Returning to the fold

Some of the things I set out to do on this break have gone by the wayside, thus far anyway. Other things I’ve neatly ticked off. And then there’ve been unexpected eventualities. This week, particularly, is a week of reunion and reconciliation.

Last week I called my Aunt. I’ve not seen her or any of her family for years, and the occasions they’ve invited me to attend I’ve refused. They’ve probably thought me rude and aloof, but there were reasons for this. One was purely practical. They live 90 minutes from where I do and a couple of times I’ve been invited to events when my car was off the road and I had no way of getting there. The other reason is that I’ve had no wish to run into my sister or father, also invited to these things.

Last week I wanted to make that good. My call probably came as a surprise but was well received. I proposed we catch up for lunch at a time suitable to them. Later I suggested a venue – the Eltham Hotel – which I knew very well once upon a time, but haven’t been back to for decades. Tomorrow I catch up with my aunt and uncle and two of my cousins. They seem to be quite excited, and I’m much relieved – this is the right thing to do.

Then on the weekend, I received a call from a long-lost nephew living in Brisbane. He had contacted me out of the blue the Christmas before last after a gap of more than twenty years. I’d attended his father’s funeral back in about 2003, but he didn’t attend, nor did his sisters, nor his mother, my uncle’s ex-wife.

I’ve had erratic contact with him since that contact. He’s clearly intelligent and a passionate supporter of Labor politics, openly gay, but seemingly troubled. His call to me was disturbing in ways. He was unhappy and hated Brisbane he told me and wanted to get away from his mother, who he still lived with. He seemed to have no close friends and he admitted he basically had Aspbergers – unsurprising in retrospect given his feat of memorising the Brisbane street directory when he was a kid. His speech was faltering, doubling back on itself and almost stammering at times, though the stammer was not syllables but words, which he would repeat 2-3-4 times before going on or doubling back.

I found it hard knowing what to say. All I could be was encouraging and supportive, but the conversation – in my ears – was awkward as he repeated himself and failed to pick up verbal cues. He wants to move to Melbourne after he does his Masters and I told him to call me whenever he needed to.

When he asked about my sister and father I reluctantly conceded I had no relationship with them. That was all I wanted to say but he pressed on, oblivious to my discomfort. The conversation turned to his father’s death and something he said sparked a vivid memory in me, that of my father – a hard-arse, strong and intimidating – breaking down as he gave the eulogy for his younger brother, distraught that his children weren’t there. My cousin had expressed regret at that – he wanted to go but his mother wouldn’t let him – but long afterwards and in the days following that memory lingered in me.

It seemed ironic to me that if my father died tomorrow then I might never know and not be there for him. I wouldn’t want that. I’ve been mulling it over ever since but done nothing about it as yet. I suspect I’ll wait until after my lunch tomorrow to decide, but I’m inclined to send him an email relating to him some of this story and let him know that I would be there for him should he want it. It’s the right thing to do but it doesn’t mean we get buddy-buddy.

Last night I spoke to a friend who lives interstate. We spoke for about an hour about current events – sport and politics mainly – as well as shared memories. Funnily enough, he made reference to a skiing trip many years ago which was a part of the group of pics I digitised last week.

Finally, an old friend is visiting town. I caught up with him for dinner on Tuesday and will again tonight and tomorrow. We were very close once but had a falling out. In the years since I think he’s learned a lot, as have I. We made no reference to our division but caught up as two men who knew each other well. I know well his faults, but I always cherished his gifts also – a sharp mind, but most particularly a deep sensitivity when he allowed it and a generosity of spirit. I can have conversations with him I can have with no-one else and I’ve missed that.

He’s back living in Australia now after many years in Asia. He’s not settled in Melbourne but perhaps that will happen. In the meantime, we’re getting to know each other again, and he getting to know again the people and places that loved him.


Old photos

What I have done in the last few days: I fixed a faulty clothes dryer; I dealt with a creditor after having referred them to the ombudsman; I’ve begun my ‘spring’ cleaning in the house, as well as in the garage; I had a blood test and sorted out my medical appointments; and, naturally, I did some writing. On top of all that I started scanning some old, pre-digital photos into the system. All and all it has been a satisfying week so far.

Digitising the prints yesterday was an interesting experience. I started with pics taken in the early nineties. I didn’t scan every print – there are too many of them – just those I thought worthwhile or, as Marie Kondo would have it, gave me joy. There were a lot of memories, naturally, and familiar, much-loved faces now departed.

I remembered that time so well but there was a disjoint. It was all so real, yet these people were gone and that time lost to me. It was real, I remembered it, but it felt unreal also. I looked in my face, surprised to find myself so handsome. This is me, I thought, that was me. And now here I am today.

There was a sense of how time slips by, how it changes. I posted something to Facebook about how one day its sunshine, next day rain, and it seemed true. Looking back it feels innocent and even looking at how I was then – open, smiling, a fine figure of a man – I was surprised at the difference, though really I ought not to be. What you realise is that it was all ahead of you then and now it’s mostly all behind you.

I caught up with a friend in Prahran last night to catch a comedy show. I caught the train in sitting by the window quietly brooding and listening to old songs from about the time the photos were taken. I had a refreshed sense of self. You walk around oblivious most of the time, ignorant of anything but the moment and the self you represent at that time. But I had perspective yesterday. That was then, this is now. That was who I was, this is who I am. And what I had knowledge of was of all that has happened since.

I was in love when these photos were taken, though it had gone bad. Not that you can see that in my face. I look like a nice guy. But then there was a journey after that and most of it was fine and if not fine then it was interesting and me throughout, the one constant, but changing in ways I never understood.

I got off the train and stood waiting for a tram. This felt familiar, as did the locale. I’d lived a few hundred metres up one way, over Dandenong road, for a year. And the other way, in South Yarra, I’d lived in my own apartment for about seven years in total. I lived there when the photos were taken, and this street, Chapel Street, the shops and bars and restaurants, I’d paraded by them for years on end, stopping now and then, going in here and there, indulging in this and that, part of the streetscape myself.

Now I got on the tram. I was the same man near 30 years on, the same holiday beard now as I did then, hardened now, more cynical perhaps, less forgiving, certainly less open.

How things might have been different. What if I’d made up with the girl I loved and married her as we had spoken of? What then? But we didn’t, she went on to die of her own hand, and here I am today.

It sounds sort of bleak but I didn’t feel that. I felt robust and full. I’ve made my way, I have my style, this is who I am – this is who I became. But at the same time were highlighted things that I otherwise overlook as just being normal. I had looked at my handsome face and wondered why I wasn’t more aware of it then – but I always did okay, as the saying goes. And I have ever since, more or less, but in a certain way that felt stark to me standing on the tram.

I’ve always been sexually driven, so I thought, but I wondered how I was then. And I was then too, but I was also romantic and impossibly tender. I was a good man. Since I’ve been with I don’t know how many women, hundreds, and a part of me has been closed off and even if I have charmed often in that period or seductive and interesting I’ve been the man women would happily fuck but not necessarily settle down with (with exceptions). And I recalled a woman telling me how I intimidated her – not in any harmful or nasty way, just my surety, my lack of doubt, my invulnerability.

Later, after a few drinks and a show, I sat there and there was another woman I wanted to fuck, no different to any other time. It’s fine to feel virile but is there always a point to it? You could argue that sex is a nihilistic act. It’s a moment in time in which you bury yourself in another. Then it’s over. That seemed the point sometimes but, even so, the urge returns all by itself.

I didn’t fuck the woman last night. There was no chance of that, just a passing whim.

I still have a lot to offer. I’m still presentable. I’d like to be more how I was then, regardless of how formidable I’ve become since. I don’t know if that’s even possible or, if it is, how I do it.

Growing up with the war

About a month ago I picked up a heavily discounted book and, having paused for a moment, went on to buy it. The book was Comrades of War, by Sven Hassell, and if I paused it was because I read it many years ago and was unsure whether I wanted to read it again.

Ultimately, that was the reason I bought it, from a sense of nostalgic curiosity.

It seems to me that when I was growing up Sven Hassell was a best-selling writer in his genre. World War Two was much more recent, though long before my birth, and it still had some relevance in the everyday lives of people – many of whom had fought or lived through it. There were movies made of it and documentaries and I recall that my father would have delivered Parnell’s History of the Second World War, which I would read through for years to come and many times over. On top of that, I remember my grandfathers telling me stories of their war years. It was before my time but it was still there.

At school, there were other kids, war buffs, who knew one thing or another about arcane subjects such as the Spitfire and the Hurricane, or about the U-boats. I was into tanks more than anything else and at one time could tell you everything about the T-34 or the German Panther, and many others. I would search through bookshops and occasionally pool my pocket-money to buy a book about tanks or fighter planes and sometimes fiction. LPs or war books, that was my thing.

Somewhere along the line, I found myself inclined towards the German side of the story. When I was very young I had a customary hate of Germans until one day my grandmother took me aside to tell me not all Germans were bad. It was a relief as one of our family friends had married a German, Joe, who I looked up to.

That conversation opened something in my mind. It gave me permission to look dispassionately at the history. I’d always been fascinated, but nothing was more fascinating than the Nazis to a boy. I still remained interested in the basic hardware of war, and much of the best of it was German, and as I read more, as I became older, I found myself drawn into the story of the German war, fighting on multiple fronts, often against overwhelming odds, and frequently in the most difficult of conditions. My particular fascination was the war on the Eastern front, possibly the most ruthless and devastating war of all time.

I grew to have a grudging respect for the common German soldier. I had to admit the Wehrmacht was a formidable, resilient army, more capable – at least in the first half of the war – than any of the Allied armies. That they survived and often triumphed for so long was testament to their skill and courage, regardless of the ideology they fought in service of. That they were essentially doomed was an extra layer of mystique.

About this time there seemed many novels and memoirs of WW2. A lot of them were written from a German perspective – it seems I was not alone in my interest. Sven Hassell was perhaps pre-eminent of those authors and I snapped them up. Though a lot of it is gruesome and confronting it had an allure to a precocious young teenager. Most of the books written from a German viewpoint shared an attitude – cynical, fatalistic, and threaded through with dark humour. They fought to survive, and for their comrades, believing in the most part that they were on borrowed time. None ever owned up to being a Nazi idealist and most were bitter and disparaging towards Nazi ideology and leadership, and almost all felt disconnected from the society at home. Their battles, their travails, their suffering and the horrors they observed had cast them out from the world they had come from.

For a kid, this is heady stuff, and much more complex than the heroic tales of the ultimately victorious allies which read, in comparison, as boys own. There are pathos and tragedy in the tales from German authors, dark in every aspect regardless of wit or attitude.

Hassell was the perfect writer for a kid because his characters were so memorable. As an adult, they seem almost as caricatures, and I think I sensed that as a boy too. I doubted his books sometimes, unable to reconcile the different tales and changing characters, but I read them all voraciously. Comrades of War was the first of his books and the book I liked most because it felt the most real, but it’s a different experience reading it now from then.

I went on to read other German books. From my grandfather’s shelves, I plucked a few books of Willi Heinrich, most notably Cross of Iron. There was another book which became my favourite of this genre, The Torrents of War, by Igor Sentjurc. I still have a paperback of it, the pages yellowed, the spine broken. I think it’s quite an obscure book but it’s full-on, unrelenting, unforgiving, as so many of these books are.

When I was about 15 I discovered The Forgotten Soldier, probably the greatest of these memoirs. I read that again and again until it fell apart. I got given another as a gift some years ago I’ll look to read again soon. This is the classic book of the German soldier on the eastern front, vivid, tragic and poignant.

There were other books I read, many about the U-boat war, which I was similarly fascinated in. Iron Coffins, I remember was one, but there were others I’ve now forgotten, plus The BoatDas Boot – which is another classic I’ve read many times, moved on every occasion.

As an adult, I got into the stories and books of Heinrich Boll. They all capture the humanity of trying to survive another day in a world made bleak and terrible. They draw you out of your comfortable chair and place you in this foreign world which was yet so real once and so true.

This is a big segment of my life. This was something I was drawn too and have never forgotten since. The darkness of these tales may inform my writing, who knows?

I’ve just finished reading Comrades of War, forty years after reading it for the first time. Today it feels episodic, an attempt to tell the story of a whole war in a little over 200 pages – but then, I raced through the last hundred pages, and felt the same sadness I did when I read it first. You come at these things differently after all these years. It doesn’t mean the same. You read with different eyes, informed now by your own experience and exposed to a world unavailable to the naive kid I was then. It’s a different experience, but worthwhile.

On the road

I’m officially on leave from work as of last Friday night. There was no sense of anticipation last week. I was busy, there were things I had to tidy up and hand over, but I was disappointed not to feel that gentle rush knowing I was about to be three weeks away from work.

I still don’t feel it really. Perhaps that’s because it’s unlikely I’ll be doing anything much. I had various plans, all speculative and contingent on available funds. Unsurprisingly, the funds aren’t available and so it’s three weeks at home – which, at least, is better than three weeks at work.

I went out for red wine and cheese with Cheeseboy Friday night hoping to force upon myself some sense of being off the leash. It was a cool, drizzly night and though the wine was good and the cheese plentiful I felt more weary than joyous. The most I can look forward to is the potential visit of an old friend, but let’s see if that eventuates.

Now it’s Monday morning and rather than sitting at my desk at work I’m sitting at my desk at home. I am at liberty. Among other things I hope this time away from work will allow me to clear my head and replenish some a weary body. I still don’t feel that uplift, but I sense my mind is slowly turning to a different perspective. My focus is shifting from the practicalities of the working man – making sure my shirts are ironed and my myki topped up, mindful of the clock and of the ongoing projects at work that occupy the mind, as well as the many petty frustrations. None of that is relevant at this moment and so I have turned off that part of my mind.

Last night I read some poetry and then thought a bit about it. I will read poetry now and then and almost always feel drawn into it. It’s a welcome sensation as if in that time I am exposed to a subterranean world of depth and meaning. It exists outside of me, in the world, if only we knew how to find it; and within me also. I sense it finally, this well of deep, curious feeling and with it a trembling, inquisitive, sensitivity. It’s a fine feeling as if now you can pick up frequencies unheard before, and let into a world of true wonder.

This time I am aware of my awareness. Because I have time before me my mind has space to indulge in the meaning of this: not just the poetry itself, but the meaning of myself in this poetry.

I woke this morning wondering, as I have many times before, about the contrasting attributes of my soul. I was always a creative, imaginative kid, but made my way in the relatively ruthless world of business. I thrived there because there were elements in me that came alive in the challenge. I was competitive without meaning to be, and ambitious because it was always so much better to do than not do. I was smart and so made my way up the ladder and a good communicator; but I was also hard and unyielding. I took pleasure in my success in much the same way a warrior celebrates his conquests. There’s little poetry in that though – yet there is poetry in me.

It’s hard to judge yourself in these things, but if I was to characterise my defining attributes I would say they are intelligence and determination, independence of mind and spirit, and defiance – which sits on the defensive side of belligerence. By and large, these attributes served me well (if we are to overlook the elephant in the room). I went further than I would have otherwise because I willed it, because I wouldn’t back down because I always wanted to be better. All of this made me formidable – though less so now.

And though all of this is true enough so is much that seems the obverse of that. I remain the creative, imaginative soul I was as a child. I am just as sensitive as I always was. I have a searching and restless mind. I am moved, mightily at times, by all manner of things, from a piece of music or poetry to the great and terrible events of our times. Despite everything I am romantic and have ever been the idealist.

This is what twitched at me this morning having read poetry last night, but it’s a recurring twitch. One of the things I seek to do in this time is to re-align myself in the hope that I will find a lifestyle more rewarding to me, both morally and financially. For me, mostly, that’s been about seeking a better angle in my career. I can still do it all, I just need to find a way back in. But then it occurs to me – should I have followed a different path? Can I still? And that’s the path in which I can be entirely my gentler self, the creative, sensitive man inside this crusty exterior.

Again, this is a question oft asked. There was a time when I could afford to answer yes – but not now, I think.

I have observed of life, as well as of myself, that little is all one thing or another. Life, and people, are much more complex than that. It’s silly to draw conclusions based only on what is visible, and it’s clear that contradiction is a law of nature.

As a thoughtful person, I find this fascinating and I’m glad of it too – it makes the world a more interesting place. Still, it’s not something I’ve ever really been able to reconcile in myself – as if reconciliation was possible. I search for a meaning or logic to it knowing there is no meaning or logic. That dissonance plays on my mind and I can’t let it go.

It’s one of the things that made me write, I think, the attempt to investigate and understand – and order – these things in the written word. These conversations go on in my head and if I parlay them into a fictional world that reflects the world I know then perhaps something of consequence can be made of it. And, you know, I find a lot of my understanding comes from putting it down on paper. It’s not quite automatic writing but often I find understanding in the act of writing, in drawing up as if from a deep well a sense not free to me otherwise.

One of the things I’ve discovered in my writing are my themes. I used to think redemption was my theme. To a degree it is, and I’m fascinated by stories that pivot on that. It’s a classic theme. But then, I’ve come to realise, my real theme is identity – self-identity. It shouldn’t be a surprise having read this journal but it’s surprising how long you can be oblivious of a thing. In my case that quest for enlightenment will often overlap with redemption – aren’t we all searching for that in some form?

I’m reading a book about Homer at the moment and I realised halfway through that the protagonist of the novel I’m working on now would fit easily into a Homeric tale – but I think that’s probably true of many. Homer’s tales touch upon so many classic tropes, much as Shakespeare does, that much of modern literature could be said to share.

In this case imagine an Achilles who has survived the battle and lived to middle age, to a time when he questions what he was and what he did while at the same time mourning for the vitality he has lost in the years between. Achilles was always a complex character, a ruthless warrior and sensitive spirit, but he was also an instinctive beast who cut a swathe with his unquestioned might. He was said to be invincible until the moment the arrow struck him in the one place he was vulnerable, his heel.

But what if he had survived all that, the battles on the plains before Troy and then the sacking of that city? What then would there have been for him? And after that? Where does it all go – ultimately, what does it mean?

I think all of us come to an age when we look back at what we have done and wonder at it. For so many years we just did it. Like Achilles, we go into battle because the battle is there. But then reflection grows on us, and some wisdom if we’re lucky. The battle slows, or has past.

For many, for most, it is enough to be husband or wife, and parent. There is meaning in that. We subvert something of ourselves for the greater meaning of the family unit.

That’s not been an option for me but, even so, I don’t know if my independence would be so easily satisfied. And if Achilles had become husband and father, would that have been enough? Only if he can reconcile the sensitive spirit he is with the ruthless warrior he was. That’s the journey he must take, pitfalls along the way and doubt and uncharacteristic confusion because instinct no longer counts. He must come to this a different way, where might is irrelevant. That’s the quest, the road to enlightenment and redemption if he can find it.

That’s the story I’m writing pretty much, but it’s my story too. I’m searching for that road, but at least I know it exists.

Summer/autumn, autumn/winter

For the first time since the year began – and probably since about October last year – I pulled on my pair of Red Wing boots this morning, thus signifying winter. When I walked out the door it was 11 degrees outside and, besides my boots, I wore a woollen jumper and a padded jacket.

I’m a believer in global warming and climate change in general. You’d have to have rocks in your heads these days not to, though naturally many with gravel for brains deny it. All the same, it seems to me winter pretty well comes the same time every year.

This is not true winter, of course. Autumn is a season of transition, from bright summer to austere winter. In my memory, almost all of March is what I’d describe as summer/autumn, which has been the same this year – warm, bright days more often than not. Then, about the last weekend of March – often coinciding with Easter, and with the end of daylight saving – the weather will turn, it will become autumn/winter.

The days become cooler. The clouds crowd in. We’ve had no rain practically all year, but this morning it was steady for a few hours, and will come again soon.

We’ll still get the odd warm day and throwback to summer, days in the mid or even high twenties, but they’ll be past too in a months time.

I don’t mind too much. It’s been a bloody hot summer, plus I love my Red Wings, and prefer winter fashion to summer. And – I reckon – I write better in this weather. I’ll enjoy the cosiness for it over the next few months but reckon, come August, I’ll have had my full of it. Just as well we have seasons.

On leaving

It’s a week until my leave commences. I’m in the home stretch and come this time next week couldn’t give a hoot what happens within these four walls – I’ve already told them that I won’t be responding to phone calls or emails. I’m sure I’ll still get them, but they really need to get their act into gear. Fat chance.

I’ve been in contact with the vendor we work with and sent him my CV. Because I’m straight up I mentioned to the head of digital that I’ll be on the look-out. Even though we’re both incumbents here he’s understanding and supportive. He’s offered to be a referee, as has the digital marketing manager. He’s also offered to put me in touch with some of his contacts.

In the meantime I’ve been speaking with one of the HR reps. He’s speaking to some of his contacts for me also. He’s sympathetic because his experience here has been almost identical to mine. His complaints mirror mine, as they do many others – there’re many looking to move on. It’s all about a lack of professionalism, the cliquey nature of business here, the poor management and unaccountable incompetence, the lack of any bold or decisive leadership. On top of that is the very nature of so many here. What we have in common is that we’ve come from competitive corporate environments where you just do the job. As one here said, this place is full of snowflakes.

Having said all this I have to temper my expectations. Nothing happens quickly and while I hope to return to work in a months’ time with something organised, that’s not a definite. All of ANZ, Telstra and NAB have let go of thousands in the last six months and many of them are still on the market.

Something came up in my meeting with the head of digital next week. He urged me to take time for myself and freshen up and I told him a story.

I’d attended an offsite presentation on Wednesday morning about workflow management. As it turned out I was the attendee, and so I had the various presenters all to myself. What was meant to be a presentation turned into a technical conversation. I felt enlivened by it. It was good to engage at a higher level with some smart people, and to converse equally on subjects complex and interesting. I felt myself again and afterwards I realised how far I’d strayed from that – something once that was an everyday occurrence.

I explained that to him and he understood completely. The truth is I often feel grim in this office, to the point that I can feel it in my mouth. It’s time to leave when it gets like that, he said.

Changing my job and earning more won’t solve all my problems, but it would be a mighty help.

I realise that while my work is respected here, it isn’t really valued. So often I get no response, or a response of indifference. I have experience and qualifications no-one is interested in. All of this goes to state of mind. If I were to summarise much of what has dragged on me these last few years it’s the sense of always being the supplicant – so different to how it was before. No-one hears me as they did before, and circumstances are that I rely on the help of others to get by. I feel as if I go about cap in hand, though I ask for nothing.

I wondered on the weekend if this was intended as some lesson for me. For a man once so proud and independent nothing can be worse than having that independence undermined and pride tarnished by irrelevance. If it is, it’s a lesson I don’t want to learn. Here I draw the line. I’m more humble than I’ve ever been, but I have to stand for something. I have nothing now but who I am and I can’t give that up.

Seven years ago tomorrow

Tomorrow will be the 7th anniversary of my mum’s death. It might have slipped my mind altogether had someone not reminded me yesterday, but I’m glad to remember.

It’s a time still vivid in my life. I remember taking the call at about 6am. It wasn’t a surprise, but it still came as a shock. There was nothing I could do at that time of day – it was a Saturday also – but I couldn’t go back to sleep. I remember it hit me about five minutes later, the whole enormity of it – my mum is gone from my life forever. Suddenly, for the first time in your life, you inhabit a world in which she no longer exists.

Eventually made myself coffee and, as soon as a civilised hour approached, began making calls. I called family and friends and all those who loved mum. Much as with me, there was no surprise but much sadness, though there were some who expressed relief that her suffering was over. I was very focused throughout this. I slipped into a professional persona. It was hard at times standing there listening to the grief at the other end of the phone, but I remained composed.

I called the funeral director then, and at some time – probably days later, began the ring around for other matters related to her funeral to come such as catering and cleaning and flowers and so on. Around lunchtime the funeral director arrived to confirm details.

I don’t remember the afternoon at all. It seemed a very quiet day. Still and silent, like you hear a clock ticking.

In the evening Donna came round to support me – no sign of my sister throughout this – and we went to dinner at a local Thai restaurant. I remember then feeling utterly drained and quite lost. I was glad to have someone there with me.

A few days later was the funeral. I remember, I split my pants not long before the ceremony and there was no time to do anything but staple up the split and hope no-one noticed. It was fine at the church, though I recall choking up as people came up to me before the ceremony outside to express their sympathy. The ceremony began and a few of us spoke up for mum, my stepsister, my niece, and I gave a eulogy recalling mum as she was. It was all fine until the minister mum had asked to speak for her instead rabbited on about god. We sat there listening becoming quietly angry at what seemed a betrayal. It was done though, and later I thanked him and gave him a bottle of some unusual fortified spirit he liked I’d had to hunt down.

The wake was at mum’s home next door to the church. It was my home at the time also. There was big crowd there – mum was much loved, and I was gratified that a number of my friends had made the effort to attend in support of me.

I remember for the first hour or so circulating through the crowd as mum would have once, making sure I touched base with as many people as possible and checking that everything was going well. I think someone – I can’t remember who – told me to take a break and time for myself after that, and I did that gratefully. I sat with my friends. We talked and laughed and remembered. We drank the beer and wine, and later we ordered in pizzas. Later, I think, I began to feel it, like something that has been held back because there were things to do. It was a quiet thing, a settling in me, something private. So that was that.

That’s how I remember that day.