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Living with Luke 60

Wow…

So here it is, post number 60.

I am, as ever, astounded that a) it ever got this far and b) that people are still reading them. After all, it’s a blog about a father and his son, right? There are plenty of those in this world, right?

Well…yes. And no…

As the self help books are ever prone to reminding us, there is only one of us in this world. We’re unique. Even an exact copy of us will experience life in a completely different way to us, so yes, whilst there are indeed lots of fathers with sons, lots of fathers with daughters, and indeed lots of fathers full stop, there’s only one of me. One father of Tiddles.

And only one Tiddles.

Lots of beings called Tiddles, but only one Luke James Hannam. And he only gets one dad – Me. For all my faults and weaknesses, my failings, my strengths, my triumphs, I am and will forever be your Dad, Luke.

And for whatever reason that you may not approve of that, it’s a fact that you cannot get away from.

No matter what, I will always be here for you and you will always be my boy…my son.

I have no hopes for you, no dreams, except to be a part of your life once again. There is a fire, a burning love that would consume us if we let it, but until such time as you would walk through that fire with me, then I’m going to love you unconditionally and completely. And even a little bit sadly.

Sometimes, there is no shame in admitting a defeat. It’s all about how you get back up after that defeat that defines you as a person. They are all hard to accept, these defeats, these setbacks.

These failures.

And I have failed many, many times with Tiddles.

But we get up, brush ourselves off and go again. And again. And again. Why? Because I love him. Because I would do that for The Eldest Child and TCMH if I had to, and have had to in the past.

The other week was the first anniversary of our first performance of ‘Living with Luke – The Play’. It was, and continues to be an emotional experience, and we are due to perform to about 200 people this week in a one-off performance in Colchester’s Mercury Theatre, in Essex.

The whole thing has been amazing, from the writer and actors themselves through to the responses from every audience that has so far seen it. As much as it gets to me every time I say my lines – my words from earlier blogs – I enjoy every single show. Audiences ‘get’ it. They have taken this simple little story to their hearts, for whatever reasons they have, be it because they too are parents of autistic children, or they love the setting, the wrestling, the drama, who knows? It has the potential to become something much bigger, playing to more people over time.

But the one person who doesn’t get it, or even possibly realise that something like this even exists about him, is Tiddles.

He doesn’t realise the love and affection that people have for him, even though they have never met him.

And that’s fine. He doesn’t need it.

But he also doesn’t know the love and affection that the other character in the piece has for him, and that’s not fine, because I need it. I need him to know. But he probably never will know that either.

Oh, he may benefit indirectly from the future of the play, wherever that takes us. But he won’t know the reasons behind the play, behind the blogs in the first place.

As I’ve said before, these have all been love letters to my Quiet Prince. Things I wanted to share, needed to say, to make people aware that a father can love his son from a place of genuine, honest, heartfelt, simple, unconditional Love.

And throughout every blog, the same message has continued to thread and weave it’s way into every word I’ve put down here, every comic situation, every heartbreak, every triumph…

Every failure…

And it’s this, now, then and as it’s always been.

I love you Luke Hannam. I know that word means absolutely nothing to you and it probably never will, but I love you so much. You are my little boy and you always will be and I will love you and protect you until the day that I die…

With Love, from Your Dad…

Living with Luke 59

I was reminded the other day of the frailty and temporary nature of the human life.

We’re here, if we’re lucky, for about 80-odd years. Some of us manage to live for longer and some of us are sadly taken much earlier.

When I was growing up, my Dad – who is still with us, I hasten to add – was a very fit man.  He played Sunday league football, nearly had a trial for West Ham, and was generally a very healthy human being.  Didn’t smoke, hardly drank, looked after himself pretty well.

Then the passage of time and some of those crunching tackles both given and taken, began to catch up with him.  Knee joints were replaced, back problems plagued him for most of his mid-life, and with all of this of course, his general fitness began to decline.  It wasn’t his fault of course.  Much like my granddad, the spirit was/is willing, but the body has other ideas.  He’s not frail by any means, he’s still willing to have a go, but of course, this just means that he pays for it later on.

I’ve been lucky.  I still have all my own knees.

I’ve managed to avoid the problems that all the other members of my family have inherited from granddad it seems.  If it’s not dodgy knees, then it’s broken legs that have required paper plates and bolts inserted or something like that…Anyhow…

As I said, my Dad is now 70.  He won’t mind me saying that because he doesn’t read these anyway – if it’s not Jack Reacher, then fargeddabowdit…

I’m joking of course – he can’t read…

But 70, is THAT age.  When you realise that you are now stronger than your Dad, the man who used to fling you about in the swimming pool, who used to fling you about in the living room, the man who used to fling you about on the beach…come to think of it, he used to fling us about quite a lot…But anyway, the point I’m making is that knowing that you can now help make his life a little easier, just makes me WANT to take that burden off of him.  Just as he used to tell my granddad – his dad – ‘off’ for lifting heavy stuff, and to leave it to him, I now find that I am doing the same to him.  I don’t want him hurting himself, so I find myself becoming much like most sons when they realise that nothing is forever.

I say ‘most’ sons.  Of course this doesn’t apply to Tiddles.

I was mowing the grass the other day and thought about how i would appear to Tiddles when I am much older.  As stated in previous posts, I fully intend to live until I’m 150 years old, and I think that retiring from playing football has added minutes onto my life span.  I’m actually training harder and more often than I used to, but why?

Simply that I want to be around for him.

The irony of it all of course is that he will never be in the position I find myself in with my dad.  He won’t ever look at me and think, ‘He’s getting older now.  Maybe I should be helping him a bit more…?’  Never going to happen.  He is always going to be oblivious to the ‘obvious’.

I came to the door the other loaded up with bags of shopping.  I looked like a cart horse with saddle bags.  TCMH swears that that is the only reason she married me was because of my ability to carry ALL the shopping in one go.  Anyhow, the window to the living room was open and Tiddles was sat in his usual spot on the sofa and could see me as I walked up to the door.  I couldn’t get my key into the lock because of the bags, and so I said to him through the window,

“Can you open the door?”

“Yes…” he said, and continued to sit there.  He didn’t realise I was asking for help.  As far as he was concerned, all I had done was to ask him if he was able to open a door, which of course he could, and had told me so.  Job done, back to the TV…

So, it’s down to me.  The Eldest Child will be off soon, pursuing his own adventures, and so I need to be able to take care of not only myself by staying fit, but also Tiddles as he gets older as well.

And I need to learn to rephrase requests for doors to be opened too…

Living with Luke 58

The other day I wrote this…

‘I fully intended to write a new blog post today. I had it in my mind and was going to get it all down. But I haven’t. The reason is that, I’ve had enough today. Enough of being rejected not only by those that matter to me, but also by those that don’t. I shouldn’t care, I shouldn’t give a fuck, but I do. I should really have learned by now that I am not important. I’m nobody in people’s lives, probably never was. But more importantly, and this is the most painful realisation, I’ve come to realise that today, at this time, I’ve really had enough of being smacked, punched, stamped on and shouted at. I’ve cannot accept today, being rejected by my son for the umpteenth time. It’s too hard, I can’t do it any more. My motto these days has been ‘Never Give Up’. But today I am this close to doing just that. I am down. I’m beaten and I’ve lost, again. There’s no way up, or forward it seems at the moment. Tiddles doesn’t interact with me, doesn’t really want anything to do with me and sadly, the gap is widening. He’s not the first. He certainly won’t be the last.

This is how I feel today, at this moment.

Tomorrow is a new day.

Let’s see what it brings…’

I was fed up and angry. Annoyed at what was happening in my life, not just with Tiddles but with everything and everybody. I get days like these, and it frustrates the hell out of me. I debated whether I should post it, and decided that I wouldn’t, but the other day I had had such a rotten day that I decided that I would post it with an explanation. I have days, as we all do when I wonder, ‘why am I bothering?’ ‘just what is the point of all of this?’ It’s a terrible feeling to get and it’s not the first time I have written about it I’m sure. But this was the first time when I really seriously thought I would tell people what I was really feeling. I was low.  Living with Luke – the play, had just had two of our dates cancelled due to a lack of ticket sales. I was annoyed about it, and very very pissed off. I looked at my readership for these blogs, and the numbers have gradually dwindled down. Maybe it’s time to stop writing about it all? Maybe there is only so much of Tiddles and the Old Man that people want to read about?

But then I thought again.  Just who am I writing it for?  It was supposed to be about how I felt, wasn’t it?  It was supposed to be the good and the bad, the happy and the sad.  So what if nobody else reads them?  I’m not getting paid for this, I can stop any time I want to.

So that’s what I’m doing.  I’m writing for myself and if anybody else wants to read them, then great.  It has always been about me and Tiddles and after some down times – which I am sure will not be the last time that happens either – I’m doing the thing that I enjoy the most and that’s writing, whatever the subject is about.

We were talking the other day, TCMH and I, in one of the rare times that I decided to not get up early and exercise. We were talking about the past, the present and the future.

I’m trapped in the past.  My destiny and purpose have been decided for me by my past actions, I’ve long thought.  What happened 5, 10, 15 years ago, I’m still holding onto and refuse to forgive myself for and let it go.  It’s what has made me, me.

Utter rubbish, of course.

We talked about Tiddles.  Were he still at school, he would’ve left last week.  I was a bit sad about that.  I happened to be at his old school last week and saw the kids who were his peers all walking round with their once white shirts festooned with autographs and messages from staff and friends alike, and I wished that he could’ve been amongst it all.

Did Tiddles care?  He couldn’t give a f…

As far as he was concerned, school was long ago.  2 years ago in fact.  Not that he has any concept of time.

Does he miss it?  Nope.

Does he think about it?

Nope.

Is he happy?

Absolutely.  He lives completely in the present moment.  The thing that happened 5 minutes ago, doesn’t bother him any more.  The thing that’s happening RIGHT NOW, is what’s important to him, be it food, rewinding his programme of choice, or deciding that now is the time to run around the house and jump.  The future doesn’t matter to him.  It’ll get here when it gets here.

As for the past…I have a lot to learn from this beautiful boy.

That thing that can and will break your heart, can also lead you to a better and truer life, if you’ll let it.

Tiddles is that thing.  He may only tolerate me, but I think he knows deep down that he is here to teach me so much more about myself, than I will ever discover on my own.  It may be a difficult journey, but let’s see anyway…

Tomorrow is a new day.

Let’s see what it brings…

Living with Luke 57

I read an interesting article online the other day about the masks some of us wear. Different masks for different environments. It went on to say that we should be looking to drop the masks and learn to live as ourselves, authentically. It’s a weird thing, or it could be a funny thing. Or even a weird, funny thing, but whatever thing it is, the people who probably live the most authentic lives are autistic people. Tiddles doesn’t have a mask, doesn’t need one. He’s painfully authentic sometimes and shows his genuine feelings on every situation that he encounters. There isn’t any way that he could hide his emotions about what he may be thinking or what he could be feeling, and nor would he want to. Well, he wouldn’t know how to for starters. Such is his life here that possibly, he feels that he can be the most genuine he can be in his own world. Nothing to prove, no ego to stoke, he and many others like him are a prime example of ‘authentic’ living. 

Does that mean though that they see us for who we truly are? 

Is that the reason for his apparent dislike of me? And sometimes not just me, either. But mostly it is and there  are times when he can’t even look at me. Sometimes he’ll put his hand up in front of his face as a sort of barrier, the way I used to when I watched Dr Who in the seventies. I could still hear what was going on, but I didn’t want to see the scary bits, so I’d put my hand up so my eyeline to the tv was blocked. And that’s what Tiddles does. He blocks out the ‘scary’ bit. 

Which is me. 

And with his earphones in he has the added advantage of blocking out the majority of my voice too. So in effect, I’ve just compared myself to a Dalek/Silurian/Ice Warrior/Cyberman/Giant Rat/Wyrryn/Brain of Morbius/Any other DW monster…Why couldn’t it have been The Master? 

It was my birthday recently, and I have mentioned this elsewhere, but I received my card from my family in the morning – one card, three messages.

The first, from TCMH began,
‘Happy birthday, gorgeous…’

The second, from The Eldest Child began,
‘To Daddy, the best dad in the world…’

The third, from Tiddles, began,
‘To Steve…’

You know how it is when you find something funny initially and then the reality sets in? That was it…
‘Hahahah…oh…bugger…’

So, the other day was also World Autism Awareness Day, or as we know it in our house, Thursday. I reflected on this as I was giving Luke his morning supplements. When I first started writing about Tiddles and I, I spoke about how he doesn’t say good morning, instead telling me to go away. That was 2 years ago now, and has anything changed? Well, no. Not really. It’s now become accepted that this is how he greets me, if telling me to go away can be classed as a greeting. 

But many things have changed in 2 years. It’s inevitable I suppose. As I write this today, I’m preparing to play my last game of competitive football after 40 years of playing and over 1000 games. I’ll no longer be ‘risking injury diving at the studded boots of Sunday morning footballers on bone dry pitches’. To me it’s a big thing. Football has always been a huge part of my life, but I’m going to walk away after today once I’ve burnt my gloves and been carried shoulder high by the opposing team, and that’ll be it. A big thing that has pretty much been an obsession of sorts – “sorry, can’t make that, I’m playing football…” – will be done with for good. There is of course, going back to Dr. Who, a small part of me that is going to be like David Tennant before he regenerated into Matt Smith – “I don’t want to go!” – but go he did and go I will too. 

So what’s been the point of this blog today? 

All things will pass? Nothing lasts forever? 

How about, if you find something you love, then you’ll deal with the heartache, heartbreak, bruises as well as the incredible but all too brief highs…

Tiddles…

Living with Luke 56

Moments…we all live for those wonderful pieces of time that make us feel…incredible, unbeatable, inspired.

Loved.

For me, most of the moments in my life come from songs, films and books. The crunching chord in the chorus of ‘The Power of Love’ by Frankie Goes to Hollywood. The bridge in ‘All the things she said’ by Simple Minds. Any moment Rocky Balboa overcomes insurmountable odds (“Get up you sonofabitch…cos Mickey loves ya…’). The chord change in ‘Why does my heart feel so bad?’ by Moby. Scrooge’s redemption in ‘A Christmas Carol’. Rutger Hauer’s death speech in ‘Blade Runner’. The heavenly choirs in both ‘The Last Dalek’ by Murray Gold and ‘All For You’ by Paul Leonard-Morgan. The lyric ‘I know you have a little life in you yet, I know you have a lot of strength left…’.

I could go on. It would be easy to list many such moments.

But sometimes, moments are all I ever seem to get from Tiddles. Such is the nature of our fragile relationship these days, such moments of pleasure come all too fleetingly and are sadly gone just as quickly.

We danced the other night.

I was in the kitchen and he came in and without even being asked, stood on my feet and we danced around in a circle in our tiny kitchen. It only felt like a minute but in actuality it was probably less. It wasn’t long I know that much.

Then he suddenly put his arms around me and squeezed me tightly. My arms were pinned so I couldn’t hug him back, but it didn’t matter because I had misinterpreted the hug. I could feel him walking me backwards, out of the kitchen. We got to the living room door and he turned me to go through it. Then he realised he wasn’t where he wanted to be so turned me round and walked me back towards the office, where he pushed me in and shut the door.

‘Relax Riddler, you’re in no hurry now…’ He said, mimicking Batman – The Animated Series from the 70’s. Knowing the next line, having heard the damn thing so often, I replied.

‘You…you…caped creeps!’

And then he laughed the fake laugh beloved of that particular genre of 70’s cartoon makers.

Then he left me. He had had his fun, his momentary connection with me now severed, he walked away ready to move on to the next thing.

This is a common theme here. I get moments. Sometimes the moments last a bit longer, most of the time they are no more than a minute. And sometimes it’s difficult to accept. It actually breaks my heart to write this down sometimes. Cathartic it is not. But I still write them down. I hope people get something out of them, even some small moment of clarity, comfort, even a feeling of smug superiority, I don’t care. I write them for whatever heartbreaking reason that I do. He’s my beautiful Quiet Prince and his distance from me is for me to deal with, whether anybody reads about my sadnesses and successes or not.

But…

The other night, my son and I, we danced.

Living with Luke 55

My quiet Prince…

Except he’s not of course. He’s loud and vocal, constantly chattering and shouting at times. He repeats lines from a wide variety of films and television shows from Batman Forever through to Batman the animated series (70’s version), encompassing Stingray, Thunderbirds, Wind in The Willows, Willo The Wisp, Joe 90, Oakie Doke, Postman Pat, Fireman Sam and of course, the autistic’s weapon of choice, Thomas the Tank Engine along the way. At times it’s difficult to keep him quiet.

Except of course, when you speak directly to him.

Then, you’ll be lucky if he says more than 3 words to you. And they are 2 more than he actually wants to say to you. If he can make himself understood with a nod or a shake of his head, then he will. It’s only with a bit of prompting that you may get a ‘yes’. And then with more prompting, a ‘Yes. Please.’

It’s something we’ve tried to combat, but to no avail. My Quiet Prince knows on a deep level that we know what he wants and that we don’t need him to tell us. But we still try and get him to engage by asking.

Why? Why do we bother?

Because I/we love him. And that reaching across to Narnia is something I/we will never stop doing, because to do so will mean that I’ve lost him forever and I’m just not prepared to do that.

I wait patiently for THAT connection, that moment when HE becomes my boy, my son, my friend even if only for a second.

Understand that I COULD do something else. I COULD not bother to wait and when I get some of the reactions from Tiddles sometimes, nobody could blame me.

But these moments are precious. When they happen at home, I don’t tend to make too much of them. I think because I fear that in doing so would break the spell and I like to take the moments where and when I can.

I’m reminded of a great song taken from the latest album by (Sir) Billy Idol, ‘Love and Glory’, which contains the line;

In another universe, if the planets are reversed, would I still wait patiently, for you?”

Yes, yes I would.

There is no glory in being a parent to any child. If there was, then parents probably wouldn’t split up. Parenting can be hard, mainly because there is nobody that you can look to as THE ideal for How To Be A Parent. But we do it anyway and we do it for the love that possibly may come our way. And with Tiddles, possibly is an oft used word and that’s why I love the moments I do get and crave more of the time between us when he rejects me.

I’m grateful of course. How can I not be? It would be churlish of me to criticise the quality or quantity of the time we spend together, but of course, you always want more.

But, he is as ever, my beautiful boy. My son.

My Quiet Prince…

Living with Luke 54

Karma…

The all encompassing word, meaning -depending on the circumstances – what goes around, comes around OR you reap what you sow OR that bastard got what he deserved…(delete as applicable).

I’ll make an admission here. I’ve not always been the best of men.

I’m far from perfect. I’ve made decisions I’ve come to regret and I’ve done things I’m not proud of. I’ve let down at some time or another, my close family, relatives, friends, even strangers at some point in the 46.75 years I’ve been around.

I’ve been rude and insulting. I can be vain, greedy, lazy, dishonest. I have been and continue to be at times, selfish, unthinking and very not very likeable.

And now it’s come back to bite me.

Karma…what goes around,comes around…the bastard got what he deserved…

A lifetime of choices, good and bad have led me to Tiddles, my judge. The very thing I want, is to be forever in sight but never attainable.

I’m not a ‘good’ man, and I think the universe has been biding it’s time to show me that.

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it before, but one of my favourite stories of all time is ‘A Christmas Carol’ by Dickens. I can watch several different versions of this tale over the Christmas period and have done so in the last month. The ultimate story of redemption for a man who has been weighed down by the chains of the decisions he has made over the course of his life. I love it and every time I get to the resolution, Scrooge’s promise to keep Christmas in his heart and live in the past, the present and the future, I always think, ‘Yeah, that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to be a better man, somebody that I’m proud of. Somebody people would be glad to know.’

And maybe then, Tiddles would love me a little bit more. Or at least, acknowledge my existence as something more than a figure of…indifference?

‘He does love you,deep down.’ People say. So why doesn’t it feel like it? Why does everything that he shows me is contrary to that belief? Because I believe that personally, I am not a ‘good’ man. And this is how the universe has chosen to show me.

Now I can already hear most of you reading this saying to yourselves, but that’s what everybody is like. Nobody’s perfect.

And you’d be right. You would be absolutely spot on. But I cannot speak for you, I can only speak for myself. I’ve passed my judgement on people I hardly knew before and it’s another thing I feel I am having to atone for. But, my blog – and I’ve always written it from my point of view with as much honesty, brutal or otherwise, as I can – may not always be pretty, but it is always from the heart.

So I want to be ‘better’. If the universe has a plan for me and Tiddles and this is what’s involved, then I have to do whatever it takes to see if it leads me to him. There may just be a path to Narnia that is hidden until such time that I’m deemed worthy enough to see it. Who knows?

Nothing is certain but unless I do something about it, I’ll never know.

I’m probably closer to Ebeneezer Scrooge than I ever realised and this could be my wake up call. My redemption. All of the years of watching ‘A Christmas Carol’ and I probably should’ve been taking it more to heart.

I’ve always thought I could make a difference in this life. The reality of it is that actually, right now, I can’t even make a difference with Tiddles. I’m treading water with him. And if I’m being honest again, little by little, I’m actually drowning. I just don’t realise it.

So. Can I ‘be the difference I want to see in the world?’ All the self help books tell me I can. But until I can get up and act instead of just theorising about it, then the answer will continue to be a loud, resounding ‘no’, followed by a mocking laugh from all who witness this ridiculous charade.

I’ll continue making bad judgements, of course. Wrong decisions, mistakes. I’ll be rude at times, say things in the heat of the moment that I’ll regret, etc. I’m human. Who doesn’t stumble, no matter how good the intentions? And if I do, will there be anybody to catch my fall? Time will tell…

Do or do not. There is no try. But never give up.

I’m not a good man.

I’m just a man who loves his son.

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