got together. Somehow they figured out where we'd gone. They never asked how we'd got there; it was a good 30 minute drive to the campsite we were staying at. We'd all squashed into an older guy's car, all 6 of us plus the driver, and made our way there. We'd eaten beans from the can, warmed on a disposable barbecue. We'd drunk cider or Lambrini or some lager, I don't remember which, but we were quite tipsy. My mother opened 32 tents before she found us. I heard her opening the tent next to ours and I pretended to be asleep. Of course, I knew that wasn't going to work. Her face was the angriest I've ever seen it, before or since that day. I was grounded for the rest of the summer holidays.
There's an annual fair in the town where I'm from, every September. It was with Aidan that I lost my virginity during the fair of 1998, a month before my 15th birthday and the same year as the camping and holiday expeditions. It wasn't a particularly pleasant event, but it wasn't exactly unpleasant either. Of course, I'd liked him for a long time. I'd even convinced myself that I loved him. But that first time wasn't what it should have been. It was under a bypass bridge in the cold and wet. We were interrupted during it by a boy in the year above me at school. He made his apologies and left quite quickly. Aidan left for the army shortly after that experience, and he asked me out before he went. I said no. It wasn't that I didn't like him anymore, I just didn't like him enough and I knew even then that sleeping with him had been a mistake.
Helen, Diane and I started hanging out with a different crowd after that summer. I was going out with a boy from school, Tom. He was lovely. We didn't last long. We spent a lot of time at the beach, near to where he lived. We smoked pot a few times, but I didn't take too well to it so it wasn't a regular activity. There were a few older boys in the group, one of whom I was really attracted to. He had the same feelings but he had a girlfriend. His girlfriend's sister had become quite a close friend as she was also in the group of kids at the beach. It didn't stop me starting a little 'affair' with him. He was 19 and I was 15. Looking back, that's a big pretty big gap at that age but it only ever felt exciting. I didn't sleep with him, but we were close. He told me he loved me, and I thought I loved him but I never told him that. We carried on meeting in secret and only a few very close friends knew anything about it. Eventually, I told him I didn't want to see him anymore. I wanted more than he could give me.
At a family birthday party, I found that something more in Andrew, the boy Helen had been seeing on our camping trip. I'd already told Helen I liked him and she was fine with it, so I went for it that night. It was a month after my 16th birthday. We kissed and after that, we were always together. I don't remember all that much about our time together, just the bigger things. Like going on holiday to Lanzarote with his family, and going to Blackpool for my 18th birthday. And the bad things. I always remember the bad things. We were together for about 3 years. He joined the group of friends at the beach and fit in easily with them. Andrew eventually got a job as an electrician, and he had to go away a lot on training courses when he first started the job. It was in that time that I felt we were growing apart. I don't know why it was. It was maybe because my parents had decided to split up and I moved with my mother out of the family home, leaving my dad with nowhere to go. It was maybe because a week after my 18th birthday, my half brother died. I'd only seen him properly once since I was a kid, about a year before his death. My auntie had been at a party at his house and she'd called me to see if I wanted to go. I was at a party myself, but it was a family party and so I'd roped my cousin Kerry in to coming with me, pretending we were just going for drinks in town. My mum had let me go as I was with Kerry, and of course, she'd look after me. When we got to my brothers house, I remember not feeling awkward at all. It was weird. It was as if I'd never not known him, but I just didn't know anything about him. He had two children but he wasn't with their mother anymore. We liked similar music and he was excited to learn I played drums. He gave me a tour of his house, but I think we both knew as he showed me around that it was a simply a way to be on our own. We had a cry and a hug, and it was weird to hear someone else call my dad 'dad'. It made the whole thing seem surreal when he said it. He asked me to tell Dad to ring him and we swapped mobile numbers. By that point, my parents had somehow, yet again, found out what I was up to and my phone kept ringing. I didn't want to answer it, but then they rang my auntie. She was out of her head - I was naive enough then to think she was just drunk - and told them that yes, I was there, and she was only trying to help bring us together. That wasn't what my mum wanted to hear. I got home to silence. They didn't even shout at me. My mum went to bed without so much as looking at me. My dad was silent until I told him what my brother had said. Dad cried then. He told me that a lot of things had happened since he'd last seen his son, but that he liked the sound of meeting up with him again. In retrospect, I think my dad had always wanted to get back in touch with Wayne. One of the songs he always played pretty much told the story without him ever having to say anything:
My child arrived just the other day,
He came to the world in the usual way.
But there were planes to catch, and bills to pay,
He learned to walk while I was away.
And he was talkin' 'fore I knew it, and as he grew,
He'd say "I'm gonna be like you, yeh,
I know I'm gonna be like you".
And the cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon,
Little Boy Blue and The Man In The Moon.
"When ya comin' home Dad?"
"I don't know when, we'll get together then, son,
Ya know we'll have a good time then".
Well my son turned 10 just the other day,
He said "Thanks for the ball Dad, come let's play.
Can ya teach me to throw?" I said
"Not today, I got a lot to do." He said "That's ok".
And then, he walked away but his smile never dimmed,
He said "I'm gonna be like him, yeh,
Ya know I'm gonna be like him".
And the cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon,
Little Boy Blue and The Man In The Moon.
"When ya comin' home Dad?"
"I don't know when, we'll get together then, son,
Ya know we'll have a good time then".
Well he came from college just the other day,
So much like a man I just had to say
"Son I'm proud of you, can ya sit for a while?"
He shook his head, and he said with a smile
"What I'd really like Dad, is to borrow the car keys.
See ya later, can I have them please?"
And the cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon,
Little Boy Blue and The Man In The Moon.
"When ya comin' home son?"
"I don't know when, we'll get together then, Dad,
Ya know we'll have a good time then".
Well I've long since retired, my son's moved away,
I called him up just the other day.
I said "I'd like to see you, if you don't mind."
He said "I'd love to Dad, if I can find the time.
You see my new job's a hassle and the kids have the flu,
But it's sure nice talking to you Dad,
It's been sure nice talking to you."
And as he hung up the phone it occurred to me,
He'd grown up just like, my boy, was just like me.
And the cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon,
Little Boy Blue and The Man In The Moon.
"When ya comin' home son?"
"I don't know when, we'll get together then, Dad,
We're gonna have a good time then".
The song is Cats in the Cradle by Harry Chapin, and I still listen to it now and again. I often cry a little when I'm feeling that way out too.
I'd been to see some friends at school that day. My dad phoned me to tell me I needed to go home; he had something to tell me. I was worried straight away. I immediately thought that my nana had died. When I got home, I thought I must be right. My dad and my uncle Geoff were both there waiting for me. My dad had been crying, I could tell. Just like the time with my Uncle Bill. He made me go into the house before he said anything, and I didn't speak at all. "Your brother's died" was all he said. I can't remember what happened after that. All I remember is lying on the sofa and crying. I must have cried myself to sleep because the next thing I remember is being woken up when my mum came into the house. She didn't offer any sympathy. I'd learned after that time that I'd been to Wayne's house that there was no love lost between my half brother and my mother. I think that was more to do with my dad's ex-wife. My mother said something bitter and resentful about drugs and I didn't know what to think. It turned out she was right, he'd died of a heroin overdose. I still don't think she had to the right to be so cold about it, however she may have felt.
I went to see the body at the funeral home. Andrew drove me and my dad there. I told my dad he shouldn't go in - he hadn't seen him for so long, he didn't know what he looked like any more; this was no time for a reunion. By the time we got there, I'd convinced him not to go in. Andrew came in with me. It was the first time I'd seen a dead body and I'll never forget it. Wayne was wearing a suit and he didn't look real. He almost looked like he was made of wax or something. There was a photo album on his chest with pictures of things that meant something to him inside. Pictures of his children, a picture of Old Trafford football ground. Drawings his kids had made. A cigarette. I don't think I even seen half of what was there. I was crying a lot and I couldn't bear for Andrew to touch me. He tried to put his arm around me and I shrugged it off. I wanted so much to touch my brother but I couldn't bring myself to do it. Just turning the pages of the album, I could feel how hard and unnatural his body felt beneath it. I cried for the regrets I had as well as crying for the fact that he wasn't there anymore. I cried because I wished we'd tried harder to keep in touch. After we'd swapped numbers the year before, we'd sent texts to each other and tried to arrange going for lunch with his kids but one of us always had something else on. Something completely unimportant usually but I suppose we both thought we had forever to do it for real.
As we walked out of the door of the funeral home, my dad had got out of the car and was standing on the step about to come in. I told him again that he shouldn't. He just said he had to. I sat down in one of the chairs and pointed to the door where Wayne was. Weirdly, I can't even remember anyone greeting us and showing me where to go. I don't remember anyone else being there at all. Worse than the sound of my mother crying at my nana's funeral, the sound of my dad sobbing and choking on his tears came through the door of that room. It was awful to hear. God only knows what went through his head then.
My dad had moved into a small flat by then. He didn't do anything. He had a bed in the front room that was also used as a sofa. I didn't like to go round to his much as it made me feel sorry for him and I didn't think it was right to feel that way about your parents. He drank far too much and smoked even more. But I could talk to him better than I could ever talk to my mum. I told him about losing my virginity, about the way I felt me and Andrew were drifting apart, about how I felt something for another boy. He was always supportive. We got drunk together at weekends and watched films, talked about books and music. He'd play the guitar and I'd pick out little melodies on the keyboard to accompany him. We laughed a lot. He told me how much he loved my mother still. We cried a lot. We sometimes talked about Wayne. But I still feel like I never went there enough.
Andrew was away, like I said, and he wasn't there to comfort me much during all of these things. One of the group of friends was there though, and I had feelings for him. We spent a lot of time together and Andrew was fine with that as he was his best friend. He liked that we got on. People were starting to comment on the amount of time we spent together and making sly digs at what we were doing, but at the time there was nothing going on. Not until my sixth form ball. He came just because he knew I was there. We kissed that night and I knew it should never have happened but it did and there was nothing I could do to take it back. I loved Andrew too much to leave him but even as it was happening I knew I was being selfish. I think I must have blocked it from my memory somehow because I can't remember exactly how it ended. I do know that he was doing something similar to what I had done with another of our friends' girlfriends. I was distraught and cut up, even knowing that I really had no right to be as it wasn't any more than I had done. But we were over and that was that. I should really have kept some kind of diary as it upsets me now to not be able to remember exactly how it played out. The other boy didn't last much longer either. It was around this time that all my friends had gone off to university. I had left sixth form after the first year to go to the newly built college in the area. I had big ideas that it must be great as they'd spent a lot of money on it. Between leaving sixth form and starting there, I got a part time job in a supermarket. I enjoyed having my own money and the freedom it gave me to do what I wanted. I'd been at the college for just over a month when Wayne died. I didn't go back to college for weeks after that, not really knowing what to make of anything. When I did finally go back, I realised I'd missed so much that I wouldn't be able to catch up. If I'd listened to everyone, I'd never had left sixth form. I'd have carried on and finished my A levels. But I've always been stubborn.
I left college and took on more hours at work. I started to visit my friends at their various university locations. I quickly fell in love with Newcastle. Rebecca hadn't gone to our school, but when she came for her first day in sixth form, I recognised her from somewhere and she sat with me and Helen and Diane. She'd been at a party years earlier with her ex boyfriend who was a friend of a friend of a friend, it turned out. We hit it off straight away. Even after I left sixth form, we stayed in touch despite having only known each other for under a year. As soon as I visited her for the first time in Newcastle, I knew I'd like to live there. We drank vodka through the night until it was light outside and day time TV programmes started. We rolled a tyre down a back street and laughed so much it hurt. We probably cried that night too, something that became a common practice of ours. Watching sad films and crying is a great hobby to have. Boys came and went in that time. I worked night shift for a while, seven nights on and seven nights off. It was brilliant. I was still working at the supermarket but had moved over into the petrol station. I was in there on my own and had the nights to myself, just about. There were hardly any customers during the week, and the weekend shifts were so busy that they flew by without me really realising I'd been at work. I had my first real girly holiday around that time too. There were six of us and we went to Benidorm. Sarah, Jayne, Sharon, Charlotte, Rebecca and myself. A few of us had holiday romances, a couple of which lasted longer than they should have. One of those was mine. His name was Simon, or Si as we all called him. I thought I loved him as soon as I met him and he thought the same. We were pretty much inseparable all holiday. When we got home after the two weeks, I'd memorised his phone number and called him the minute I got back. He came to visit a couple of times. I gushed about him to anyone who'd listen for about a month. Eventually though, it came to the end that it should have reached while we were still away. And then, about a year later, Tom from school came back on to the scene somehow. He'd gone to university in Manchester and he was home for Easter. He asked if I wanted to meet up for some drinks and I said yes. I couldn't believe how well we still got on and he stayed the night at mine. We had almost-sex. I didn't want to let it happen, although I should have if I'd had any sense. I was a romantic fool back then and I had trust issues. Not just from Andrew but from myself. I couldn't let myself get involved with Tom when he lived so far away. For a start, I'd tried long distance with Si and it hadn't worked. I'd tried part time long distance with Andrew and look what I did. I'd even once been the person on the other side of it all - the other woman, if you will. Not only would I not be able to trust Tom, I wouldn't be able to trust myself to not hurt him. Of course, I didn't realise all of this at the time, I just knew I couldn't let it happen. It's only with a little maturity and a lot of self examination that I can admit that now. I wish to this day that I'd let it happen though. Who knows where I'd be now?
It was also around this time that my dad had an operation to try and sort his heart out. I went to Middlesbrough with him while he had it done. It wasn't a success. It was awful just for me to watch so I don't know he must have felt having to go through only to find out it hadn't had any effect.
Then I met Dan at work. He was younger than me but we got on brilliantly. I had what I thought was a one night stand with him, but I would have liked more. It was only when I went on holiday that year that things happened to stop it all. He'd been telling people we were together while I was away, and I was pissed off with him for it. We weren't together. Even if I wanted to it to be true, it wasn't and so I was angry with him for saying it. We stopped our little chats for the most part and only really talked when our shifts collided. Then came another Tom. We'll call him Tom 2. I had had a crush on Tom 2 when I was 13 and he was in a band that practiced in the school youth centre. I hadn't seen or heard anything of him since then, but suddenly I was working with one of his friends and we somehow got to talking about him. He set us up and that was that. I thought I loved Tom 2. I told him I loved him. He told me he loved me. He played guitar and sang to me in bed. He didn't ever put a foot wrong. In fact, he was probably the perfect boyfriend. But that was my issue. He was too nice. I got sick of the niceness. I realise now that that's a terrible thing to say, but hey, at least I'm being honest. Tom 2 lasted about three months or there about. Dan had a new girlfriend by then, another girl from work. She hated me. Dan had told her he loved me when they were still only friends and I suppose she thought he still did. She was right but I didn't know that then. It wasn't long after Tom 2 and I split up that my mum told me my Dad had cancer.
I was inconsolable. She tried telling me that it didn't mean he would die - there are lots of treatments and such now, she told me. It didn't help. I was 20. Parents aren't supposed to die until you're much older than that. The time seemed to fly by. It wasn't long before my dad moved in with me and my mum. He needed someone to look after him and my mum obviously still loved him enough to do that. I don't like to think I did it consciously, but I seem to have distanced myself from everything. Maybe I thought that if I didn't have anything much to do with it then it wouldn't really be happening. I'm still yet to understand all of what happened. I had my 21st birthday, but it wasn't as happy as it could have been. I went into town with my friends on New Year's Eve, but my mother asked me to go home early to spend it with my dad as it would probably be his last one. I didn't want to believe that but I went home anyway and sat with a face like thunder wishing I was still out. I can remember shaving off his hair when it started to fall out from the chemo. I remember crying as I was doing it, standing behind him and wiping my tears before he could see them. I can remember how old he looked without his hair, how his face looked drawn and haggard because of the weight he'd lost. We sat one morning after my night shift and got drunk. It was only 8am but it didn't matter; it was my night time and he had the excuse of making every moment count. We talked about the songs he wanted at his funeral. I told him to stop being silly, he wasn't going to die. He said he was going to die one day so we might as well talk about it. I remember how I forgot most of the conversation because I'd had two bottles of wine by then. I remember that he started doing weird things and saying even weirder ones. It was the drugs, my mum told me. I didn't like it. It wasn't my dad. I couldn't stand to see him like that.
One day, my mum told me to phone work and tell them I wouldn't be going in. She said she needed me to help her at home. I did as she asked but didn't really understand why. About a week later, my dad was confined to his bed. He tried to get up and get downstairs but someone always had to sit on the bed and keep him from trying. It was roughly then that the nurses attached a morphine driver to his arm to constantly feed him the painkillers that would keep him pain free. I didn't like that either. It was the drugs that made him someone else, someone I didn't recognise.
One night, he tried to get out of bed when nobody was there to stop him. He fell out of bed in his attempt. I can almost laugh at that now. Smile, at least. We ran upstairs to see what was going on and struggled to get him back up. We called the doctor out after that. He couldn't do much. When the doctor went, we were sitting in the living room - me, my mum and Geoff - and we heard a noise. It wasn't a bang like earlier that night. We got up and went to go upstairs. There was my dad, halfway down the stairs on his backside. I laughed at that. At least he was persevering. It was the most he'd done in a few weeks and it made me happy and actually hopeful. When we helped him down the last of the stairs and sat him down, we had to convince him that he didn't want a cigarette because he'd stopped smoking. That was partly true; he hadn't had a cigarette for about 2 weeks. He said he fancied a can of lager but there was none in the house. My mum called the doctor back out. We didn't think we'd be able to get him back upstairs to bed. When they were all in the kitchen talking about him, I went in to see my dad. It was the first time I'd really sat down with him for a few weeks. He seemed a little more like himself that night. He told me he didn't want to go back to bed. I asked him why and he told me it was because people die in bed. I told him that people die everywhere and he nodded his head. We were both crying. He told me he loved me. I told him I loved him too but he shouldn't be scared of dying because we all have to do it at some time. The others came back into the room then and took him back upstairs. I cried myself to a kind of sleep that night. I didn't really sleep at all, just dozed fitfully.
When I woke the next morning (I say woke - more just got up really) I was hopeful again. I sent Rebecca a text asking her if she thought I was stupid for thinking my dad would get better. Then the doctor came again. He said they were taking my dad into hospital. I was furious. They said he needed 24 hour care. If that wasn't what he'd been getting at home then I'd like to see their idea of it. He went in the ambulance with my mum. I had a bath and got dressed and then made my way to the hospital. Helen gave me a lift. I can't really remember asking her to take me. I can't remember even getting there, let alone what we talked about in the car. I can still remember what I was wearing that day though. Black jeans with a grey and orange striped t-shirt and adidas trainers. Weird. My dad was in the admissions ward when I got there. He'd already been there a good hour then so I was angry that he wasn't in his own room. I complained to the nurse when she finally came around that he might as well have been at home for all the help he was getting there. She tried to put her arm around me. I shrugged it off. My mother tried to say something but I cut her off. I don't remember much else in the few hours after that apart from going to the hospital canteen and eating chicken curry and rice.
He was eventually taken into his own room. There was a wine bottle on the window ledge with flowers in that someone had left. Strange the little things that I noticed. My nana and my dad's half sister, Sandra, arrived. They were making small talk. Someone asked what time it was. I was watching my dad. He turned his head slightly toward me and let out a shaky breath. He'd been asleep the whole time we were there. I watched him and waited but nothing else happened. No more breath. I couldn't speak for a second. Even when I tried no words came out. Something that was trying to say 'mum' but didn't quite make it. She came over to me and put her arms around me, thinking I was just emotional all of a sudden. I pointed at my dad lying there and screamed. She realised what I meant. I hugged him then and kissed him, tried to whisper "I love you" as coherently as I could. I didn't think he'd hear me but someone had once told me that the last thing a person has is their hearing and that thought must have been in my mind. I had to let him know that I loved him. It was February 26th 2005. I remember my mother saying I shouldn't be there to see this. I remember hearing my nan saying she didn't want to see this. That annoyed me. I didn't want her to be there but it hadn't stopped her. I don't remember how, but I got out of the room and out of the hospital. I'm not sure how I made it down all the stairs. I'm not even sure if I went on my own. All I remember is sitting on the cold floor, chain smoking, wishing the people would stop walking past me with their inane chatter when something so horrible had just happened, until my mum came for me. She took me back inside. We all went in one by one to see him laid out after the doctors had been in to him. I went last. I wanted to be the last person to see him. I can't remember what happened really. I remember how he looked, but that's all. I was in there a while though, I know that much.
We eventually went home. I got a bottle of wine on the way. Uncle Geoff got a bottle of vodka. I don't know where my nana and Sandra went. Just home I imagine. I sat on the back step for a while, smoking. I went upstairs and got my mobile to start telling the people that mattered what had happened. I'd totally forgotten about the text I'd sent to Rebecca, but she'd replied. "Of course I don't xxx" was all it said. That made me cry some more. I got my dad's records out at about midnight and tried desperately to remember the songs he wanted at his funeral. I suppose that's a stupid thing to have thought of but I wasn't thinking clearly at all. I rang Rebecca at some point in the night. I don't remember what time it was. I didn't even speak to her. I just cried into the phone for a while. She cried a bit too I think.
We made the funeral arrangements and got a death certificate and watched the sympathy cards coming through door. People came and went with flowers and kind words but I couldn't tell you who or what they said or what kind of flowers they brought. There was a man that lived in town who everybody knew of - he was a bit of a rogue, I suppose - but he sent a card that he'd obviously asked someone to write out for him. I don't remember now exactly what it said, but it was the first card to arrive and the words were so nice that I almost got to see my mother cry for the second time. She stopped herself though and announced that she wasn't reading any more of the cards. She stuck to that. When we went to see my dad at the funeral home, I laughed. We'd asked for a dark red silk lining in the coffin, and instead we got pink. I suppose nobody else would see it but it seemed funny all the same. I made myself touch him. He was cold. I told him again that I loved him, knowing for certain that he couldn't hear me but hoping somehow that he was listening from a different place.
In the end, I could only remember one of the songs that he wanted at the funeral. Meatloaf's Life is a Lemon. I chose another two - David Bowie's Starman and Prince's Purple Rain. The funeral was, surprisingly, a brilliant day. There were a lot of stories told and a lot of crying, but a lot of laughing too, remembering the good times. It was only a shame that my dad couldn't be there to join in the fun with all these people who it was so hard to get together in one room except for such occasions as that.
I drank a lot after that. I was drinking a couple of bottles of wine every day. I went out just about every weekend and always went to cemetery on my way home, even if it was 3 in the morning. I thought it was fine. I wasn't drinking all day so where was the problem?
I'd never had a credit card in my life, until the day before my dad died. I'd been into the bank about 3 weeks before to get an overdraft (something else I'd never had) and they'd asked if I wanted one. In a short time, I maxed it out. I was suddenly very aware that life is too short and I decided that I should just do what I wanted as I could be dead the next day. I booked holidays and tickets to see bands and festivals. Almost everything I bought went on the credit card. I was in a low way. I remember wondering whether it was better that he'd died then; it was the worst thing that had ever happened to me and that I could ever imagine happening to me, and that was just from knowing him for 21 years. How would I have felt if I'd had another 20 or 30 years getting to know him? But then I would come full circle and realise that I'd been cheated out of those 20 or 30 years and decide that it was worse now. I still wonder about that to this day. Then I'd think about who would give me away if I ever got married. I still think about that now and again, too. Sometimes I wonder how I'd cope if anything happened to my mum. I don't think I would cope. I never linger on that thought because I can't stand to think of it.
Eventually, I had to get another credit card to pay off the first one. I can't remember exactly when it was, but Helen told me that I needed to stop drinking at some point. I told her it was fine and I was hardly an alcoholic, but then one night I'd been out and lost my purse. It was a weeknight, and I was completely trashed. I didn't even know about the purse until I woke up the next day at about 2 in the afternoon and had around 8 missed calls from work. I thought maybe I was meant to be in work and hadn't realised, but when I called them back they told me that someone in the bar had recognised the picture on my driving licence and knew where I worked. They'd taken my purse there. Although that wasn't as bad as it could have been, it was a wakeup call. I wouldn't have known anything about it if that barman hadn't recognised me. All of my credit cards were in there, my bank card, my driving licence. I didn't have a drink for about 3 months after that. The first alcoholic drink I did allow myself was at a Green Day gig I went to with Helen and some other friends. It was a gorgeous June day and there wasn't a cloud in the sky. I had a beer in the sun and I suddenly felt like I was at a turning point. Of course I still hadn't got to grips with everything that had happened, it had only been four months - I still haven't got to grips with it now - but somehow something changed. I can't explain it. But that was one of the best days of my life to date, without a doubt.
I ended up with three credit cards, a store card and a loan to pay them all of over the space of about a year. And suddenly me and Dan got together that Christmas. He cheated on me with his ex from day one but somehow I didn't want to let him go. We were together for about two years and despite his promises to change, he never really did. I think he stopped for a while, but then just as I started to learn to trust him properly, he did it again. I forgave him again. I shouldn't have but I did. We had a lot of good times in those two years and I still love him a little bit. We're still friends. But suddenly, long after the last time he'd slept with someone else, I just couldn't let him come near me. I'd had enough and the fact that I didn't trust him was all too apparent. It was September 2007. I'd been to the hospital about two months before with a lump in my right breast that I'd had since I was 16. It had been tested when I first found it seven years before and it was found to be harmless. But it had grown bigger. When I had a scan, they found another three lumps; two more in my right breast and one in my left. I had to have tissue samples taken and the results were mostly fine - only the tissue from one lump came back graded as C3. The specialist explained that this meant some of the cells were abnormal but that it was likely the lump was benign. The first thing I did was panic. I cried when I got home, thinking the worst. My granda had died of cancer, then my nana and then my dad. My mum had had about 10 lumps removed from her breasts and so I immediately thought that it runs in the family; I was bound to get it at some point. I opted to have the lumps removed. The operation was a week before I ended things with Dan. Maybe that was another turning point for me in a way. The scars have never really healed properly but I try not to let that bother me.
I'd moved jobs that year too. I went to work at the power plant that my dad had once worked at. It was full time and more money. I sat at a desk all day and didn't do much. When I first started there, I wondered what my dad would have said about it; he hated the place even when he worked there. There's a lot of bad feeling towards it in the local community with some suggesting that it's the cause of high childhood leukaemia cases there. I can't say I totally disagree with that opinion. As they say, the devil makes work for idle thumbs and idle I was. There wasn't much for me to do, and when I was given something it never took long to complete. It was eventually Jared Leto that got me sacked. Helen and I had just booked tickets to see his band and I was excited. In my excitement, I emailed a few pictures to Rebecca. That email was a sackable offence apparently. I decided to look at it as fate. I even contemplated that it was my dad making it happen as he probably didn't like me working there. That was at the start of October, and at the end of the same month I started a new job with a training provider, trying to get unemployed people back into work. Everyone there was brilliant and made me feel at home right away. I made a great friend there in Stacey. She's so kind and we laugh so much when we're together.
I spent my 25th birthday in Newcastle, dressed as a vampire. I've always been obsessed with vampires and decided since it's near Halloween, we'd do fancy dress for my quarter century celebrations. It was a great weekend and while I was there, we discussed me moving over there. I'd talked about since that first visit seven years earlier. Of course I wanted to do it, but I was still paying off my debts and didn't know if I'd really be able to afford it. Plus I'd have to find a job first. When I got back to work on the Monday, there was an email from our head office listing the current internal job vacancies, and as if fate (or my dad as I like to think) was on my side, there was one in Gateshead. Rebecca lived just a 15 minute walk from the office. I went in to see my boss straight away, and it all happened faster than I could have imagined. Exactly four weeks from that day, I started work at the Gateshead office. I moved in with Rebecca and straight away I wondered why it had taken me so long to take the plunge. That was last December, 2008.
So here I am now, writing my life story in less than a day. I'm living with my best friend, I have a job and I'm happy for the most part. I've definitely missed out quite a lot of things. Writing this has made me think a lot and cry in places. I want more tattoos. I want more piercings. I want to study and get the qualifications I never managed when I should have. I want to work in music, maybe journalism. I'd like to write a book. I'm only 25. I have many years ahead of me hopefully to do all of these things, and maybe even write a more detailed account of my life.