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Living with Luke 49

We went to the pictures the other day, Tiddles and I.

It was meant to be TCMH taking him, but due to a bout of Tonsilitis and my football match being cancelled, it ended up with me taking him. Tiddles was quite excited about seeing the new Thomas the Tank Engine film, ‘Tale of the Brave’ or whatever cash-in the owners of TTTE had devised to appeal to the younger members of the public, so before he had a chance to realise that it was me taking him, I got him into the car and off we drove to the cinema.

We got there, sat down and then the trailers started and one came up for the new Paddington Bear live action movie. I turned to Tiddles, who was watching the screen quite attentively, and said to him,
“Paddington…” He turned and looked at me with those beautiful young/old eyes, almost quizically. I pointed back to the screen.
“Paddington Bear…” I said. Tiddles looked back to the screen and then back to me and then said,
“Shhhh…”

I haven’t mentioned any songs in the last few blogs, something that I intend to rectify today by using the lyrics to two songs in this post – three actually. These songs are all linked in with this post in that I realised the other day that, as a dad, I will never be able to dispense fatherly advice to Tiddles, apart from ‘don’t jump on the sofa’ and ‘put your trousers on’. I’ll never be able to dish out my own brand of genuine, heartfelt, homespun frontier gibberish to him. It’s strange because having done the recent dates for the play (more dates soon!), one phrase has constantly been used which emerged from the production and it’s become more of a motto, almost a creed to live by. I have used it indirectly in many of these blogs and the meaning behind it is clear, because it’s something I’ve always done, even when I didn’t actually realise I was doing it.

‘Never Give Up.’

I would credit Dr D with this, because I think it was he that I remember using it in one of his blogs about LWL, although it was also used in a couple of the reviews and it’s sort of stuck with me. You know what they say, you don’t notice something until you notice it and then you see/hear it all the time. But as well as being a love letter to my beautiful boy, these posts have been something that I can put down in words, more for me than anybody else, about my intentions. And the main intention of course is and always has been, ‘Never Give Up’.

And it’s strange how coincidence happens. With the recent comeback of Kate Bush, there’s been a few programmes on her life and work and so of course, I’ve heard her duet ‘Don’t Give Up’ with Peter Gabriel several times in the past few weeks and of course, it’s brilliant. It always struck a chord with me from even before Tiddles was born. Now however, it’s taken on a new meaning…

Don’t give up,
You’re not beaten yet…

No, I’m not beaten yet. I may be bruised and sore. I may be down for the count sometimes – and lately it seems, Tiddles has been eager to make sure I STAY down – but I’m not beaten. An old football manager of mine, when asked why he picked me ahead of another, better goalkeeper for a cup final, remarked,

“He doesn’t know when he’s beaten.” We won by the way…

The second song I was going to re-write from Tiddles’ point of view, trying to put into words what he sees. I still might, but in the meantime, I’ll just go with the chorus. No matter what, Tiddles. I’ve said this on many occasions and it still holds true.

I’ll stand by you,
I’ll stand by you,
Won’t let nobody hurt you,
I’ll stand by you

You may hide from me, kick me, slap me, shout at me, but you’ll never get rid of me. I’m your protector and you are the Son of Superman. This leads me nicely into the last song. The singer of this song died recently and one of his most famous songs was from a TV show that I never watched, but I loved the theme and again, the lyrics have become more of a promise to Tiddles in these past few years. More so, as we move ever closer to his 16th birthday in October.

(I’ll be ready) I’ll be ready
(Whenever you fear) oh don’t you fear
(I’ll be ready)
Forever and always, I’m always here

This post is longer than I anticipated. It goes like that sometimes. As I’ve said before, I write off-the-cuff. These aren’t planned, I write what I am feeling and thinking about in a particular moment and in this particular moment I was thinking about how limited my role as a father to Tiddles really is and will continue to be as he gets older. But I saw an interview in a paper with a theatre director, who gave three rules of how she lives her life, one of which was ‘Live hard, but if people ask, never say that you are tired.’

With that in mind, I have come up with the Hannam family motto, for my family in any case. I think this will look good on a t-shirt as well, but for now I’ll just use it to remind myself that sometimes, life does kick you in the knackers. But then to enjoy the moments when the pain subsides, even for a brief moment. Even if it is your beautiful, autistic boy telling YOU to shhhhh in the cinema…

Live Hard. Die Hard. Never Give Up.

Living with Luke 48

There’s a part of me that wishes that I really didn’t care about you Tiddles, for all the grief that you cause me with your constant rejection. A part of me that wishes that I could distance myself from you and just let you get on with your life and I could get on with mine. Just not have to worry about you, care about you or even think about you. You go your own way so that I could take the path of least resistance.

But I can’t. I do care and it hurts me to the core when you do push me away, physically or verbally.

I don’t like it, in fact I absolutely hate it, but what choice do I have? As I wrote about last time, it was with a certain amount of trepidation that Tiddles and I went away for a week, just the two of us together. The realisation that neither TCMH or The Eldest Child were going to accompany us was a bit of a shock to the silverback and I feared the worse to be honest. But we went anyway and I was determined to show him that we could have a good time together, like we used to when he was a boy.

So. How was the holiday with Tiddles I hear none of you asking?

Well, let’s see.

We went on the Sunday, and came back on the Friday – 6 days. Weather was generally lovely, wish you were here, etc, etc…

It took him 5 days to accept that it was just me and him and then finally on the Thursday before we came home, he actually sat with me, cuddling me, laying against me in a way that he hadn’t done for ages. I think we must’ve sat together for about an hour, me reading and Tiddles watching his DVD. We hardly spoke, but it didn’t matter. I sat stroking his hair, his face, feeling his once baby soft skin now rougher with the result of puberty and general manliness developing. I couldn’t feel sad, despite more evidence of losing the little boy to adulthood. Instead I felt calm, serene even. It was a beautiful moment, one well worth waiting 5 days for and it washed away the previous days of shouting, rejection, some hitting and generally being made to feel like the enemy. And it was for that hour alone, that I would say that the holiday was a success. We’d had a lovely time. We’d gone swimming, gone to the beach, the pier and we’d even met up with Stage Son for a couple of hours. And then the acceptance of me, even if only for an hour.

Well worth it.

After about an hour however, he did turn to me and say,

“When does Mummy come back?”

No matter.

The following day we returned home, via the local steam train heritage museum and whilst we waited for the train on the platform, we played a game of ‘I-Spy’. After a couple of successful rounds where he guessed and then I guessed, it was my turn again.

“I-spy with my little eye, something beginning with ‘B’.” I said.

“Buffet Car?” came the reply. There wasn’t one around, but even so…

“No. Good guess though…” I replied.

“Bus?” Again, no bus could be seen, but it began with a B.

“No. Have another guess.” I said. Silence.

“Something beginning with ‘B’…” I repeated. More silence.

“Come on, something beginning with ‘B’.” I said once more, to which came the muttered reply,

“Who cares..?”

Hahahahahaha!

In the end we aborted the train visit as Tiddles wanted to get home, where normal service again has been resumed. But I still can cling to the memory that just for a while, he did return from Narnia, and that he did recognise me as his dad. After all, that’s what I want isn’t it, just to be his dad? As he gets older, I’m going to be walking along holding the hand of a young man, possibly drawing comments from the less enlightened Neanderthals that have been allowed to breed, but Tiddles my son, I will not care, because that’s what you are. My son. I’ll always love you and I’ll always be proud of you, no matter what or how you may think of me or react to me. You’ll never read these blogs, so I just hope that deep down, you know that this is true. I want to be your dad, because I do care about you and I am reminded of two quotes which I think sum this up very well.

“To be or not to be. That is the question…”

And.

“Do or do not. There is no try.”

Because…

Living with Luke 47

Luke Skywalker.

If I’d had my way, that would’ve been Tiddles full name – Luke Skywalker Hannam. Unfortunately, I was outvoted by TCMH. Well, I say outvoted, she threatened physical violence and I voted against that, so we ended up giving The Eldest Child the responsibility of giving his brother his middle name – James. Still think Skywalker would’ve been cooler, though.

But it reminds me of a scene towards the end of ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ (my favourite Star Wars film), when an ill prepared Luke Skywalker goes up against Darth Vader. Injured, bruised and battered, Luke attempts to battle Vader, who instead uses the force to move objects to attack Luke. As Luke tries to deflect one object, another hits him from behind, and as the exhausted Luke slowly reacts, another hits him from another angle.

A bit like being a dad to Tiddles.

We went out yesterday, as a family to a famous Swedish home furnishing store. Now reading that back, it would’ve been a lot quicker if I’d just typed IKEA, but they don’t advertise my stuff, so…anyway, whilst we were there, Tiddles must’ve punched, slapped and poked me in the stomach almost a dozen times. Each time I just managed to tense my muscles, but always just a millisecond too late. Just like Skywalker.

It really does beggar belief sometimes as to how he is with me. Last week, me, Tiddles and The Eldest Child went away to Warwickshire to a Horse Boy Therapy camp. To be honest, I wasn’t looking forward to it because I don’t like horses and I didn’t know how Tiddles would be with me. It was actually quite lovely. He didn’t shout at me, or tell me to go away once over the three days. He was cuddly and dare I say it, affectionate. It really was like having him on an extended trip from Narnia and it was wonderful. I would say,

‘Good morning, Luke.’ And he would reply,

‘Morning. Daddy.’

Sometimes, just sometimes, he’s here.

It was business as usual when we returned home, however. Within a hour in actual fact. And by the next day, he was back to shouting and pushing me away. The visit was over and he’d returned to Narnia, where I was an unwelcome intruder and had to be treated as such. I don’t think I’m a bad dad to him, but there is just something about me that he doesn’t like and I can’t find out what it is.

Things got worse when he discovered that it wasn’t going to be ‘Mummy, Daddy, Jake and Luke’ going on holiday this week as he thought and that it was just going to be ‘Daddy and Luke’. He shouted and screamed and didn’t like that particular revelation and even this morning I could hear him shouting ‘NO!’ as TCMH was upstairs packing for him.

We shall see.

We’re here now and he’s already shouted at me a couple of times. It could be a long week…

But then again, he could surprise me. I don’t know, I really don’t and sometimes it kills me to think that he just doesn’t like me. Maybe it was having The Eldest Child with us last week that acted as a kind of foil for him that he was able to deal with me being there. It saddens me to think that we may have a crap holiday merely because of my presence, but then I could be overthinking things again.

We shall indeed see.

In the past few months, I have been called by various friends and relatives, ‘brave’, ‘courageous’ and ‘amazing’. I am none of these. Bravery is something that happens when a person has run out of options and has to face things head on. I have options, choices. Even now, I still have the choice to turn away. That’s not bravery. I don’t feel courageous. If anything I feel a fraud, a paper parent to a beautiful boy who doesn’t accept me as a real dad to him. I’m here through a combination of luck and choices, as anybody is. But I choose to stay with him, as if there was a chance he may change his thinking about me. If he doesn’t, then so be it. I’d rather be a paper parent to Luke Skywalker Hannam than not be a parent at all.

And the next time he tells me to go away, then I’m going to reply, in my best Vader voice,

No Luke. I AM your Father!

Living with Luke 46

It’s Official!

Tiddles really doesn’t like me! How do I know it’s official? Because TCMH has finally noticed it. For a while, she’s been trying to justify his actions…

“It’s the way you speak to him…”
“It’s because he knows he can get away with it with you…”
“He does love you, he says that to me…”

And

“It’s the way you say hello to him…” (I love that one).

To show how much I listen to her, even though she thinks that I don’t, I have actually changed the way that I say hello to Tiddles. It’s not many fathers that can say they’re surprised by the results and nor can I.

No change.

If anything, it’s actually gotten worse over the past few months. I can’t explain it. It seems to be the thing now that he punches me in the stomach, or he’ll kick me, or smack me every time that he sees me and that can even be when I walk from one room to another. The other week, he punched me in the nose – no reason, he just did it. Makes your eyes water doesn’t it?

He’s nearly 16. He’s nearly as tall as me, and at his last Epilepsy assessment, he’d lost nearly a stone in weight. He looks fantastic compared to the chunky monkey he was just over a year ago. But of course with that comes the fact that we’re both getting older and in all likelihood, he will get stronger whilst I will get weaker. I’m taking all the necessary steps to be his protector for many years to come, but as anybody will tell you, it can be bloody hard sometimes to keep going and I’m wondering at times, why the effing hell do I bother?

Just who is it that I’m doing it for? And having thought about it all, I think it’s for everybody.

I want to be the cool dad to The Eldest Child, the one he won’t be embarrassed by.

I want to be the extraordinary husband to TCMH, the one who doesn’t look like the stereotypical late 40-something male.

I want to be the good brother, cousin and friend, the one who people enjoy being with.

And coupled with all of that, I want to be Tiddles’ dad. But what does that mean, exactly?

It’s all of the above, I guess. There is a train of thought that goes something like, the harder you try and pull something to you, the easier it slips away from you. Maybe I’m trying too hard with Tiddles? I’ve tried the cool route, where I’ve barely said anything to him. He actually liked that, but I couldn’t stand it. I’ve tried to break his repetitive responses by speaking differently to him, but all that did was make him more creative in his negative replies. I’ve tried many different things, but maybe I shouldn’t try anything at all?

Would that make me less of a father?

To be honest, I think that it would, because although he doesn’t enjoy my company and really doesn’t care about me being his dad, it matters to me. In my mind I need him to know that he is loved by me and that I’ll always be there to protect him, no matter what and no matter how old I get or how weak I end up. I will continue to show him, whether he likes it or not and I’ll keep showing him and telling him until that day comes when I can’t do so any more, because I’m his dad. I am always going to be there for you Tiddles.

So deal with it, son…

Love Dad.

Living with Luke 45

It’s been a while…

With everything else that has been going on with bringing ‘Living with Luke – The Play’ to life, I realised that the very thing that had brought it into existence in the first place had been hibernating. Let me remedy that.

TCMH went out the other day to help celebrate a friends birthday. (I say a friend, but Mr Freeze, as we shall henceforth know him as the temperature always seems to drop when he is in the room, makes Leonard Cohen look like a kids entertainer, but that’s just between us.) Anyhow, Tiddles was asleep when she went and so we didn’t get the usual “come back mummy!” or “You stay there!” or “go away daddy…!”

I thought no more of it, only because I had forgotten about it more than anything else.

A little while later, I could hear from upstairs,

“Where’s my mummy?”

And then later still,

“When does mummy come back?”

As I said, I had almost forgotten this, which was ironic in a way because one of the lines that I have been saying all of last week during the play, which had itself come from an earlier blog was,

“You cry when your mummy goes out but you barely acknowledge my exits. You only sit with me when you want something and never for just a cuddle…”

I suppose because I had been the one going out each night, he had gotten used to/was quite happy about me not being there. It was fine though, sort of…or it was until he came down the stairs holding TCMH’s ID badge with her picture on it, held it up to me and pointed to her face.

“When does mummy come back?” he said. I didn’t think it was a question, but it’s always difficult to tell. I laughed because of the situation but in hindsight, it was a bit sad.

And I wondered if this is my fault somehow and not for the first time.

Doing the play in Colchester last week made me confront the words I myself had written. When I write the blogs, they are all stream of consciousness, my thoughts and feelings written down in one short space of time, with very little editing. So when I had to actually learn the words I had put down, it made me stop and think about them in a whole new light. And it was hard, because I had to re-live those feelings over and over again and I began to question why Tiddles was like this with me? What had I done that had caused him to seemingly hate his dad?

And the answer was, that I had absolutely no idea. It was a mystery then as it is now and I grope around in the dark, searching for his hand to pull me back to the light. But either I keep missing it or maybe, it’s just not there. But I have to keep searching for it, in the hope that possibly I’ll get lucky one day and find it. If I do, I’ll never let it go…

TCMH said to me the other day,

“I’m glad that you’re Tiddles’ dad. I’m glad you’re The Eldest Child’s dad too, obviously, but I am glad that you are Tiddles’ dad…”

I am not glad that I am Tiddles’ dad however. But that isn’t as harsh as it may first seem.

Because despite all the pain and the heartache and the distance between us emotionally, the shouting, the crying, the constant rejection…

I’m glad that he is my son.

Living with Luke 44

All along, right from the very start, these blogs have really been all about love.  The love that one man has for his son, his children, his family and his friends.  The love from some is not always returned, which is sad but bearable.  But the absence of love from the one person is what drives this blog.  Without that there wouldn’t be a need to journal my thoughts and fears.  

It’s also about the passage of time and the distressing way it which it slips through our fingers when we just want to hold onto it and make it last just a little bit longer. Last week, I was 21 and had the whole world in front of me.  Yesterday, I was 31 and Tiddles was born.  Today I am 46 and struggling to recover from injuries that I would’ve brushed off before.  Broken fingers, something Wristy, ankles beginning to object to years and years of kicking a ball, something Back related and a slowly receding hairline are all contributing to the general feeling of ‘why?’. 

‘Why’ am I doing this?  ‘Why’ do I even bother about it?  ‘Why’ don’t I just stop, curl up on the sofa and just leave it all alone?  Why does anybody?  Because they have to.  

In truth, I’m a lazy man.  If I can get away with not doing something then I will.  If I could look and be fit without having to work at it, then I would.  If I could earn money by doing very little, then I would.  And if I could be just a dad to Tiddles without all the pain and heartache that goes with it, then I most surely would.

Orson Welles, when asked once why he was always so busy, admitted in an interview that he was basically a lazy man.

“The basic failing of all lazy people is that they have to work TOO hard, otherwise they would never do anything at all.” he said.

I stay fit because I have to.  And I work hard at being Tiddles’ dad, because I want to. The poster for the play based on these blogs, has the line, ‘The Fight He Didn’t Want!’ Too bloody right I didn’t, but it’s a fight I’ll never back down from either.  Why? Because I’m lazy and it would be very easy to just give up, walk away and be free from all of this hassle, rejection and heartache.  But in my mind, as much as I think that he doesn’t give me a thought, I also believe that Tiddles needs me.  He needs somebody to smack, to punch, to jump on.  He needs somebody who can deal with his frustrations and his annoyance at seemingly trivial things. He also needs somebody to be there when he wants to come and visit. He knows that I’ll always be that person and will be there.

He needs me.  Because nobody else was suitable for the job.  I was picked out because I was the only suitable candidate for Tiddles.  Knowing that of course, does make me wonder why, if I was destined to be his dad, does he dislike me so much? Or am I just looking for his love where there may not be any?  A writer friend of mine who watched a rehearsal recently, pointed out in her article that if Tiddles were a normal teenager, would I get the affection I crave?  Or would the teenage Luke be as distant from me as he is now?  Nobody knows of course, it’s all speculation.  Tiddles is who he is and I as a result of that, am who I am.  

I can see him waving at me now and again from Narnia and when he drifts close enough to me, I can help him across to see me.  We hug, we play, we chase and then I turn around and he is gone again and I can see him drifting away.  But should I just give up?  

Of course not because, Luke Hannam, I’m too lazy to give up…

Living with Luke 43

Whenever I write these posts I always seem to have a song going round in my head that somehow links to Tiddles. At the moment, it’s ‘Feather’ by the brilliant Devin Townsend, which I used in a flipagram video a few months back – please check it out, because it is a wonderful and very beautiful song! It contains the lines,

And all I ever think about is you,
It’s only father feathers.
It’s only feathers.
They say heaven was in tune, your point of view,
I try to see your point of view

The truth is of course that although he is on my mind all the time, I don’t actually think about him all the time, because it would be impossible to and that is a horrible thing to admit, I know.

I’m not Jesus Christ, I’ve come to accept that now.

As a result, I will sometimes miss things that he does. I’m as guilty as anybody of taking what Tiddles does for granted, even when I don’t intend to. I wish that I was a 100% perfect father but I’m not, no father is or can be. But being a sado-masochistic self hater, it doesn’t stop me beating myself up – mentally, I hasten to add. I let others beat me up physically. It’s called ‘Foot-Ball’…or sometimes it’s called Living with Luke…

At our rehearsal for the play the other night, I came up with a line regarding one of the scenes, which was that “Nobody can see a shadow in the dark…” Sensing potential ridicule I shot it down with the follow-up line, “And that’s how Cod Philosophy was born…” See, I didn’t want anybody to think I was being pretentious, (‘Prententious? Moi?’) so I did what I always do and got in first to prevent being mocked for being so. I’m a master of the self-deprecating put down. I don’t let others abuse me when I am so good at going home and abusing myself…(pause for laugh).

But it’s very easy to let others see you as the victim in all of this. I’m not the victim, I’m the consequence, maybe even the cause. Tiddles’ condition is genetic, it’s got to come from somewhere. But apportioning blame is not the game here. The game is document our relationship as Father and Son, Tiddles and The Old Man, Luke and Daddy.

We seem to have reached an silent agreement with our relationship at this moment in time. He loathes the sight of me when I walk in or say anything to him, then relents and allows me to give him a cuddle. It’s almost an automatic response now, one that I am getting used to. He’s more – how can I put it? – cuddlier. He’s getting taller by the week however. My ‘little’ boy is disappearing slowly. And that is bloody sad, at least for me. I absolutely hate it, mainly because he seems to have done it all of a sudden. But then I guess it’s something all parents experience as their child gets older. It doesn’t make the sense of loss any easier though only because to me, I haven’t had the relationship others have had with their children, that my parents had with me and that I was lucky to have had with The Eldest Child.

It hurts. It hurts a lot, because the days of his childhood have disappeared.

But these days he’s more likely to sit with me and put his arm around me, or do his version of tickling, which is actually more like scratching my belly, but I laugh anyway because it’s his idea of contact. So far, that’s as far as we have got. To be honest, I really don’t know what I am expecting, I probably never will do, so I’ll just take the allowances where they come.

It’s a sad but true fact that Tiddles and I will grow old together, just from afar. Always together, but always apart.

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