In which this year and our story, comes to its necessary end.

Content warning: The following entry includes descriptions of medical procedures.

The End

1722 words about life — 09:00 · 30th Dec 2017

Like all stories, this one has come to its end.

But I’ll tell you one thing worth repeating.

It’s been one hell of a ride.

We thought we could take on the world. We thought we were invincible. But in the end, the world with all its darkness consumed us, like it consumes everything else.

But that’s no way to end a story.

A story needs a beginning and here’s our beginning in all its truncated glory.

A couple of months after I published that entry, Amanda was diagnosed with leukaemia and died a month after that.

I never imagined so much could change in a single day.

I never learned how to grieve. Like so many other things, it isn’t something men are supposed to feel. We’re taught to suppress our feelings.

“Man up,” they say.

“Stop being such a little girl,” they say.

Little do they think that by saying that, they aren’t saying, “Don’t express your feelings.”

Instead, they’re saying, “Don’t feel anything.”

“Nevermind the collateral damage,” they forget.

So we don’t feel.

It takes a while to push everything down into the darkness where nothing ever lives, but we get there in the end.

If you live long enough as a man, you learn to not feel.

We become distant. Emotionally unavailable. We retreat to the safety of our emotional and often physical man cave, where no woman is allowed. We retreat into the safety of the darkness where nothing ever lives and no light ever reaches. Not because we want to but because we have no other choice.

We become ticking time-bombs, ready to go off at the slightest provocation.

Tick fucking tock.

“I’m fine,” becomes the motto of a man who’s far from fucking fine.

There’s an enormous sadness to this.

To being incomplete as a human being.

But we don’t know any better. We’re not taught any better.

That’s the first lie.

Some of us are taught better. Taught that it isn’t enough. Taught that we should be human.

But we’re never taught how to be.

So, there I was.

Faced with a grief that patriarchy hadn’t prepared me for.

Truth be told, no one is ever prepared for it.

But this is my side of this story. I have no right to tell anyone else’s side.

So I pushed it down, into the darkness with everything else and hoped. I hoped that it would stay there with all the other unresolved demons that I’m not remotely equipped to deal with.

But this one wouldn’t go down.

All the feelings: the loss, the sadness, the anger, the helpless frustration were too much.

So everything came back up again, broke the seal and ripped a hole in the self that was already trying to cope with a life that was never going to be the same again.

When you aren’t taught to feel anything, everything comes out as anger.

Angry at you, angry at myself, angry at the world.

Angry at the stupid fucking clock on the wall that won’t stop and instead keeps on ticking like the darkness inside.

Tick tock, tick tock, tick fucking tock.

Tick fucking tock.

I was angrier than I had ever been.

That’s the second lie.

I wasn’t actually angry.

I was mourning and without a way to express it.

“How are you feeling?” they ask, “Do you want to talk about it?”

“Do I want to what? Talk? Am I supposed to want to talk about it? Is that something humans do?”

“How do I do that?”

Faced without a way to be a human, I was a man.

So it came out as anger.

And the collateral damage that followed the explosion was catastrophic.

Unlike anything, I’ve ever seen.

I’m sorry.

That’s the first truth.

But words can’t even begin to undo the hurtful things I’ve said.

And actions can’t make amends for the things I’ve done.

It changed everything.

I changed everything.

Even if Rebecka can forgive me, I don’t know if I can forgive myself. I don’t know how to.

I can still remember her smell as she lay her head on my pillow all those years ago, spending the first of many nights in my bed. Her soft features as she smiled looking at me, always looking, never shying away. Her pale cold skin pressed against mine as I warmed her for the night.

I can still remember the smell of formaldehyde and antibacterial soap as she lay her head on the hospital pillow, spending the first on many nights in a harsh, cold bed made of steel. Machines whirring, blinking and beeping away through the nights. Her soft features as she gasped for air through the tubes, her heart pumping everything the wrong way. Her pale cold skin as I held her hand, thinking this would be the last night I saw her.

“We need to replace her valve,” they said.

“She wouldn’t want that,” I said.

“I won’t let you,” holding her life in my hands I stand my ground despite feeling it sink underneath me.

I pray.

Please, let her live. Please. I’ll do anything.

Her X-rays look fucking awful. The doctors try to explain but I can see all the spots where her lungs aren’t working like they should, just as clearly as they do. She’s drowning. I don’t tell her because I’m sure she already knows.

“Man up,” I think, “I need to be strong.”

Powerless I sit and wait.

Tick fucking tock.

By some fucking miracle, she gets better.

The tubes come out, she starts breathing on her own.

Her mother thanks me for being there for her daughter.

“Where else would I be, you stupid cunt?” I think but I just say, “You’re welcome.”

I can still remember her screams. How she pleaded for them to make the pain go away as they slit open her stomach, laying her organs to one side to take him out.

“We can’t give her too many analgesics, her heart can’t take it,” they said.

I wanted to punch all of them, scream at the top of my lungs, “Why aren’t you fucking listening to her. Why aren’t you seeing her?”

But I didn’t fucking see her either.

Not enough.

That’s the second truth.

It takes me four days before I realise I have a son.

Lucien Eriksson lying in an incubator at 3 days old.
Lucien, 6 weeks early, 3 days old.

A tiny little life, with tubes of his own, fending off all the fucking medication they had to pump into her to stop her from dying.

I stand by his incubator separated by the clear plastic meant to keep him safe.

“I’m supposed to be one keeping him safe,” I think.

Powerless I sit and wait.

Tick fucking tock.

The tubes come out, his heart beats on its own.

I hold him for the first time.

This tiny little life resting in my arms.

So fragile.

At less than 2kg, he feels weightless.

I hold him, feed him for the first of many times to come. Seconds later he vomits, like a gushing fountain of warm bottle milk, all of it covers my arms and t-shirt. The mothers around me look and smile as if to say, “You’re now one of us.”

One of them.

A parent.

A whole new life to be responsible for.

A whole new human, who is going to grow up affected by my words and actions.

I don’t have the faintest idea of how or what to be as a father. Mine didn’t stick around long enough. Leaving when I was 3 he didn’t make me feel like my sister or me, was worth staying for. He couldn’t get his shit together enough to be there.

He had died a year before Lucien was born.

“A hemorrhagic stroke,” the coroner’s report said.

His alcoholic life-choices had gotten him on the wrong foot with a drug dealer and the altercation had left him with a swelling in the brain. Or at least so I heard.

“How are you feeling?” they ask, “Do you want to talk about it?”

There’s an enormous sadness to this.

But I can’t tell which sadness is worse. The fact that I didn’t know how to mourn, or that I didn’t know him enough for there to be anything to mourn.

I grew up in his absence, a whole new human unaffected by his words and actions. A whole new human who could get phone calls before my birthdays, with reassurances of his presence. A whole new human who stopped believing him when he never showed.

Tick fucking tock.

The nurses help me clean off the vomit from my arms and t-shirt.

This tiny little life resting in my arms.

How am I going to be a father when I never had one myself?

Can I be loving, warm and caring? Can I be affectionate, soft-spoken and patient? Can I figure out everything else I need to be?

I don’t know.

That’s the third truth.

What I do know, is that I’ll become more of a human because of him, than he’ll ever be because of me.

It’s been one hell of a ride.

We aren’t the same people we were twelve years ago.

I’m not the same person I was then.

Twelve years, nine houses we’ve gotten to call home, a marriage, two countries, friends made and lost, two deaths and one amazing child later, the relationship we’ve once had, is over.

We thought we could take on the world. We thought we were invincible.

But in the end, the collateral damage caused by the darkness consumed us, like it consumes everything else.

And for a new story to take its place, this one has to come to its end.

I don’t know exactly how the new story is going to be written but I do know this: We’ll always be a family.

Because I’m not my father.

And that’s the final truth.

You’ve just read The End.

In which, 3 years ago, I wrote 1722 words about life and I covered topics, such as: year-in-review, and relationships.