Why this, why now?

Alexander Hamilton was supposedly asked (according to the musical, anyway) ‘Why do you write like you’re running out of time?’.  Ok I don’t know much about duelling or constitutional law, but it seems we have this almost urgent sense of impetus in common.  The simplest answer is because, well, I amrunning out of time.  But there’s more to it than that.

Before chemo started in mid-December, I barely knew what creative writing was.  Arguably, I still don’t, but I’ve had a fair few encouraging comments now – not just from people who are obliged to be kind because they’re related to me, but from commentators I’ve never met and probably never will.  This isn’t just pleasing, but downright humbling.  After all, I only set out to get a bit of therapeutic writing in whilst I updated friends and family about how things were going.  That turned into raising awareness of bowel cancer signs and symptoms through telling my story, but I’ve never intended to educate, inform, entertain or hold any other such lofty literary ambitions – I’ve just boldly asked a few exploratory questions to/of some people I trust and all sorts of weird and wonderful opportunities have emerged.

This swift ascent from absolutely no journalistic experience to high praise from the editors of multiple publications could be considered even more remarkable as I’m an old fashioned dyslexic who couldn’t really read until at least the age of ten.  Having been born early and developmentally stunted, I suppose it’s unsurprising that I took a while to get going with figuring out the workings of the written word.  Language is pretty complicated, especially the English one.  But I’m certain that without the support of my late mother, it would have been a lot worse.  I just about remember her taking the time, perhaps from the age of seven, and painstakingly playing the after school tutor.  We worked hard every day and, in the meantime, she bought me a lot of audio books and that’s probably why, even though I haven’t read many printed books, I have a fairly wide vocabulary.  She even got me assessed for dyslexia when it wasn’t at all well known and, well, loook at em know!

But in all seriousness, that is the greatest gift imaginable and, thanks to Mum, I’m now able to eloquently recount my myriad blessings.  The fact that I can string a few sentences together not just functionally but expressively is a testament to Jill Dye’s qualities as a person.  Just so caring, patient, persistent and, ultimately, enabling.  It wouldn’t have been easy to teach me to read and write.  My handwriting is an almost indecipherable mess and as a child, I was chronically annoying – even I have to admit this.  But, although significant, writing was just a part of the world of opportunity she’s left me with.  Around twenty one years ago she bought me a very expensive bass trombone that any professional would covet.  If I considered it important, I got it.  If I was trying out something new, that was my birthday present and the parental home still contains enough guitars, cricket whites and golf equipment to prove that point.  It’s only having worked with children not blessed with the privilege of being able to just try out a new activity that I’ve come to understand how great it was. More importantly, she spent more than eighteen solid years providing the majority of the emotional support to this socially awkward child who took an embarrassingly long time to work out how to make friends his own age.

Why do I write like I’m running out of time? Because I can. Because it clarifies my skittish and unsettled internal monologue.  Because I have something to say and the ability to put it into paragraphs.  Because I desperately want others to escape my certain fate.  Because I can, no, must use it as a vehicle to tell the world what I’ve realised to be valuable and important in life, now I’m suddenly confronted with my impending demise. Because all sorts of people want to read it and I know that because they’d told me as much.  Because it’s the best way I can think of to honour my mother and share the gifts she lovingly bestowed upon me.  Well, maybe not quite the best.  There exists more than one kind of writing and I’m more practised at the musical variety.  And Mum always wanted me to be a musician.

Right. I’d better get to work.  That requiem isn’t going to write itself.

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