Full Circle Print
Articles - Mixed Race Matters
Tuesday, 06 December 2016 18:12

 

Full Circle

by Rob Worrall

(For Jean, Peter and Gabriel)

 

 

Sibẹsibẹ jina kan san óę, o kò forgets awọn oniwe-origin”

“However far a stream flows, it never forgets its origin”

Yoruba proverb

 

Epilogue

In less than one week, I return for another look, not knowing what I am seeking or what I should look for. In less than three weeks my fourth child is born. So why go? Why now? This is not how it was planned. There is always a reason not to go – but perhaps some things are meant to be this way are meant to happen – serendipity – when we are least able to go – when there is more than life going on. All I know is people are here and then they are gone. If I don’t go now, then when… if not today?”1

 

Little did I know how prescient would be the opening words in my journal, which I commenced just before the third and penultimate visit – in this ten year journey of a voyage around my parents? Beginning at the end. The winter of 2012/13 saw me come full circle in the cycle of life. It is only now that I can write this. Their passing is as real and as shocking as the days leading up to their respective burial rites, their interments and the mourning and celebrations in the days that followed. Ah but life takes over and there is no time to mourn. I did not realise then that they will live on in me, they are part of me as much as I will always be part of them, I came from their union. They have many children between them, but I am the only one they created together.

 

The celebration of my father’s 80th birthday party in Ibadan, Nigeria was a momentous occasion for me and of course for all those involved. I got to meet two dear sisters and other family members for the first time and be welcomed whole heartedly, feeling really felt part of a wider family, connected to a history, a whole that stretched back at least eight years and decades and even centuries before that. I went with the blessing of a heavily pregnant wife and the concerns and questions of a wider family. Why go? Why now? What was I looking for? Did I feel selfish going, my wife expecting our second son and my mom ill with an aggressive cancer? Yes of course I did, but it was something I had to do.

 

Going Home

Cullercoats, 19 October 2012

 

Why come again?

What are you looking for child?

Wondering why you are wandering

Where must you seek?

Why must you seek?

To roam?

I’m going home

 

Why come again?

What are you looking for boy?

Seeing why you are looking

What must you seek?

Why must you seek?

To destroy?

I’m going home

 

Why come again?

What are you looking for?

Wondering why you are looking?

Wandering while you are seeking

Why must you seek?

To roam?

What must you seek?

To destroy?

I am just going…

I am just coming….. home!

 

 

The events that took place during those days, the order of them, the feelings and emotions I felt are scribbled on lined paper, to be written up, reflected on and analysed at another time. Suffice to say the whole experience changed me but at the same time re-affirmed that everything would be the same, that we may divide events into beginning, middle and end, but that we are part of a wider kin that stretches far back. A blood line that embeds and stabilizes us in the present, but at the same time connects to the past and grows tentacles which will caress tomorrow and shape the future in ways we can only just begin to realise. Those memories will always be alive to me as will all the people I shared so much with. And when we gathered together for morning prayer and then to hear my father say that he was proud of all of us and that we had all found our own way, and must make our own peace with god – this still moves me to tears now even as I write it.

 

And coming home, I was blessed that after a difficult birth and tiring birth my wife presented me with another adorable son. And yes my dear mom got her wish to live to see Odhran born in November. And Christmas came and went. And I was congratulating myself that as the old year turned on itself and gave way to the new, that whilst my poor mom was very ill, she had at last been able to come up and stay with us for a few days, and all seemed relatively well within my world. Yet how the calm can deceive, and how less than a week into the New Year, I found myself travelling to see Mom in hospital as she had been taken ill and I had a heavy sense of foreboding, and a heavy heart. And yet I was still not expecting to receive the phone call from my wife, on a heavily delayed train, telling me my sisters had been trying to contact me because Mom has taken a turn for the worst and she was asking for me and waiting for me her son. And as I heard the news, I cried and broke down and prayed the train would get there so I could say my farewell and have the chance to tell my dear mom how much we all loved here. And yet at the same time, I did not want to get to its destination, part of me wanted to be stuck in limbo not having to leave that damn train because that meant having to face the inevitable and say goodbye….


 

This is the Pen

(To Mom, on a delayed train to Birmingham, 5 June 2013)

 

This is the pen you bought for me

With love

This is the journal my Love gave to me

Within which

I write to you, for you,

With love

Within my heart that breaks

That aches – writhing

On a table, on a train

Bringing me with my love

Our love, for you, to be with you

Physically, as we have held you

In our hearts, in our minds

And when you are gone from us

My dearest Mom

What will be with you

As you ascend the clouds

To a better place

Is our love
 

This is the pen you bought for me

With love

With which I will write my thoughts down

About you

In the journal my love bought for me

Which for you will be filled up

With our words of love.

 


It did, I did, we all came together and mom slipped into a peaceful sleep the next day at 12.20pm after what had been a long and tearful night for me, my sisters and the wider family. And having to come together, to make the funeral arrangements, make choices and go through the formal procedures that are part of the rites of passage when someone leaves this earth, did not lessen the pain but numbed it for a while, whilst I was active doing.

 

 

Missing you

Cullercoats, 8th May 2013

 

I have never been here before

I don’t know what to expect

I have gone from feeling ten foot tall

To losing all my self-respect

No time on my hands

But still acting like there’s nothing to do

Why do I feel so bored, lonely and depressed?

Is it because I am missing you?


 

I would give half of my life

Or perhaps even more

To hear your voice on the end of the phone

Or better still to see you walk through that door

I am not feeling sick or tired

I just want things as they were before

Why am I so angry, disappointed and aimless?

Is there something I have to confess?

I am hurting to the core

I am missing you even more


 

I don’t seem to know what to do

I am unsure where to go

I am so very lost and feel so alone

Is it best for me to be on my own?

I cannot call you on the phone

I wish I could just be free

In writing this there is little to gain

No one else can take away this pain

There’s been a lot of shit things in this year in my life

Some types of hurt cut to the core

Deeper than a knife

There’s been a lot with which I had had to cope

Tied my heart up in knots

My thoughts bound up in chains

Think I am climb out of the hole

Then I fall in again.


 

What is it I am supposed to do?

Stand on the harbour wall and talk to you

This is not the way things were supposed to be

I am drained, destroyed and defeated

My reserves of resilience have depleted

It’s because I care I am in difficulty

Sometimes I regret that I am just being me

Wearing my heart upon my sleeve

Is it better to feel or deceive?

There is so much I still believe

Is your face fading, so will the pain recede?

What is it that I still have to receive?

Anger, sadness but the waters are calm

I will protect your grandchildren from all harm

I will try always to be calm

I will see good where I can


 

I am still your boy whilst a man

The Afro comes with a free African tan

I don’t know what to say anymore

There is nowhere I can call

You will not be walking through the door

Why now is this upsetting me?

I miss you being there being you

Just because I am being me

 

Less than three weeks later, as I was getting ready to travel back home, two days before mom’s funeral, my eldest brother Kenneth called me with the news I knew would come one day, but particularly at that time, literally floored me and left me numb with shock. Our father had passed away suddenly earlier that same morning. As I re-live that phone call, the words from my journal, written just over three months before, now come flooding back to taunt me, to mock my unfortunate foray into soothsaying. Yet at the same time, I would come to feel, and feel even more strongly now that, despite the circumstances, more than I could have known then, I made the right decision. There is in all that has happened, a bitter sweet irony, in having made the right call for evens and reasons that I wish had never happened.

 


Half - A - Life

Monday 3 June

St Gabriel’s Church Garden, St Gabriel’s Avenue, Heaton, Newcastle

 

Because it took half-a- life to find you

Who radiated charisma, animal attraction

With your dancing moves driving females to distraction

Prof. of Principles and Betrayals

Breaking glass ceilings and the egos of colonial white males

A territorial officer in pom “Och…” perhaps even a kilt

Children so unexpected, dark-tanned good looks, born into guilt

Did you take some responsibility?

Clear ethical acknowledgement of the mess

The “realpolitik” of the racial and social distress

You left our mothers in?

Does it matter now some have passed?

You would not be the first but the head of the cast

Of those post-colonial infamous intellectual playboys

Renegotiating his past

Yes it matters because you’ll be part of all I ever did

And all I will do

Because it took half-a-life to find you.

 

No-one can tell someone how they should feel when they have lost not one but two people so dear to them, and we always handle grief differently. The hardest thing for those that love you, I only can now fully appreciate, is that they can hold you and comfort you, but as much as they would dearly love to, cannot make the pain of loss go away or suffer it in your place. And yet, all they can do is so much in terms of giving you time, space, comfort and support. For through all this my certainty about how much I was loved by and how much I loved Jean and Gabriel is stronger than ever. And my sense of place, and of identity, may be partially over there on the continent of Africa, in the country of Nigeria, on the streets of Lagos, and on the wide and cared for boulevards of the Campus of the University of Ibadan. Yet at the same time, it is down there, in the industrial heartland of the midlands, on the streets of Birmingham, and on the pebble covered beaches of child hood summers spent on the beach neat my grandmother’s home in Hayling Island, in leafy Hampshire. A grandmother who unknowingly facilitated the connection between Jean and Gabriel that of course led to me. And even more so, it has also been influenced and shaped by the working class hero of my dad Peter David who brought me up, with a love that whilst often unspoken is unconditional, mutual and reciprocal. A dad whose softness and gentleness as we grew up helped me to become the fallible but hopefully caring father, husband and man that I am today.

 

 

For letting me …

Brown’s Salt House, Cullercoats, 22 July 2014

 

For letting me go

Without letting me go

I can only say

Thank you

 

For letting me in some way

At least stand in

For the little one that came

But could not stay

I love you

 

For showing me love

In chocolate

For acknowledging another side

For not asking why

For letting me see you cry

 

For letting me know

Without letting me go

I can only say

Thank you

 

 

Prologue

About three weeks after returning from my Father’s birthday celebrations and a few days after the birth of my son Odhran (9th November), I ended my journal entry “For all I have been through in three weeks, I am doing extremely well – more than coping”. Little did I know what was yet to come.


© Rob Worrall, 31st July 2014

1 Unbeknown to me I have quoted a Tracy Chapman song “If not now….”

 

 

 

 

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