The perils of fatherhood

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it's been a rough week, cinematically speaking.

First we watched the engrossing and unsettling 'Beasts Of The Southern Wild', and then last night I found myself in front of 'The Road'. The latter being one of the most disturbing movies I have seen in quite some time.

For those of you who haven't seem them, both films share a similar theme; a father struggling to protect their child from forces beyond their control. While bleak, the message is the same, that while the father dies, he has managed to bring his child to enough of an understanding that they are equipped to begin life without him.

Heavy stuff, and while 'Beasts' paints a picture with shocking relevance to the economic disparities that exist in the US, one hopes that the scenario in The Road is metaphorical rather than portentous. But for me, both films also carried a very personal subtext. One that had my stomach in knots from the first frame to the last.

I'm pretty good with my hands. I like problem solving, I'm OK with tools, and I can be creative.
All of this should allow me to indulge in that very male fantasy of convincing myself that I could protect and provide for my family in extremis. I've built shelters. I've killed fish. I've even skinned a rabbit. I am MAN. Hear Me Roar. etc.

But I cannot indulge in the unconditional fantasy. It is all too obvious that I would be screwed in a 'survival situation'. If I made it through the first few months without succumbing to some kind of infection (which I struggle to do in this most first world of situations without medication by the lorry load), then I would most likely be first into the pot. Hell, I could even join in and eat my own legs for starters.

In living with paraplegia, I have learned to *unfortunate analogy alert* tread a fine line. I am independent. I contribute economically and socially, I am a fully engaged and involved father. Penny even went to Portugal last month, leaving me alone with TWO KIDS for a whole weekend (Please send medals to the usual address).

But I am also all too aware that it doesn't take much for me to fall off. Persistent UTI's are annoying, but can also mean spending a few days in bed. And let's not dwell on last summer's extended hospital stay with septicaemia, or the exhausting 'bad day' battles with pain levels above the normal 'general unpleasantries'. I take five or six different medications every day, I need five or six intermittent catheters a day, and then there's the wheelchair and the pressure relieving cushion. And all of this is just the 'treading water' stuff. I'm reasonably fit and active, but I still have other issues that need attention and medical support.

But the biggest battle in my daily life is the mental one. It's not what I think about, but rather what I don't. A good illustration: I don't like accepting help from people. This is partly because I'm bloody minded, and I need to know I can manage in case there isn't someone on hand to help me. But there is another reason. In accepting help, I am being reminded that I am disabled. This is why I don't like 'ring for assistance' signs instead of ramps or whatever the assistance is needed for. I Don't want assistance. I want to be able to think about something other than my limitations.

It turns out that my film-viewing tastes now reflect this desire, too.  Perhaps I'll put off watching Into The Wild for now. I might also steer clear of re-watching Touching The Void....

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1 Comments

Thank you for this beautiful piece of writing Tim. I have seen Beast of the Southern Wild but not the other film, I may not be brave enough for that. I like this piece because you write so eloquently about living with a long term disabling condition, and as someone who also lives with a disabling condition (totally different from yours) but one that means I also walk the wobbly tight rope in an attempt to struggle forward day by day without falling into the abyss, and do so without also asking for help or assistance to stay on the straight and narrow. I wouldn't survive the physical circumstances of either of the films, and I don't even have a son or daughter to show them how to. But what you have is so much more... one day your Daughter and Son will be old enough to know and understand that their Dad was a writer and an artist, and that you created pieces like the one above. You are my film hero, reaching out with such artistic creative honesty, limitations, there are none for you. At night you can dream about being that man hero, but please, during the day, keep writing, you deeply inspire everyone who reads and see your work.

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