For the last five months I have been a Team Manager, helping the Coach of the Auskick team my two sons belong to. I have witnessed and admired this man’s patience while training ten rather rowdy and often undisciplined boys. I wish I had just a mere 1% of the patience he has shown. I think all the players have learnt a lot from him.
A few months ago I began teaching Clea’s brothers to use a fork and a knife to cut their steak. Like most boys, they enjoy eating meat. It felt good to witness their first attempts to use a knife; you could sense in them some sort of achievement, their realisation that they could now divide a largish chunk of beef into smaller, more manageable pieces.
That sense of achievement is in other words the awareness of learning, and I’m sure every parent will agree that it’s a joyful, fantastic feeling, being there to witness it. It is something to relish; it becomes a memory to cherish, too.
There will be many other skills and aptitudes these young men will need to learn before they can fend for themselves. And it will be many years before their parents can feel confident enough that they can go and live their own lives. And even then… who knows what the future may bring.
This brings me to the realisation that we all need to learn all the time. If we don’t, we become stagnant, stationary, helplessly fixed on what we already know.
I am learning, too. For two years and eleven months now I have been learning to live without my daughter Clea. I’m still learning, day after day. I often feel I will never stop learning, because this is a never-ending process. As I wake up every morning, as I (sometimes reluctantly) immerse myself into a state of consciousness, a bitter realisation dawns on me: yet another day of this learning has begun.
What is it like, you may ask yourself. Well, some days you feel you have the energy and the will to learn; other days, you feel you don’t have any energy at all, let alone the will, so you could easily give everything up, because you feel trapped in a place and time where you don’t really want to be. You would want this loathsome reality to shatter, so you could start anew.
It is a fraught process. I guess it cannot be easy for most people to understand what I mean — unless they are in an analogous position. And I do not mean the loss of a parent: I lost my father to heart disease when I was 25; he was 58. It is not comparable. The loss of a loved one is always a terrible experience, but I believe losing your child takes you to a different dimension. It is a dimension most people would not even wish to contemplate in their own lives. That is, of course, quite understandable.
I am learning to live a life I did not choose to live. I see it is as a burden I have to carry; I have accepted the fact that I have to learn, one day at a time.
Yes: I am learning to live without my daughter. I do know I can be a difficult person to be with, to talk to, even to look in the eye. This is not what I thought I’d be doing in 2012; this was not the life I had planned to live when I would turn 48. Learning is what I’m most likely to be doing in 2013, 2014, 2015, etc.
I’m making the effort to learn something that probably I will never learn completely. It’s quite difficult; still, I’m trying to be patient with my own learning self. After all, what other choice do I have?