Last weekend I took part in a research project into the levels of support people with fibromyalgia experience from their friends, families, co-workers etc. It is a small survey at the moment but any research into fibromyalgia is to be welcomed and the fact that it focuses on the experience of men with fibromyalgia is doubly significant. Sitting in the room, I spent some time examining my own experiences before sharing them with the group. I have often said my fibromyalgia, in a strange way, has brought my family closer together by the fact we now discuss emotions and feelings more than ever before. This however will always be difficult for an Irishman and his father but I know how my Dad feels about me and I’d like to share the following to explain how that has come about.
Christmas morning in fibrofella’s house always has structure to it. Dad turns on the tree and the fire and we go into the sitting room to open our presents. As we do so my folks take photographs to catch our reactions to different presents. As we are all nosy people, we open our own presents very slowly so that we can see what the other three have got. Dad would sometimes ask us ‘what did you get?’, ‘what’s that?’ because, very rarely it must be said, we would be opening a present marked from Mam & Dad that he was seeing for the first time. This year was no different as Mam and Dad had cameras at the ready to catch our reactions to opening our presents, even at our age!
The order in which you open your presents is a vital decision in our house. Some presents make recurring appearances each year and very welcome appearances these are too. They are the socks, the pyjamas, the facial scrubs, the aftershave balms that get us through the year. They are often easily recognised, even through the wrapping paper, and so are opened first. This system, streamlined over the years, sees any one-off presents or ones of unusual shape, size or texture left until last in order to extend the excitement. Yes I am a large, hairy 29-year-old child!
So this year as I made my way through the presents, one unusual gift grabbed my attention. It didn’t feel like any of the traditional, recurring presents or indeed anything that had been on my submitted wish list. Presenting random gifts is a dangerous game to play and Mam & Dad were obviously feeling brave. Needless to say leaving this present until last was a brave choice for me too but they, more correctly Dad, certainly got it spot on or I wouldn’t be telling you about it now.
Over the past ten years I’ve experienced many highs but when I look back on the past decade it’s the lows that spring to my mind first. With, in no particular order, fibro, injuries, meningitis, surgeries, job losses, relationship losses all making appearances. Not to mention the camera crews that have visited various parts of my anatomy recently! At times when I’ve been at my lowest ebb my Dad has quoted 3 short, simple lines of poetry that have proved a comfort and shown that he will support me through any difficulty and over any obstacle;
‘You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars;
You have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.’
Desiderata, Max Ehrmann 1927
So with my curiosity piqued I opened my wildcard present and, as I did so, I noticed Dad watching me. Keeping you in no further suspense, the wildcard present was a framed copy of the poem Desiderata. I could blame increased crying caused by my fibro or depression but truth is just opening that present brought a tear(s) to my eye.
My Dad had put special thought and energy into this gift for me. He printed and framed it to show how much he cares and how he’ll always be there for me. As I hugged him I remembered vividly the times he had quoted this to me over the last decade and it reminded me of all the ways he has helped me become the man I am today.
So now I have this framed poem to see each and every day at home. The words themselves are a sign of support but knowing the extra mile my Dad went to for it will add extra impact to the sentiment. So never let it be said that Irishmen can’t show their emotions and share them with each other. You just might have to look a little further before you get to the wildcard gift that proves the point.