Woken up and found myself in a ballsy mood this morning. That’s not uncommon. Despite my circumstances, or perhaps because of them, it seems as many days as not that I feel this masculine juice flow through me. I don’t know if I want it so full in me, so often; I wonder often, and even wish, that I could be quieter in that regard. Today is just another day and I am this because I am, or because of the weather, or perhaps as a reaction.
The reaction would be to last night. As I sat here writing last night the TV continued in the far room. The next program had commenced and was 10 minutes in by the time I returned to the loungeroom. On many occasions I would have switched the TV off and gone to bed to read. My bedside lamp is packed away though, and I was not ready for sleep, so I sat and looked at the screen.
The movie being shown was distinctly not the sort of movie I normally watch, and certainly not in my ballsy disposition. One True Thing could lazily be described as a woman’s movie. It stars Meryl Streep as a wife and mother who has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Renee Zellweger is the daughter who returns home to look after her at the urging of her father, played bu=y William Hurt. I think that’s why I started watching initially. I like William Hurt.
Regardless of it being a woman’s movie or me being ballsy or anything else clearly a movie such as this has relevance to me given what happened with my own mother. Somehow, with Christmas coming, it had added piquancy.
Initially I was struck by the concept of the family home. That’s not something I ever really think about, but here it was seemingly presented to me in a way I could not ignore. Like so many American movies this family lived in the cosy, almost clichéd family home – pretty and elegant without being pretentious, warm and welcoming, trees in the yard, an apple pie in the oven, and genial small town about it. Our version is different here in Oz, but it was still very recognisable to me. Truth is I grew up in an upper-middle class family, much as is portrayed in this film, in a nice house and generally amid a loving family and community. You’re a kid, you don’t think twice about it, but looking back you know it fondly.
That’s the thing about the family home – you miss it when you don’t have it. These thoughts ran through my head as I watched the movie. I guess typically the family home is the home you grew up in, but doesn’t have to be. The house I grew up in was sold by the time I was 18, and it barely made a difference to me. Your family home consists of people in a loving, fond and familiar environment. If I look back over the course of my life I can pick out those moments when I’ve returned to that place and felt a comfortable relief at being there. Here I am safe. Here I can walk about in a pair of shorts or raid the fridge at midnight. Here I am loved without condition.
It’s a lovely, even necessary thing, but easily taken for granted. I don’t have that now an miss it keenly. That was my safe place. I don’t have a safe place now. For me, and I presume for most, that place, that home, is where your parents are, the place that everyone gravitates to in those big moments in life. Christmas is one of them.
Mum was always so big on Christmas, like a kid really, that it was infectious. You got caught up because you couldn’t bear to disappoint her. But it was fun. She would do the full extravaganza come Christmas – the tree obviously, the wrapped presents, the Christmas carols (which would drive me batty – a little goes a long way), the egg nog, and the delighted clues left for us regarding the gifts we were getting this year. For so many years – for almost all of my life – I would return to that environment and just feel like I was home. I really do miss that, and will do more as these weeks pass. The ‘family home’ is a concept that should be kept close.
The movie went on, little moments triggering memories in me, but the big moment of course was all about the reality of dying from cancer. The last 30 minutes of the movie hit me hard. I feel it now again as I write about it. It was like I lived it all again watching the events on-screen. It’s a terrible thing. I can see my mum’s drawn face. The laboured breathing and gasping for breath, the search for escape from it, the despair and helplessness of those who love her watching her slowly dwindling away.
It’s a movie that maybe I shouldn’t have watched. I’m the strong man, the ballsy one, the man who was there with mum throughout her struggle. That was a role I played because it came natural to me and because someone had to do it, and ultimately, I realise, because it was a role I wanted to play. It’s who I am and what I do, but part of that is moving things from one place to another.
People don’t understand what lies beneath that, and always. I don’t want to show my frailty to people, and see no point to that. That doesn’t mean I don’t feel it. I wish people realised that sometimes, that I’m not entirely the blithe, strong man appear outwardly. I feel deeply, I share the same emotions as everyone, and sometimes more because I think I am more sensitive than most. I need as much as anyone, and in many ways now I know that I am lost and adrift. I get away with that because I look ahead, am positive, have a history of resilience, and so people expect – as I do – that will change in time. That doesn’t mean I couldn’t use a hug now. God knows I could.
Being ballsy is nothing more than attitude. Useful maybe, but somewhere beneath there lies the boy. Don’t forget that. My true thing is that I’m haunted still, and will be I think until I can find the things to replace what I lost.